Department of Labor:

Strategic Planning and Information Management Challenges Facing the Department

T-HEHS-98-88: Published: Feb 5, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 5, 1998.

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Carlotta C. Joyner
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GAO discussed the: (1) Department of Labor's progress in strategic planning as envisioned by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993; and (2) challenge Labor faces in ensuring the effective information management necessary for Labor to fully realize the benefits of that planning.

GAO noted that: (1) Labor's decentralized management structure makes adopting the better management practices envisioned by the Results Act--that is, articulating a comprehensive departmentwide mission statement linked to obvious results-oriented goals, objectives, and performance measures--more challenging; (2) Labor's September 30, 1997, strategic plan reflected its decentralized approach and the difficulty it presents for establishing departmentwide goals and monitoring their attainment; (3) Labor chose to present individual plans for 15 of its 24 component offices along with a strategic plan overview; (4) the overview contained five departmentwide goals that are generally results-oriented and a departmentwide management goal; (5) however, GAO is concerned that the lack of a departmentwide perspective in the development of Labor's strategic plan makes it organizationally driven rather than focused on mission; (6) several of the goals of the component units responsible for ensuring safe and healthful workplaces are similar yet listed separately for each unit; (7) a more mission-focused approach would improve Labor's ability to identify ways in which its operations might be improved to minimize potential duplication and promote efficiencies; (8) in order to measure performance--the next step required under the Results Act--Labor will need information that is sufficiently complete, reliable, and consistent to be useful in decisionmaking; (9) GAO's work has raised questions about how well Labor is meeting this management challenge; (10) GAO has found data to be missing, unreliable, or inconsistent in agencies throughout the Department; (11) Labor, as well as all other federal agencies, must also address two information management issues GAO has described this year as high risk because of vulnerabilities to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement; (12) the first, information security, involves the agency's ability to protect information from unauthorized access; (13) the second requires Labor to rapidly change its computer systems to accomodate dates in the 21st century; and (14) while Labor has appointed a chief information officer, as required under the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, to oversee these and other information management issues, questions remain as to whether or not other duties required of the individual appointed will allow her to devote the attention necessary to ensure success in this critical management area.

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