Managing For Results:

Critical Issues for Improving Federal Agencies' Strategic Plans

GGD-97-180: Published: Sep 16, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed individual agencies' draft strategic plans, as required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, focusing on: (1) summarizing the overall results of GAO's reviews of those plans; and (2) identifying, on the basis of those reviews, the strategic planning issues most in need of sustained attention.

GAO noted that: (1) a significant amount of work remained to be done by executive branch agencies if their strategic plans are to fulfill the requirements of the Results Act, serve as a basis for guiding agencies, and help congressional and other policymakers make decisions about activities and programs; (2) although all 27 of the draft plans included a mission statement, 21 plans lacked 1 or more of 5 other required elements; (3) overall, one-third of the plans were missing two required elements; and just over one-fourth were missing three or more of the required elements; (4) GAO's reviews of agencies' draft strategic plans also revealed several critical strategic planning issues that are in need of sustained attention if agencies are to develop the dynamic strategic planning processes envisioned by the Results Act; (5) most of the draft plans did not adequately link required elements in the plans; (6) these linkages are important if strategic plans are to drive the agencies' daily activities and if agencies are to be held accountable for achieving intended results; (7) furthermore, 19 of the 27 draft plans did not attempt to describe the linkages between long-term strategic goals and annual performance goals; (8) long-term strategic goals often tended to have weaknesses; (9) although the Results Act does not require that all of an agency's strategic goals be results oriented, the intent of the Act is to have agencies focus their strategic goals on results to the extent feasible; (10) many agencies did not fully develop strategies explaining how their long-term strategic goals would be achieved; (11) most agencies did not reflect in their draft plans the identification and planned coordination of activities and programs that cut across multiple agencies; (12) the questionable capacity of many agencies to gather performance information has hampered, and may continue to hamper, efforts to identify appropriate goals and confidently assess performance; (13) the draft strategic plans did not adequately address program evaluations; and (14) evaluations are important because they potentially can be critical sources of information for ensuring that goals are reasonable, strategies for achieving goals are effective, and that corrective actions are taken in program implementation.

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