Understanding how (US Senate) Bill S.1550, Program Management Improvement Accountability Act, impacts Project Management

When passed, (US Senate) Bill S.1550 will have a significant effect on the Project Management profession within the United States. This Bill essential codifies the standard operating procedures of the Project Management profession across all US Government Executive Agencies, which will have significant impact on Project Managers nationwide.

About the Bill
House Bill S.1550 – Program Management Improvement Accountability Act, directs the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 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.

Additionally, the head of each federal agency that is required to have a Chief Financial Officer shall designate a Program Management Improvement Officer to implement agency program management policies and develop a strategy for enhancing the role of program managers within the agency. The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics shall be considered the Program Management Improvement Officer for DOD.


The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), has been passed/agreed to in the House (9/22/16), and it is expected that it will be signed by the President and become law in early 2017.

What does this mean to the Project Management Profession?
On the surface, a simple examination of the Bill would lead a reasonable person to the conclusion that this will create additional demands for Program/Project Management goods and services. With the Federal Government spending over $2.7 Trillion per year  (2016 contracts, grants, loans and other) in goods and services, passage of this Bill will have a significant impact on the profession as a whole.

While this increased demand for Project Management services represents the potential to provide enriching career opportunities (in terms of both monetary compensation and professional development/interesting projects), its important to step back and realize how the passage of the Bill may dramatically change the industry as a whole.

Addressing Sustainability, Scalability and the Long Tail
While Program and Project Managers at all levels, should be aware of how the passage of this Bill will impact their organization, in order to avoid becoming a 500 page policy paper, this article focuses on local Program and Project Managers in organizations that focus on the civilian market, rather than the Federal Government.

The passage of this Bill will likely have at least an indirect impact on most organizations that use Program and Project Managers.  For many areas, this Bill will change how Program/Project Offices recruit, retain and sustain staff; impacting budgets, schedules and risk modeling of Projects.  On a deeper level, the increased standards and requirements from this Bill will more than likely percolate down to almost all industries, creating additional compliance and operational requirements.

In order to successfully position an organization for this change, the Program/Project Office must understand its effects and execute programs to mitigate the additional future risks this Bill may cause.  While organizations will be impacted differently, we examine one of the most significant issues that this Bill puts on Program/Project Office: developing a sustainment pipeline of Project Managers for an organization.


The additional opportunities and expectations from this Bill will change the career trajectories of many Project Managers (and support staff), impacting the schedule, budget and risk models of Program/Project Offices nationwide.  Salary demands may increase and the availability pool of Project Managers may change, as mobile Project Managers seek the greater opportunities passage of this Bill provides.  As most experienced Project Managers know, the lag between needing a Project Manager and the availability of a qualified candidate never fits with the project schedule.  While a Project Manager can leave with 2 weeks (or less) notice, replacing the experience, knowledge, skills and abilities of a departing Project Manager can take weeks or even months; impacting projects, increasing risks and busting limited budgets.

The $1,000,000 is how can we, as Program/Project Managers, create a sustainment pipeline of Project Managers for our organization in a way that mitigates this risk? After all, training takes time and costs money; additionally, finding a new Program/Project Manager means more than just education, it means finding a candidate who can do the work and is a good fit for the culture of the organization.  Budgetary constraints go without saying.   Fortunately, the profession has solutions in place to address this risk.


Your Local PMI Chapter to the Rescue
Most local PMI Chapters provide a forum for both experienced and aspiring Project Management Professionals to discuss industry issues, provide educational resources and assist others in professional development.  In addition to addressing the issues above, these local chapters are likely in tune to the needs of your organization and sensitive to the culture in the area.   However, in order to be successful, your local PMI Chapter needs us all to participate by being involved in meetings, addressing concerns and helping the profession grow, both locally and as an institution.

In closing, US Senate Bill 1550 will represent a significant positive change for the Project Management profession. Its passage validates the importance of our profession and will create market opportunity that encourages the next generation of Project Management Professionals.  However, it increases the market demand of Project Management Professionals, creating a strain that must be proactively addressed thru mentorship and education.  One of the most effective and organic ways to provide and benefit this change is to participate in your Local PMI Chapter.