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Opening Statement of The Honorable Michael Michaud, Ranking Member, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Michael LeBouef, in his book “The Greatest Management Principle Ever”, said “The things that get measured are the things that get done.” 

We have seen this statement born out recently within VA in a very negative way.   As witnesses have stated in recent hearings, VA’s focus on unrealistic wait time measures resulted in employees manipulating the system to make it seem like they were meeting the measured standards. 

LeBouef went on to say, in a later book, “The things that get measured and rewarded are the things that get done well.”

Today, we are going to look at this second piece – how VA senior executives are rewarded, and how that system does, or does not, incentivize things to be done well. 

Before we get into that discussion, let me recognize that there are a lot of VA employees who do things well.  As we shine the light of oversight on those who do not, let me pause for a moment and shine a brighter, more positive light on the hard-working employees in VA who do  things right, and who do things well.  To them, I say “thank you for your service, and your example.”

I have sat here, hearing after hearing, as we have learned, over and over again, that VA senior executives received significant bonuses after the people and organizations under their responsibility have failed to deliver on reasonable expectations of performance, and, in some cases, have harmed the very people they are supposed to be serving.  How does this happen?

In its testimony, VA will lay out a very extensive and diligent process with all the seemingly right pieces, parts, checks and balances.  So, what has repeatedly gone wrong?  Where does the system break down?   

I have asked numerous people – in and out of the federal senior executive system - this question, and the most consistent answer is that the measures are wrong.  That the goals and objectives defined for some VA senior executives are not adequate or appropriate to elicit the actions and behaviors desired or required.  That the senior most leaders in VA are held accountable for managing the process that benefits VA, not delivering an outcome beneficial to veterans. 

This has got to change.  Making the current form electronic and fillable isn’t the answer.  Transferring performance management data from a spreadsheet to a database isn’t the answer.  Defining goals and objectives based on what needs to be done for veterans is the answer.   Rewarding senior executives only when they consistently do those things well is the answer.

Ms. Farisee, I look forward to your testimony.  I hope we can set the example here today and talk less about the process of how VA senior executive performance management is done and more about how the outcomes for veterans can change if it is done well.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back.