Results Act:

Observations on EPA's Strategic Plan

RCED-98-36R: Published: Nov 12, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 12, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) July 1, 1997, draft strategic plan and its revised plan submitted in September 1997.

GAO noted that: (1) EPA has made considerable progress in developing a strategic plan that can serve as an effective cornerstone for the agency's implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act; (2) the July 1997 draft plan provided a good indication of EPA's planned direction and major efforts to achieve its mission, as well as basis for holding the agency accountable for achieving results; (3) the September 1997 plan improves on the draft plan in: (a) adding sections on program evaluations used in preparing the plan and the relationship of the plan's general goals to annual performance goals; (b) describing the coordination of the plan with other federal agencies; and (c) expounding on the role of the states in implementing EPA's programs; (4) strategic planning is a continued process and further improvements could be made in future revisions and updates of the plan; (5) GAO believes that two issues critical to the credibility and success of the agency's strategic planning process are: (a) ensuring the availability of sufficient scientific and environmental data; and (b) coordinating plans and activities with other agencies that have similar or crosscutting functions; (6) EPA needs considerable scientific and environmental data on the state of the nation's environment and on the health and ecological effects of pollution; (7) these data are needed to identify and establish priorities and strategies for addressing health and environmental problems and to assess the impact of EPA's programs and activities in carrying out these priorities and strategies; (8) EPA has collected much scientific and environmental information, but many gaps exist, and data are often difficult to compile; (9) although addressing these problems could be costly, EPA's initiatives should provide the mechanism to identify principal data needs and establish priorities for filling them; (10) EPA's annual performance plans could include specific actions to identify and fill the data needs, and future updates of the strategic plan could more explicitly reflect the agencies long-term objectives and strategies concerning data; (11) EPA has initiated steps to begin working closely with 25 agencies with which it shares responsibility for setting standards and managing programs to improve human health and the environment; and (12) annual performance plans could identify the actions to be taken to review crosscutting or similar functions with other agencies, and future revisions or updates to the strategic plan could report the results and any changes needed in EPA's programs.

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