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Observations on the Fiscal Year 1999 Annual Program Performance Report and Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001 Annual Performance Plans for Selected Science Agencies Within the Department of Commerce

GGD-00-197R: Published: Sep 25, 2000. Publicly Released: Oct 25, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Commerce's fiscal year (FY) 1999 Annual Program Performance Report and the FY 2000 and FY 2001 plans for selected science-related agencies, focusing on whether: (1) the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Technology Administration (TA) sections of Commerce's FY 1999 performance report and FY 2000 and FY 2001 performance plans told a coherent story in addressing science issues; (2) NOAA's and TA's performance goals, budgetary and full time equivalent (FTE) staffing resource requirements identified in Commerce's FY 2001 performance plan linked, or matched, to those in NOAA's and TA's sections of Commerce's FY 2001 congressional budget submission; and (3) the NOAA and TA sections of Commerce's FY 2001 performance plan addressed the weaknesses that GAO identified in its review of Commerce's FY 2000 performance plan.

GAO noted that: (1) the NOAA and TA sections of Commerce's performance report and performance plans address science issues in a generally coherent and consistent manner; (2) NOAA and TA described their performance goal strategies or objectives, supporting activities, and crosscutting activities in the FY 2000 and FY 2001 plans, and these descriptions also remained essentially unchanged; (3) one difference between the two plans was that an additional goal of protecting the nation's information infrastructure was added to TA's section of the FY 2001 plan; (4) also, both NOAA and TA expanded their discussions from the previous year's plan on departmentwide or bureau-specific initiatives; (5) significant changes were made to the performance measures and resource requirements and that these changes were not always explained in the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) documents; (6) although GPRA guidance does not require that such changes be explained, without explanations the rationale for the changes that were made and the impact that they would have on addressing science issues was not clear; (7) no performance measures were established for a performance goal; (8) additionally, performance measures were not always established for NOAA's or TA's contribution to departmentwide initiatives, nor were measures established for their respective bureau-specific initiatives; (9) GAO's review of the NOAA and TA sections of the FY 2001 plan and their sections of the FY 2001 budget submission showed that performance goals, budgetary resources, and FTE levels were the same in those two documents in most cases but differed to some degree in other cases; (10) for TA, GAO found direct linkages for six of its seven performance goals, but not for each goals' supporting objectives or activities; (11) for both NOAA and TA, there were no linkages for any of their respective bureau-specific initiatives; (12) GAO's review did not address the GPRA requirement that the performance plan itself cover each program activity contained in the budget, and GAO did not review whether the budgetary implications of the plan itself were clear and transparent; (13) based on GAO's examination of its FY 2001 plan, GAO believes Commerce has addressed some, but not all, of the weaknesses GAO identified when examining the previous year's plan; and (14) those weaknesses GAO identified were in the areas of strategies, resources, and performance data verification and validation, as well as in performance measures.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Commerce has implemented both recommendations GAO made in "Department of Commerce: Observations on the Fiscal Year 1999 Annual Program Performance Report and Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001 Annual Performance Plans for Selected Science Agencies Within the Department of Commerce (GAO/GGD-00-197R, September 25, 2000)." Commerce implemented GAO's recommendation that the Secretary of Commerce "include in the GPRA documents explanatory information related to significant changes made to agency performance goals, objectives or activities, performance measures, and resource requirements." The agency included explanatory information related to significant changes made to agency performance goals, objectives or activities, performance measures, and resource requirements in "The Department of Commerce FY 2000 Annual Program Performance Report and FY 2002 Annual Performance Plan," issued April 4, 2001. GAO's recommendation that Commerce better link sections of the GPRA documents to congressional budget submissions and other budget documents at the performance goal, objective or activity level complies with OMB Circular A-11 guidance issued in July 2004, that requires agencies to "fully integrate the annual performance plan required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) with other elements of the agency budget request." Furthermore, the budget "may be presented by bureau or other organization, but each entity should start by analyzing its contributions to strategic goals, followed by a detailed analysis of supporting programs...Your (agency) budget request should be justified on the basis of resources needed to make planned progress toward the strategic goals...At a minimum, resources are aligned at the program level within this framework, and agencies are encouraged to align resources at the performance goal level."

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should: (1) include in the GPRA documents explanatory information related to significant changes made to agency performance goals, objectives or activities, performance measures, and resource requirements; and (2) direct that Commerce agencies better link their sections of the GPRA documents to congressional budget submissions and other budget documents by identifying budgetary resources at the bureau-specific initiative levels and the performance goal objective or activity levels in both the GPRA and budget documents.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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