Observations on Federal Science Agencies
T-RCED-97-220, Jul 30, 1997
GAO discussed the implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act in federal science agencies, focusing on six agencies' fulfillment of the requirements of the Results Act and the interagency crosscutting science programs, activities, or functions that are similar or complementary to those of other federal agencies. The agencies GAO discussed are the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Transportation as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
GAO noted that: (1) overall, the six agencies' draft strategic plans show progress toward meeting the purposes of the act; however, only one of the six agencies' plans contains all six of the act's critical elements; (2) in addition, some of the completed elements were insufficient; (3) for example, the goals and objectives were frequently results-oriented, but it was unclear in all of the plans how some of the goals would be measured; (4) developing effective performance measures for these program goals will be a major challenge for science agencies; (5) futhermore, five of the six plans did not include information on past and future program evaluations and the one inclusion could be improved; (6) because the draft plans do not contain all six elements, the Congress is missing critical pieces of information for its consultations with the agencies; (7) under Office of Management and Budget guidance, the agencies' final submission should include a summary of consultation efforts, including crosscutting activities; (8) currently, the agencies' draft plans generally do not address how crosscutting activities correspond with those of other agencies; (9) in addition, the plans generally do not address whether such shared responsibilities were coordinated in the development of the draft plans; (10) however, some of the agencies' missions and goals do involve or overlap those of other agencies; (11) despite the fact that the draft plans do not reflect coordination activities, several agencies have initiated efforts to coordinate crosscutting research programs governmentwide; (12) coordination has occurred primarily at the program level rather than at the senior management level which is necessary to ensure consistency of program objectives among agencies; and (13) in GAO's opinion, recognition of such coordination activities as part of the final submission will be useful to the Congress in making funding decisions that involve similar or complementary science programs.