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OMB Assessment

     
 
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OMB Assessment

Pages with this graphic describe the NIFA budget-performance cycle. Navigating through this cycle can be accomplished by following the links in the text or by clicking on the various components of the graphic above.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires agencies to assess the management and performance of their programs using the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). Each PART includes 25 standard questions that are divided into four sections:

  • Program Purpose and Design asks whether a program's purpose is clear and whether its design will achieve its objectives;
  • Strategic planning asks whether the agency establishes valid annual and long-term goals for its programs;
  • Program Management asks about financial oversight and program improvement efforts; and
  • Program Results asks if programs can report results with accuracy and consistency.

PART also has additional questions specific on the type of Federal program. For NIFA, these are:

  • Competitive Grant - Programs that provide funds to State, local and tribal governments, organizations, individuals, and other entities through a competitive process;
  • Block/Formula Grant - Programs that provide funds to State, local and tribal governments, and other entities by formula or block grant; and
  • Research and Development - Programs that focus on knowledge creation or its application to the creation of systems, methods, materials, or technologies.

The PART requires, as a first step, that agencies and OMB identify 'programs' to be assessed using the PART. NIFA and OMB jointly agreed to treat each goal in the NIFA Strategic Plan as a PART program.

NIFA must then concisely answer each question and furnish performance measures with ambitious targets. These responses and measures are then reviewed by OMB, which may add its own language assessing NIFA programs. Finally, OMB scores each question resulting in an overall score for the PART.

PART assessments are used to make informed budget decisions, identify actions to improve results, to hold agencies accountable for follow-up actions, and to work toward continual improvements in performance. Assessments also help identify 'best practices' that can be shared with similar programs.

PART Performance Measures

For each PART, NIFA must provide, minimally, an annual and a long-term performance measure reflecting each of program outputs, program outcomes, and agency efficiency. OMB defines these as follows:

Outcome Measures. Outcomes describe the intended result of carrying out a program or activity. They define an event or condition that is external to the program or activity and that is of direct importance to the intended beneficiaries and/or the general public. For example, one outcome measure of a program aimed to prevent the acquisition and transmission of HIV infection is the number (reduction) of new HIV infections in the U.S.

Output Measures. Outputs describe the level of activity that will be provided over a period of time, including a description of the characteristics (e.g., timeliness) established as standards for the activity. Outputs refer to the internal activities of a program (i.e., the products and services delivered). For example, an output could be the percentage of warnings that occur more than 20 minutes before a tornado forms.

Efficiency Measures. Effective programs not only accomplish their outcome performance goals, they strive to improve their efficiency by achieving or accomplishing more benefits for a given amount of resources. The President's Management Agenda (PMA) Budget and Performance Integration (BPI) Initiative requires agencies to develop efficiency measures to achieve Green status. Efficiency measures reflect the economical and effective acquisition, utilization, and management of resources to achieve program outcomes or produce program outputs. Efficiency measures may also reflect ingenuity in the improved design, creation, and delivery of goods and services to the public, customers, or beneficiaries by capturing the effect of intended changes made to outputs aimed to reduce costs and/or improve productivity, such as the improved targeting of beneficiaries, redesign of goods or services for simplified customer processing, manufacturability, or delivery.

OMB expects there to be a reasonable connection between output and outcome measures, with outputs supporting (i.e., leading to) outcomes in a logical fashion.

Given the breadth of programs covered by each NIFA PART, the agency selected output and outcome measures reflective of the programs covered by each PART. Efficiency measures were selected to monitor NIFA improvement in proposal review as a result of implementing electronic proposal submission and review. NIFA's performance measures are documented in each PART, which can be accessed from the table below. The agency must report on progress on these measures to OMB several times a year.

Research and Development Program Investment Criteria

OMB developed improved research and development assessment criteria of relevance, quality, and performance to be implemented in planning, management, and assessment of all Federal R&D programs. This guidance is issued annually by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in its Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities and also by OMB in its PART guidance. NIFA has implemented these criteria as the basis of its score sheet for the agency portfolio assessments. The primary long-term output measure for each PART is a weighted average of the portfolio review scores for the portfolios tied to that PART. This forms a tight, performance linkage between the portfolio assessments, the PART, and the agency budget submission (which requires documentation of PART results and performance measures, see Performance-Based Budget Request).

Program Improvement Plans

OMB expects that even the best performing program has room for improvement and therefore requires Program Improvement Plans with action items and milestones for each PART. These are documented in each NIFA PART, which can be accessed from the table below. NIFA must report to OMB on the status of each plan quarterly.

Summary of NIFA Assessments by OMB

As a result of a PART assessment, OMB will give the program one of five possible ratings.

OMB categorizes as "Performing" have these ratings:

  • Effective. This is the highest rating a program can achieve. Programs rated Effective set ambitious goals, achieve results, are well-managed, and improve efficiency.
  • Moderately Effective. In general, a program rated Moderately Effective has set ambitious goals and is well-managed. Moderately Effective programs likely need to improve their efficiency or address other problems in the programs' design or management in order to achieve better results.
  • Adequate. This rating describes a program that needs to set more ambitious goals, achieve better results, improve accountability or strengthen its management practices.

Programs categorized as "Not Performing" are rated as follows:

  • Ineffective. Programs receiving this rating are not using your tax dollars effectively. Ineffective programs have been unable to achieve results due to a lack of clarity regarding the program's purpose or goals, poor management, or some other significant weakness.
  • Results Not Demonstrated. A rating of Results Not Demonstrated (RND) indicates that a program has not been able to develop acceptable performance goals or collect data to determine whether it is performing.

The following table gives a brief summary of NIFA program assessment by OMB to date, and shows the subcategories for each assessment. To put scores of "Moderately Effective" and "Effective" in context, OMB has, to date, assessed over 1,000 programs from all Federal agencies and, of these, rated 18 percent as Effective and 31 percent as Moderately Effective.

To see assessments of other agencies and other programs, go to www.ExpectMore.gov.

Year
Program Title/Goal
Rating
Assessment Action Category
Assessment Action Score
2006

Grants for Nutrition and Health

Effective Program Purpose & Design 100%
Strategic Planning 100%
Program Management 100%
Program Results/ Accountability 75%
For complete PART assessment for this portfolio, visit the OMB Web site.
2006

Grants for Economic Opportunities and Quality of Life for Rural America

Effective Program Purpose & Design 80%
Strategic Planning 100%
Program Management 92%
Program Results/ Accountability 84%
For complete PART assessment for this portfolio, visit the OMB Web site.
2005

Natural Resource Base & Environment (Grants)

Moderately Effective Program Purpose & Design 100%
Strategic Planning 90%
Program Management 100%
Program Results/ Accountability 47%
For complete PART assessment for this portfolio, visit the OMB Web site.
2005

Protection and Safety of Agricultural Food Supply (Grants)

Moderately Effective Program Purpose & Design 100%
Strategic Planning 90%
Program Management 100%
Program Results/ Accountability 60%
For complete PART assessment for this portfolio, visit the OMB Web site.
2004

Research/ Extension Grants: Economic Opportunities for Producers

Moderately Effective Program Purpose & Design 80%
Strategic Planning 100%
Program Management 100%
Program Results/ Accountability 58%
For complete PART assessment for this portfolio, visit the OMB Web site.

 

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