Managing For Results:

Using the Results Act to Address Mission Fragmentation and Program Overlap

AIMD-97-146: Published: Aug 29, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 5, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO described the challenge of multiple and overlapping federal programs within the framework of the Government Performance and Results Act, focusing on specific ways in which the Results Act can focus attention on these management challenges and help to develop strategies to harmonize federal responses.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's work has documented the widespread existence of fragmentation and overlap from both the broad perspective of federal missions and from the more specific viewpoint of individual federal programs; (2) GAO's work has shown that as the federal government has responded over time to new needs and problems, many federal agencies have been given responsibilities for addressing the same or similar national issues; but GAO's work also suggests that some issues will necessarily involve more than one federal agency or more than one approach; (3) taken as a whole, this body of work indicates that fragmentation and overlap will present a particular and persistent challenge to the successful implementation of the Results Act; (4) but at the same time, the Results Act should offer a new and structured framework to address crosscutting issues; (5) each of its key stages--defining missions and desired outcomes, measuring performance, and using performance information--offers a new opportunity to address fragmentation and overlap; (6) for example, the Results Act is intended to foster a dialogue on strategic goals involving the Congress as well as agency and external stakeholders; (7) this dialogue should help to identify agencies and programs addressing similar missions and associated performance implications; (8) the act's emphasis on results-based performance measures should lead to more explicit discussions of contributions and accomplishments within crosscutting programs and encourage related programs to develop common performance measures; (9) if the Results Act is successfully implemented, performance information should become available to clarify the consequences of fragmentation and the implications of alternative policy and service delivery options, which, in turn, can affect future decisions concerning department and agency missions and the allocation of resources among those missions; (10) emphasizing missions, goals, and objectives, as envisioned by the Results Act, should facilitate a broader recognition of the nature and extent of fragmentation and overlap; and (11) however, past efforts to deal with crosscutting federal activities and recent developments in both the executive branch and the Congress underscore the need for specific institutions and processes to sustain and nurture a focus on these issues.

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