The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved legislation that will make significant improvements to program and project management policy across the U.S. government. S. 1550, The Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act of 2015, was introduced by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and mirrors H.R. 2144, introduced by Congressmen Todd Young (R-IN) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) in the U.S. House of Representatives in April.
“This bipartisan legislation puts our federal government back on track by streamlining efforts and outlining strategies to correct widespread deficiencies, lax oversight and unnecessary cost overruns incurred by preventable delays in meeting stated program goals and deadlines,” said Senator Ernst. “By adopting widely accepted management standards that are often used in the private sector, these common sense reforms ensure that taxpayer dollars are safeguarded by increasing accountability throughout the federal government. I’m delighted that my colleagues in the Senate recognize the epidemic of mismanagement that’s eating away at the effectiveness of our federal government.”
When the state of Oregon, USA discovered that some of its bridges had cracks that would soon affect major freight routes, the government heard the warning as a wake-up call. Roughly half of the state’s 6,700 bridges were built before 1960, and a study projected that if left unattended the deficient infrastructure would cost the state 88,000 jobs over the next 25 years. For Oregon to stay competitive, the state’s entire bridge infrastructure needed an overhaul. So in 2003, the Oregon legislature acted to fund the state’s largest infrastructure investment in 50 years with an unprecedented caveat: The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) had to outsource the program. ODOT awarded the 10-year, US$1.3 billion contract to repair or replace 365 bridges to the Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners (OBDP), a joint venture of Fluor Corporation and HDR Engineering Inc. The historic public-private partnership delivered the program as promised, coming in US$45 million under budget.
Unanimous approval of legislation is uncommon in the Senate, and indicates a high level of bipartisan support for legislation that focuses on the principles of improving efficiency and reducing waste in federal government projects and programs. These principles include:
- Creation of a formal job series and career path for program managers in the federal government.
- Development of a standards-based model for program management consistent throughout the federal government.
- Recognition of the essential role of executive sponsorship and engagement by designating a senior executive in each agency to be responsible for program management policy and strategy.
- Alignment of cross-government dialogue on program management practices through an interagency council on program management.
These reforms are consistent with PMI’s research, which shows that organizations that invest in program management improve outcomes, accountability and efficiency. The findings demonstrated by PMI’s Pulse of the Profession® indicate that standardized approaches, engaged executive sponsors and certified professionals are fundamental building blocks to all organizations achieving their highest levels of performance. Improving program management leads to benefits such as: increased collaboration, improved decision making, and reduced risk. The research also shows these best practices result in improved efficiency and less money wasted. Most importantly, organizations see more projects delivering expected value to stakeholders.
“PMI is pleased that the Senate appreciates the urgent need for improved efficiency and reduced waste, and recognizes the value that this legislation will deliver,” said Mark A. Langley, PMI President and CEO. “We commend Senators Ernst and Heitkamp for their continued support of this initiative and strongly encourage the House of Representatives to take up and pass the PMIAA as soon as possible to enhance the government’s ability to effectively manage its portfolio of projects and programs.”