Government Operations:

Observations on the Department of Commerce's Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan

GGD-99-117R: Published: Jul 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 18, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Commerce's fiscal year (FY) 2000 performance plan, which was submitted to Congress in response to the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, focusing on: (1) assessing the usefulness of the agency's plan for decisionmaking; and (2) identifying the degree of improvement the agency's FY 2000 performance plan represents over the FY 1999 plan.

GAO noted that: (1) Commerce invested a substantial amount of effort in performance planning and in improving the overall format and presentation of its performance plan over the previous year's, with considerable success; (2) Commerce's FY 2000 annual performance plan provides a general picture of intended performance across the department, a general discussion of strategies and resources the department will use to achieve its goals, and limited confidence that the department's performance information will be credible; (3) the plan should be useful to decisionmakers in that it contains departmental crosscutting or management improvement goals as well as individual bureau performance goals and targets that generally are focused on results, briefly summarizes the means and strategies that will be used to achieve those goals, and contains a verification and validation section for each performance goal and measure; (4) Commerce's FY 2000 performance plan represents a moderate improvement over the FY 1999 plan in that it addresses most, but not all, of the weaknesses that GAO identified in its assessment of the FY 1999 plan; (5) in reviewing the FY 1999 plan, GAO observed that it provided only a partial picture of intended performance across the department, discussed, to some extent, the strategies and resources that Commerce bureaus would use to achieve targeted levels of performance, and did not provide sufficient evidence or confidence that performance data would be accurate, complete, and credible; and (6) among improvements in the FY 2000 plan are: (a) fewer and more targeted strategic goals, annual performance goals, and performance measures; (b) more outcome-oriented performance goals and measures and interim process goals and measures to better gauge progress toward achieving long-term scientific, social, and public works investment goals; (c) new plan sections on external factors, means and strategies, governmentwide crosscutting activities, and resource requirements for each strategic goal and related set of annual performance goals and measures; (d) more complete discussions of management challenges relating to the National Weather Service's modernization and the 2000 Decennial Census that have been reported to be high-risk by the Commerce Inspector General and GAO's office; and (e) a new plan section on performance verification and validation for each annual performance goal and measure that shows data sources, frequency, verification strategy/procedure, data storage information, and in most cases the baseline data.

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