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External and Internal Agency Characteristics as Determinants of Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) Scores Open Access

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EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL AGENCY CHARACTERISTICS AS DETERMINANTS OF PROGRAM ASSESSMENT RATING TOOL (PART) SCORES In this dissertation I explore why some federal agency programs received better Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) scores than others during the Bush administration. PART scores served as the primary measure of agency program performance during the Bush administration. Principal-agency theory suggests that the president and congress use mechanisms of external control such as budgeting and appointments to constrain agency behavior and influence performance. On the other hand, alternate theories suggest internal agency characteristics, including leadership and ideology, are responsible for performance. I first review the long history of performance management at the federal level. I then use Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) scores implemented during the Bush administration to empirically examine federal agency program performance. More than 1,000 PART scores from 2002-2008 are examined in separate models to test the effects of external, internal and combined characteristics of agency program performance. I find that both internal and external characteristics matter and that agency politicization and leadership are especially important predictors of performance on PART. Following my empirical analysis, I explore agency culture as an additional explanation of agency performance beyond PART. Culture is thought to be very important, yet is nearly impossible to quantify. I use several agencies as exploratory case studies to further examine culture's impact on performance. In my concluding chapter I highlight the Obama administration's current performance management efforts.

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