On November 13, 2007 at 7:30 in the evening in an email, the White House released an Executive Order creating a system of Performance Improvement Officers to monitor that “Agencies shall apply taxpayer resources efficiently in a manner that maximizes the effectiveness of Government programs in serving the American people.” This may sound like a “good government” initiative, but is rather another backhanded attempt to politicize the bureaucracy. Performance Improvement Officers (think political commissars) are to “advise the head of the agency, with respect to a program administered in whole or in part by the agency” and “assist the head of the agency in the development and use within the agency of performance measures in personnel performance appraisals, and, as appropriate, other agency personnel and planning processes.”
There are several aspects of the order which raise red flags. First, this is one of the most corrupt, incompetent, and crony filled Administrations in the history of the Republic. Second, real oversight has always been anathema to Bush and the Republicans. Third, there is already a system of Inspector Generals whose business it is to see that agencies do the jobs they have been tasked with. True, this system has been greatly weakened by the Bush predilection for filling these positions with cronies, but that should not cause anyone to think that Performance Improvement Officers will be any different. Fourth, this Administration has had 7 years to increase efficiency in agencies. If “performance improvement” had ever been a priority, you might think it would have been addressed by now. Fifth, the Executive Order does an end run around Congress. If this were a legitimate proposal, why an Executive Order instead of an enacted law? The answer is because an act of Congress would invite outside oversight. That is not the object of the exercise. Instead, this is a last ditch effort to stack the federal bureaucracy with political hacks and influence agency policies long after the Bush Administration is gone.