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Allard: Performance Standards Needed

Senate Appropriations cardinal Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) said Tuesday he will consider the implementation of “performance standards” for legislative branch agencies in an effort to better gauge the organizations’ financial needs.

The Colorado Senator, chairman of the subcommittee on the legislative branch, raised the idea during a hearing on fiscal 2006 budget proposals for the Library of Congress and Government Accountability Office, asserting that Congressional agencies should conform to similar standards applied throughout the federal government.

“I have a lot of interest in performance and measure,” Allard said. “We require that of all our [executive branch] agencies, we don’t require it on the legislative branch.

“But I do think that we ought to set an example here on the legislative branch for the rest of the agencies, so I’m going to try to request more and more definitive assessments,” Allard added. “I’ll be asking questions about how we are on setting down performance standards and then measuring those results. I think as administrators it helps us all understand what’s going on and then we can focus on results.”

The Colorado lawmaker suggested that legislative branch agencies could consider applying standards similar to those outlined in the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, which applies to executive branch agencies.

Allard said he has yet to determine whether his proposal could be achieved through a standard, uniform process or through informal guidelines, and he added that he plans to review the issue with Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and other panel members.

“I want to take a little time with all the legislative agencies and … look at how we’re matching up to the executive side,” Allard said.

During the hearing, officials from both the Library of Congress and the Government Accountability Office testified that their agencies already use executive branch programs as a model for their own independent assessments.

“We voluntarily comply with the Government Performance and Results Act, and our objective is not just to comply — it’s to lead by example, to be the best in government in everything that we do,” said Comptroller General David Walker.

Librarian of Congress James Billington similarly added: “We are not actually required to use the Government Performance and Review Act, but we do use it as a guide.”

During the hearing, Allard also reviewed both agencies’ budget proposals. Echoing remarks he made last week, he noted that legislative branch organizations will be unlikely to receive their full funding requests for the coming fiscal year.

Legislative branch agencies are seeking a combined $4.03 billion in fiscal 2006 — an increase of $482 million, or 13.5 percent over fiscal 2005 spending levels.

In its fiscal 2006 budget request, the Library is requesting $628 million, a 7 percent increase over its current funding level.

“While the areas for which the Library has requested additional resources are important, it will be very difficult for this committee to approve large increases since it is very unlikely the overall level of discretionary spending will even keep up with the rate of inflation,” Allard said in his opening remarks.

When asked by Allard to identify his agency’s budget priorities, Billington said: “The business of acquisition and preservation cannot be deferred” and basic services should not be curtailed.

According to the Librarian’s written testimony, the LOC is seeking $3.4 million for preservation of an estimated 4.5 million items, including audio-visual materials and special-collections items.

In response to Allard, Billington also cited the importance of several storage projects, including the construction of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Va. — which has been largely funded by a gift from the Packard Humanities Institute — as well as planned storage facilities at Fort Meade in Maryland that would be funded with a $41 million request included in the Architect of the Capitol’s budget.

Billington also discussed the Library’s $4 million request to bolster its police department, including the addition of 45 new officers.

The LOC’s police force has faced a manpower shortage since Congress mandated a hiring freeze in the fiscal 2004 legislative branch appropriations bill, leaving the agency with about two-thirds of the number of officers it is authorized to employ.

Although House and Senate appropriators mandated a merger of the 1,600-member Capitol Police Department with the Library’s 100-member force in the fiscal 2003 omnibus appropriations bill, the process has faced delays as lawmakers sought more time to review the overall proposal.

Under an agreement reached in November 2004, however, Library officials did agree to hand over day-to-day control of their law enforcement division to the Capitol Police while the Librarian of Congress maintains ultimate control over the agency, including budgetary authority.

As a result, the Capitol Police has detailed nearly two dozen officers to the Library to make up for the department’s current shortage.

But Deputy Librarian Donald Scott said the 2004 agreement, formally known as a memorandum of understanding, does not permit the Capitol Police to provide the additional officers in the LOC’s fiscal 2006 request.

“The augmentation is going seamlessly and is working well,” Scott said. “However, the Library still needs to have … 45 new police officers. The MOU does not provide the authority to get those 45.”

Scott added that the agreement also fails to resolve the Library’s long-term security needs, asserting that the agency would like to add a total of 77 new officers by fiscal 2007.

“The MOU does also not protect the formal authority of the Librarian to protect the building, the staff and the collections of the Library,” Scott said, reiterating a concern Library officials have often raised during merger discussions.

Billington similarly defended the Library’s request, asserting that if the Capitol Police were authorized to hire the additional 45 officers, it would amount to a “de facto police merger” without the authorization of House and Senate panels that oversee both agencies.

Additionally, the Senate subcommittee also reviewed GAO’s $493.5 million fiscal 2006 budget request, which Allard praised in his opening remarks.

“GAO’s request is one of the more conservative ones we’ve seen in the legislative branch this year, and we appreciate the fact that you’ve attempted to restrain programmatic increases,” Allard said of the request, which would represent a 4 percent increase over GAO’s current budget.

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