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The US Senate has unanimously approved the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (S1.550). The Act has now cleared both chambers and will go back to the President for signature. PMI is pretty excited about the bill – they have been vocal about their endorsement of the law and see it as a good thing for both the US federal government and Project Management professionals.

So let’s take a look at the Act and what it will mean for the Project Management Profession. The Act requires the Office of Management and Budget to:

  • adopt and oversee implementation of government-wide standards, policies, and guidelines for program and project management for executive agencies;
  • chair the Program Management Policy Council (established by this Act);
  • establish standards and policies for executive agencies consistent with widely accepted standards for program and project management planning and delivery;
  • engage with the private sector to identify best practices in program and project management that would improve federal program and project management;
  • conduct portfolio reviews to address programs identified as high risk by the Government Accountability Office (GAO);
  • conduct portfolio reviews of agency programs at least annually to assess the quality and effectiveness of program management; and
  • establish a five-year strategic plan for program and project management.

To make sure the Act has a genuine impact, the bill states that the head of every major federal agency must assign a Program Management Improvement Officer.  The role of the officer is to implement agency program management policies and develop a strategy for enhancing the role of program managers. Furthermore, the US Government Accountability Office is obliged to issue a report within three years of enactment, examining the effectiveness of:

  • the standards, policies, and guidelines for program and project management;
  • the strategic plan;
  • Program Management Improvement Officers; and
  • the Program Management Policy Council.

Why is the government doing this? According to research by PMI, only 64% of government strategic initiatives ever meet their goals and business intent. They calculated that the government entities waste $101 million for every $1 billion spent on projects and programs. The research also shows that these best practices result in improved efficiency and less money wasted. Most importantly, organizations see more projects delivering expected value to stakeholders on time and within budget.

The government is banking on this investment in Project and Program management saving money and ensuring more strategic initiatives are successful. Or, to paraphrase PMI’s President and Chief Executive Officer Mark A. Langley, it will increase the value that Americans receive for their tax dollars.

“This critical legislation will help maximize efficiency within the U.S. federal government, thereby generating more successful program outcomes and increasing the value that Americans receive for their tax dollars”


Not only should this be good news for taxpayers, but it should also be useful for Project Professionals too. If the departments have to introduce standards that align to best practice, this suggests most federal government departments will be thumbing through copies of PMBOK and utilizing PMI’s extensive body of knowledge. Realistically this is likely to mean an increase in new roles being advertised for PMI-certified professionals over the coming months.

The Act also mandates the creation of a formal job series and career path for program managers in the federal government. This means that we are likely to see an investment in training and development for government project managers, but also standardization of job descriptions and job mappings.

If you work in the US but don’t work for the federal government, you are still likely to feel the impact of these changes, although it is too early to predict what these will be with any accuracy. If the government starts to buy-in talent, then we may see wage inflation for certified project managers. There is likely to be increased demand for consultants and trainers, in the short term, at least, as departments get to grips with new ways of working. Companies who contract with the government can expect to see contract clauses requiring certified project managers and asking for evidence of adherence to program and project management standards. It will be interesting to see how PMI handles the influx of government-employed members over the coming months. While this may provide a welcome attendance boost to local chapter events, there is a risk that US government topics and agendas and discussions may dominate national events such as Congress.

What do you think of the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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