The Project Management Improvement and Accountability Act

Updated: Nov 5, 2018

In its 2016 Pulse of the Profession Report, The Project Management Institute (PMI) found that only 64 percent of government strategic initiatives ever meet their goals and business intent — and that government entities waste $101 million for every $1 billion spent on projects and programs.

The study further uncovered that technical skills, which many organizations value the highest when selecting project managers, simply “are not enough in today’s competitive global economy, which is growing quickly, but with less predictability”. Organizations adding skills in leadership and business to complement the technical skill sets are seeing 40% more of their projects meeting goals and original business intent.

To address this waste within our federal government programs, on December 14th, 2016, President Obama signed into law The Project Management Improvement and Accountability Act. To better understand the approach to this program, our firm conducted an analysis of the new law.

The first sections amend the United States Code (section 503 of title 31) to add “Program and Project Management” thus requiring the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to perform the following activities:

  1. adopt government-wide standards, policies, and guidelines for program and project management for executive agencies;

  2. oversee implementation of program and project management for the standards, policies and guidelines established

  3. chair the Program Management Policy Council (established by this Act);

  4. establish standards and policies for executive agencies consistent with widely accepted standards for program and project management planning and delivery;

  5. engage with the private sector to identify best practices in program and project management that would improve federal program and project management;

  6. conduct portfolio reviews to address programs identified as high risk by the Government Accountability Office (GAO);

  7. at least once a year, conduct portfolio reviews of agency programs to assess the quality and effectiveness of program management

  8. establish a five-year strategic plan for program and project management.

Program Management Improvement Officers (PMIO)

The law creates the Project Management Improvement Officer role, a senior executive to be designated from each of the agencies below. These officers are responsible for developing a strategy for enhancing the role of program managers in the agency that will include training, mentorship, career development, high performer retention, best practice and common template sharing.

  1. The Department of Agriculture.

  2. The Department of Commerce.

  3. The Department of Education.

  4. The Department of Energy.

  5. The Department of Health and Human Services.

  6. The Department of Homeland Security.

  7. The Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  8. The Department of the Interior.

  9. The Department of Justice.

  10. The Department of Labor.

  11. The Department of State.

  12. The Department of Transportation.

  13. The Department of the Treasury.

  14. The Department of Veterans Affairs.

  15. The Environmental Protection Agency.

  16. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  17. The Agency for International Development.

  18. The General Services Administration.

  19. The National Science Foundation.

  20. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

  21. The Office of Personnel Management.

  22. The Small Business Administration.

  23. The Social Security Administration.

Program Management Policy Council (PMPC)

The law forms a Program Management Policy Council within the Office of Management and Budget whose purpose is to act as an interagency forum for improving agency practices related to program and project management. The law defines 5 functions of the council:

  1. Advise and assist the Deputy Director of OMB

  2. Review programs identified as high risk by the GAO and make recommendations for actions to be taken

  3. Discuss topics of importance to the workforce, including career development needs, policies to encourage continuous improvement and major challenges across agencies in managing programs

  4. Advise on governmentwide standards for program management transparency

  5. Review the OMB website to ensure including of the Inventory of Government Programs pursuant to the Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act

The council will include the PMIO from the agencies, any designee from the Chairperson and 5 members from the OMB, listed below along with the current representative for each role.

  1. The Deputy Director for Management - John Michael "Mick" Mulvaney

  2. The Administrator of the Office of Electronic Government - Ms. Margie Graves

  3. The Administrator of Federal Procurement Policy

  4. The Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management

  5. The Director of the Office of Performance and Personnel Management - Kathleen McGettigan


  1. Within 1 year, the Director of the OMB will submit to Congress the strategy developed for the PMIOs and PMPC

  2. Within 1 year, the Deputy Director for Management of the OMB will issue the standards, policies and guidelines

  3. Within 90 days after the policies are issued, the Deputy Director will issue regulations as necessary to implement the policies

  4. Within 180 days after the policies are issued, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management will issue regulations that identify key skills needed for a project manager in an agency, establish a new or updated job series for project management in an agency and establish a new career path for project managers in an agency

  5. Within 3 years, the GAO will issue a report examining the effectiveness of the policies, plan, officers and council on improving Federal program and project management

About the Author

Don C. Ellis is a Sr. Partner and research director at Ellis & Adams. He is certified by the Project Management Institute in Project Management, Program Management and Agile Management. He is a public speaker and advisor on project management in the health and public service sector.