Does Performance Budgeting Work? An Examination of the Office of Management and Budget’s PART Scores


John B. Gilmour is a professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary. His research focuses on budgetary politics and legislative–executive bargaining. He has published two books, Reconcilable Differences? Congress, the Budget Process, and the Deficit (University of California Press, 1990) and Strategic Disagreement: Stalemate in American Politics (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995), as well as articles in the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, and Legislative Studies Quarterly.E-mail:

David E. Lewis is an assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University. His research focuses on the presidency, executive branch politics, and public administration. He is the author of Presidents and the Politics of Agency Design (Stanford University Press, 2003) and journal articles on American politics and public administration. E-mail:


In this paper, the authors use the Bush administration’s management grades from the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) to evaluate performance budgeting in the federal government—in particular, the role of merit and political considerations in formulating recommendations for 234 programs in the president’s fiscal year 2004 budget. PART scores and political support were found to influence budget choices in expected ways, and the impact of management scores on budget decisions diminished as the political component was taken into account. The Bush administration’s management scores were positively correlated with proposed budgets for programs housed in traditionally Democratic departments but not in other departments. The federal government’s most ambitious effort to use performance budgeting to date shows both the promise and the problems of this endeavor.