Department of Transportation:

Enhancing Policy and Program Effectiveness Through Improved Management

RCED-87-3: Published: Apr 13, 1987. Publicly Released: Apr 13, 1987.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Transportation's (DOT) changing role as its programs place greater reliance on state and local governments and the private sector to operate transportation systems, in order to: (1) assess DOT management; (2) analyze its problems; and (3) recommend improvements.

GAO found that: (1) DOT has made transportation safety one of its highest and most visible priorities, but needs a more systematic approach for measuring progress; (2) since grantees now have greater control over funds and more flexibility to select projects, DOT needs to resolve issues concerning program accountability; (3) to prevent loss of services due to budget reductions, DOT needs to modernize its financial, information resource management, and procurement systems; (4) DOT needs to improve its management of human resources to cope with changes caused by deregulation and the emphasis on deficit reduction; and (5) DOT needs to implement a strategic research and development (R&D) policy by linking R&D investment resources to DOT priorities and industry needs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOT has not indicated that action will be taken to implement this recommendation. Because further action is not expected, GAO is closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enhance and sustain the progress DOT has achieved in improving its management of safety programs and resources, the Secretary of Transportation should require that productivity standards, including the definition and use of standards of quality, timeliness, and efficiency for delivery of services, be used to integrate productivity improvement with safety program planning throughout DOT and to establish and implement annual productivity improvement goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DOT, staffing standards have been completed in applicable areas of the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Research and Special Programs Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and are being completed for the Federal Railroad Administration. Accordingly, this recommendation is being closed.

    Recommendation: To enhance and sustain the progress DOT has achieved in improving its management of safety programs and resources, the Secretary of Transportation should ensure that current and accurate staffing standards (e.g. standard hours for completing program tasks) are used in formulating safety program budgets throughout DOT.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A major revision to the DOT grants role was accomplished with the common grant management rule, the National Transportation Policy, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, and the establishment of a grant management council. These changes oriented grant programs toward greater reliance on state and local grantees and programs, and flexibility in the use of funds.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should strengthen the DOT grant programs by reassessing and defining the DOT role in managing and overseeing its grants programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A major revision to the DOT grants role was accomplished with the common grant management rule, the National Transportation Policy, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, and the establishment of a grant management council. These changes oriented grant programs toward greater reliance on state and local grantees and programs, and flexibility in the use of funds.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should strengthen the DOT grant programs by developing a grants management strategy appropriate for carrying out that role.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT has defined an integrated financial management system program to establish a strategic planning framework and data standards for financial systems. The core component is scheduled to be implemented through September 1993. An integrated personnel/payroll system is planned for implementation in September 1995. DOT has also taken actions to improve its information and procurement systems.

    Recommendation: Given the various mandates and continuing need to strengthen the integrity of the DOT financial, information, and procurement systems, the Secretary of Transportation should establish an agenda or action plan for short- and long-term improvements. The agenda GAO provided could be the basis for developing a blueprint for the future. GAO recognizes that many factors must be considered, yet it believes that with the Secretary's continued support and commitment, such a blueprint can guide the building and maintenance of sound financial, information, and procurement systems across DOT.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Some initiatives were implemented under the National Transportation Policy, issued in February 1990. Also, in May 1992, the Human Resource Management (HRM) community completed a departmentwide HRM strategic planning document that specifically addresses strategies, goals, and action items, which are intended to guide DOT in meeting human resources requirements now and into the 21st century.

    Recommendation: Because change management and strategic human resource management require sustained effort and attention over the long term, the Secretary of Transportation should take additional steps to focus on human resource management DOT-wide. These steps should provide visibility and tangible evidence of top management commitment by establishing a prominent organizational focus for strategic human resource management at both the operating administration and Office of the Secretary of Transportation levels.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Some initiatives were implemented under the National Transportation Policy, issued in February 1990. Also, in May 1992, the HRM community completed a departmentwide HRM strategic planning document that specifically addresses strategies, goals, and action items, which are intended to guide DOT in meeting human resources requirements now and into the 21st century.

    Recommendation: Because change management and strategic human resource management require sustained effort and attention over the long term, the Secretary of Transportation should take additional steps to focus on human resource management DOT-wide. These steps should develop a DOT-wide awareness of the importance and value of change management and strategic human resource management.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Some initiatives were implemented under the National Transportation Policy, issued in February 1990. Also, in May 1992, the HRM community completed a departmentwide HRM strategic planning document that specifically addresses strategies, goals, and action items, which are intended to guide DOT in meeting human resources requirements now and into the 21st century.

    Recommendation: Because change management and strategic human resource management require sustained effort and attention over the long term, the Secretary of Transportation should take additional steps to focus on human resource management DOT-wide. These steps should develop the selection, appraisal, reward, and development functions needed to support human resources management activities and spur management improvement.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  9. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although measures of effectiveness are being applied to specific programs, overall measures of effectiveness have not been developed, and DOT has not indicated that it intends to develop them. Accordingly, GAO is closing the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enhance and sustain the progress DOT has achieved in improving its management of safety programs and resources, the Secretary of Transportation should direct that operational measures of effectiveness be developed and applied for safety programs throughout DOT to link the overall goal of safer transportation with ongoing program activities and to provide the basis for setting program objectives, monitoring performance, and allocating resources.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To develop a strategic information resources planning framework, DOT has completed a Strategic Architecture Scoping Study, consolidated planning requirements for telecommunications, implemented an information collection budget and automation, and established a subcommittee to develop a framework for managing DOT data. A revised Information Resource Management Manual is being coordinated.

    Recommendation: To better integrate policy with program management and support system requirements, and to promote productive use of the information resources available to support policymaking, the Secretary of Transportation should: (1) establish a framework to direct and support the development, implementation, and monitoring of transportation policies, which would include the basic elements enumerated in table 6.1 of this report; and (2) initiate an assessment of DOT policy-related data requirements and responsibilities, including an inventory and evaluation of the data currently collected, data no longer collected, and the costs, if any, imposed by the unavailability of data, and the most cost-effective means of meeting DOT present and expected needs for transportation data collection and analysis.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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