Results Act:

Observations on the Department of Commerce's Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 1999

GGD-98-135R: Published: Jun 24, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Commerce's annual performance plan for fiscal year (FY) 1999, focusing on: (1) the extent to which Commerce's performance plan provides a clear picture of intended agencywide performance; (2) how well Commerce's performance plan discusses the strategies and resources it will use to achieve its performance goals; and (3) the extent to which Commerce's performance plan provides confidence that its performance information will be credible.

GAO noted that: (1) Commerce's FY 1999 annual performance plan does not fully answer the core questions that are key to developing useful plans for congressional decisionmaking; (2) to some extent, the plan discusses the strategies and resources that individual Commerce bureaus will use in FY 1999 to help achieve the Department's performance goals; (3) the plan does not provide sufficient evidence or confidence that the Department's performance data will be accurate, complete, and credible; (4) there are several areas where Commerce's plan could be improved to better facilitate congressional oversight and decisionmaking; (5) these areas are: (a) ensuring that outcome goals are included in the plan wherever possible and more clearly showing how the output-oriented performance goals and measures relate to results; (b) presenting the annual performance goals more explicitly as goals in the plan and more clearly identifying the relationships between longterm strategic goals and objectives and annual performance goals and measures; (c) more consistently referring the reader to other Department documents for more details, where appropriate; (d) more fully acknowledging and discussing the significance and performance implications of known management and data capacity problems, high-risk programs, and external factors beyond the Department's direct control; (e) more closely linking the Department's annual performance goals with the strategies and resources of Commerce bureaus; (f) including more information on the Department's planned performance verification and validation strategies and procedures; and (g) more fully recognizing and addressing crosscutting efforts; and (6) at the same time, Commerce's FY 1999 annual performance plan represents an improvement over the Department's earlier strategic plan and has several strengths that the Department can build on in future plans, including: (a) linking the Department's annual performance goals and measures to its strategic themes, goals, and objectives; (b) presenting quantifiable and measurable performance targets for most strategic goals and objectives, and discussing the Department's efforts to develop them; (c) providing outcome-oriented performance goals for some key activities; (d) discussing the Department's high-priority program initiatives and relating them to its three strategic themes; and (e) identifying the major management challenges facing the Department.

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