The Results Act:

Assessment of the Governmentwide Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 1999

AIMD/GGD-98-159: Published: Sep 8, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 8, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the federal government performance plan, focusing on: (1) whether the plan complies with the act's statutory requirements and congressional intent; and (2) assessing the plan in the context of GAO's guidance developed for agency performance plans and congressional expectations set forth in a December 17, 1997, letter to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

GAO noted that: (1) the issuance of the Governmentwide Performance Plan in February 1998 marked the culmination of the first annual performance planning cycle under the Government Performance and Results Act; (2) OMB developed and implemented an approach and framework for this plan that generally addressed the basic requirements of the Results Act; (3) the plan was issued with the President's budget submission and included a broad range of governmentwide management objectives and a mission-based presentation of key performance goals based on agency performance plans; (4) the plan's framework should ultimately allow for a cohesive presentation of governmentwide performance, but the specific contents of this initial plan did not always deliver an integrated, consistent, and results-oriented picture of fiscal year 1999 federal government performance goals; (5) many of the issues discussed in this report can be traced to the challenges of preparing the first-ever governmentwide plan for an entity as large and diverse as the federal government; (6) future plans will need to go beyond the formal requirements of the act if they are to more fully address its basic purposes and meet the evolving needs of congressional and other users; (7) to add value to the government's overall performance planning and management efforts, attention is needed in two critical areas: (a) addressing observed weaknesses of individual agency performance plans that necessarily affect the quality of governmentwide performance planning; and (b) emphasizing an integrated, governmentwide perspective throughout the plan; (8) as GAO noted in its recent individual agency and overall assessments, much work remains to improve agency performance plans, the building blocks of the governmentwide plan; (9) OMB will need to work with federal agencies to strengthen these plans to ensure a solid foundation for the governmentwide plan; and (10) at the same time, by more explicitly emphasizing governmentwide perspectives and better integrating the performance implications of all federal strategies within more consistent and complete mission-based presentations, the governmentwide plan can continue to complement and extend agency performance planning processes and provide valuable new contexts and information for federal decisionmakers.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB has recently completed the third (FY2001) Governmentwide Performance Plan and continues to use the standard budget functions as the principal organizing structure. OMB continues to believe that any other approach would create a "hybrid plan" unrelated to either the Budget or congressional oversight structures. Although GAO does not agree with this argument, it recognizes that no significant augmentation to the current organization is likely to occur in the near term.

    Recommendation: To achieve a more cohesive picture of governmentwide performance and provide an effective construct for considering related missions and goals and addressing program overlap concerns, the Director, OMB, should augment the presentations by budget functions in the governmentwide plan where necessary to achieve a more complete view of performance in mission areas.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the 2000, 2001 and 2002 governmentwide performance plans, OMB has generally included more substantive discussions of tax expenditures within the spending-oriented budget function structure of the performance plans, but inclusion of regulatory information is actually more sparse than that contained in the 1999 Plan. In the 1999 plan, OMB included a summary discussion of the cost and benefits of regulation to "complement" the plan, but has not done so for the last three years. In recent discussions, OMB senior officials indicated that they will focus on improving performance information for specific programs, both as a mandate from the new Administration and also in recognition of the continuing challenges of measurement and allocation of regulatory costs and benefits.

    Recommendation: To comprehensively portray and analyze the performance of the federal government, the Director, OMB, should develop approaches to better integrate all federal strategies and tools--including tax expenditures and regulations--with key agency performance goals associated with federal spending in the governmentwide plan presentations. In the near term, this should include, minimally, a more integrated discussion of the role of spending, tax expenditures, and regulation within mission areas and strategic objectives. In the longer term, OMB should work with cognizant agencies to begin to develop objective, measurable, and quantifiable goals for all federal strategies and tools to better disclose the relative contribution of each toward overall federal performance goals.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Although much remains to be done, baseline and trend information has been increased for some of the goals and objectives discussed in the Plan. Because more information of this type is being developed and submitted by the agencies as their GPRA processes mature, it is reasonable to assume that future versions of this Plan will also incorporate more baseline and trend data.

    Recommendation: To better depict the context for and progress associated with performance goals defined in the governmentwide plan, the Director, OMB, should include baseline and trend information, where credible data are available or include information on efforts to develop such data.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB continues to view the Governmentwide Plan as a derivative document based on the agency annual plans. As such, all goals and measures included in the Governmentwide Plan, by definition, are reflected in the agency plans. Similarly, OMB coordinates the priority management objectives with the assistance of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government and the relevant interagency working group (e.g., CFOC) to assure senior management attention within the agencies.

    Recommendation: To ensure priority attention and promote accountability in addressing governmentwide performance concerns--both priority management objectives and crosscutting performance goals included in the governmentwide plan--the Director, OMB, should ensure that agencies incorporate appropriate goals and strategies in their annual performance plans and describe their relevance to achieve objectives described in the governmentwide performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget


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