Results Act:

Observations on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 1999

RCED-98-212R: Published: Jun 11, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 1998.

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Lawrence J. Dyckman
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) annual performance plan for fiscal year 1999.

GAO noted that: (1) USDA's performance plan partially meets the criteria set forth in the Government Performance and Results Act and related guidance; (2) specifically, the plan provides a limited picture of intended performance across the Department and partially discusses the ways in which USDA's strategies and resources will help it achieve the plan's performance goals; (3) however, the plan provides little confidence that the information USDA will use to assess performance will be accurate, complete, and credible; (4) the strengths of USDA's performance plan are that most of its component plans have: (a) linked their annual performance goals and indicators to their 5-year strategic goals; (b) described their strategies to accomplish their goals; and (c) described, at least partially, the capital, human, financial, and other resources they will use to achieve their performance goals; (5) in addition, the component plans have formats that are generally consistent, and they attempt to address all of the key criteria for a good plan; and (6) the key areas in which USDA's performance plan could be improved to better meet the purposes of the Results Act include: (a) explaining how USDA agencies are coordinating crosscutting issues both within and outside the Department; (b) discussing mitigation strategies for each significant external factor that may interfere with the achievement of performance goals; (c) describing the procedures that will be used to ensure that the data needed to measure progress in meeting performance goals are complete, accurate, and credible; and (d) identifying what, if any, limitations exist with respect to the data used for measuring performance.

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