While awaiting Senate confirmation of his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to China, outgoing U.S. Commerce Secretary and former Washington Governor Gary Locke is still pushing Priorities of Government (POG) budgeting.

According to GovExec:

“Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, in a valedictory address of sorts, spoke of a need for clear metrics in program evaluation and called for federal managers to overcome ‘an aversion to failure and risk,’ speaking Thursday at an event sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service.

Locke, who has been tapped as the next U.S. ambassador to China, was introduced with praise for making ‘government smarter and more efficient’ in remarks by federal Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients. He said Locke had successfully transferred to Washington the ‘relentless focus on getting results’ he had displayed as governor of Washington state . . .

The keys to successful agency leadership, he said, are to set clear goals and to prioritize. ‘There’s never enough money to do it all, so it’s better to do a few well.’ Setting high-performance ‘stretch goals’ is necessary to ‘force people to re-imagine how to do their jobs — you almost have to blow up the system and start from scratch, it’s creative destruction,’ he said.

And with today’s tough economy ‘challenging us to go the extra mile,’ he said, employees ‘can’t be afraid to take risks’ in reorganizing to get a job done. ‘They must know they will never be hung out to dry if they fall short of their goal as long as they’ve acted in good faith and ethically,’ Locke said.”

In 2002, Locke initiated an effort to rationalize Washington’s budget structure when he established his Priorities of Government process. The process requires each agency to rank program activities in order of their importance to the public.

The Priorities of Government process focuses on three strategies:

  1. View state government as a single enterprise.
  2. Achieve results, at less cost, through creative budget solutions.
  3. Re-prioritize spending, eliminating programs or consolidating similar activities in different agencies.

Locke described POG as “focusing on results that people want and need, prioritizing those results, and funding those results with the money we have.”

Working with then state Senator Dino Rossi, Locke and the Legislature were able to balance the state’s budget in 2003 without a tax increase by using POG.

The natural next step in the Priorities of Government budgeting process is to identify measurable performance outcomes for those programs funded in the budget. By having detailed performance information, better prioritization can occur by funding those strategies that deliver the best results.

Governor Gregoire is moving the state further in this direction with her Government Management Accountability and Performance (GMAP) reform.

Based on some of the reforms adopted this year, it looks like the Legislature is also taking the need for performance-based budgeting to heart though more progress is still needed.

As for former Governor Locke, congratulations on what looks like smooth sailing to becoming U.S. Ambassador to China.


[Reprinted with permission from Washington Policy Center.]

photo credit: flickr