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Cuellar & Platts: It’s Time to Make Government More Accountable

As lawmakers, our decisions rely on the information we have. Better information yields better results.

[IMGCAP(1)]In order to help eliminate waste in the federal government, we need accurate information on how well federal programs are performing. We need to replace blind faith with factual data, and make use of our power of the purse to invest in what works and fix what doesn’t.

This framework, known as performance-based budgeting, is just one vote away in the House. We’ve presented our colleagues with a bipartisan plan that is simple: assess federal agencies, publicly report those findings, fix what needs fixing and invest in what works.

H.R. 2142, the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness and Performance Improvement Act, will help Congress make more informed budgetary decisions based on real data and will significantly help reduce the nation’s deficit by cutting wasteful spending. Our bill is a product of years of work by the two of us, and it represents the most significant leap forward in evaluating the effectiveness of federal programs in the past two decades.

The bill requires federal agencies, in conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget, to clearly identify outcome-based goals that benefit the public and would require agencies to submit an action plan to achieve those goals. Agencies are then required to conduct quarterly performance assessments outlining how effectively they are working to meet those standards. All this information would be made available and would be open to comment from Congress and the American people.

Our bill will also require the Government Accountability Office to perform frequent and detailed evaluations of how effectively agencies are performing under those goals, and the GAO will determine how federal programs are providing a direct value to the public. This impartial review of federal agencies will ensure that agencies are good stewards of our federal taxpayer dollars, a concept that is neither partisan nor complicated. With greater government efficiency, we can produce cost savings for the American taxpayer.

We have received bipartisan support for this legislation from 55 co-sponsors in the House, in addition to Robert Shea, former performance improvement officer under President George W. Bush. We are also working with Members of the Senate to ensure this concept is enacted into law this year. Results-oriented government isn’t a new idea. More than 25 states have incorporated some form of performance-based budgeting into their budget practices. And it’s long overdue for the federal government to follow the states’ lead.

The timing is always right to ensure our government is transparent, efficient and accountable, and we call on our colleagues to support H.R. 2142.

Rep. Henry Cuellar is a Democrat from Texas. Rep. Todd Platts is a Republican from Pennsylvania.

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