Department of State:

Status of Achieving Key Outcomes and Addressing Major Management Challenges

GAO-02-42: Published: Dec 7, 2001. Publicly Released: Jan 7, 2002.

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GAO reviewed the Department of State's fiscal year 2000 performance report and its fiscal year 2002 performance plan. Weaknesses in State's fiscal year 2000 performance report made it difficult to determine the department's progress toward achieving such key outcomes as eliminating the threat from weapons of mass destruction and expanding foreign markets for U.S. products and services. These weaknesses are rooted in performance goals and indicators established in State's performance plan for 2000, which GAO criticized in an earlier report. State has taken a major step toward implementing Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 requirements by producing a fiscal year 2002 plan that is superior to earlier efforts. State will need to focus on reporting on all indicators in the plan and, if targets are not achieved, clearly explain why and what actions it plans to achieve the targets in the future.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO's December 2001 report and subsequent informal suggestions helped the Department of State's to greatly improve its planning and reporting processes required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993. In December 2001, GAO reported that weaknesses in how State reported its performance in fiscal year 2000, as required by GPRA, made it difficult to determine State's actual progress in accomplishing its performance goals and targets for that year. GAO concluded that the weaknesses were rooted in poorly developed and articulated performance goals outlined in State's performance plan for fiscal year 2000. In addition, GAO found that State (1) frequently did not report on progress toward accomplishing it performance goals and targets, (2) did not provide clear and specific explanations for why performance goals and targets were not met, and (3) did not outline the actions it would take to achieve unmet goals. As a result, GAO recommended State ensure that it report all three of those items in future years. GAO also found that although State had already taken steps to better define its future performance goals and targets, it still needed to make improvements. However, GAO did not make specific recommendations regarding future performance plans in its report. Upon completing the project, State sought GAO's advice and suggestions for improving its process for developing the department's GPRA products. Subsequent to its analyses, GAO provided State with informal guidance on the criteria GAO uses to determine whether performance goals and indicators are valid and measurable. At State's request, in January 2003, GAO provided informal comments on a draft of its performance report for 2002. GAO commented to State that its new performance report was more clearly written and GAO noted that the department implemented 2 of GAO's 3 recommendations. Specifically, State (1) reported progress made toward all performance goals, indicators, and targets and (2) provided explanations of the impact of performance shortfalls, when they occurred. However, State did not indicate how it planned to meet its unmet performance targets and goals. State also combined its annual performance report with its annual accountability report, thereby providing a single source that links the department's efficiency to the effectiveness of its programs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that performance reports for 2001 and subsequent years (1) address all performance goals and indicators outlined in State's performance plans, (2) provide clear and specific explanations for why performance goals and performance targets were not met, and (3) outline the actions the department will take to achieve unmet goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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