Overview of the Strategy, Execution, and Evaluation Budgeting Process

GAO-13-649R: Published: Jun 28, 2013. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 2013.

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Anne-Marie Lasowski Fennell
(202) 512-3841


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What GAO Found

In 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) implemented a new budget development and execution process called Strategy Execution and Evaluation (SEE). This process includes seven steps, generally referred to by the names of the documents that capture the decisions made at that step. The first four steps in a SEE cycle cover planning, budget formulation, and budget submission, and the last three steps cover budget execution and performance evaluation. The seven steps are as follows:

1. Annual guidance memorandum

2. Implementation plans

3. Corporate portfolio analysis

4. Budget submission

5. Corporate portfolio review

6. Annual operating plans

7. Progress to plan

NOAA uses steps 1 through 3 to identify budget requirements. Step 1 is meant to identify budget needs from the "top down" on the basis of the NOAA Administrator's priorities as captured in the annual guidance memorandum. Step 2 is meant to identify budget requirements from the "bottom up" on the basis of program needs as identified in the implementation plans that NOAA staff prepare for each of the goals and objectives in the agency's strategic plan. Agency leaders reconcile the budget requirements in step 3 (corporate portfolio analysis) and make budget recommendations in a decision memorandum.

NOAA has largely implemented all of the SEE steps except for steps 5 and 7 (corporate portfolio review and progress to plan). NOAA officials told GAO that they intend to implement these steps and a new evaluation component of SEE in 2013. Officials told GAO that fiscal year 2013 will be the first opportunity to conduct steps 5 and 7 because it is the first year for which the agency has completed a full budget cycle under the SEE process. In May 2012, NOAA created an evaluation committee that, among other activities, is beginning to develop an agencywide plan for collecting and disseminating information on planned and completed program evaluations and to produce a program evaluation handbook to guide NOAA staff in conducting program evaluations.

Why GAO Did This Study

In 2002, NOAA implemented a planning, programming, budgeting, and execution system to achieve compliance with external demands for improved strategic management and performance-based budgeting, as set forth in the President's Management Agenda and the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. According to NOAA officials, NOAA determined in 2010, on the basis of internal and external reviews, that this system was too complex and time-consuming and did not provide an efficient mechanism for effective agency decision making. NOAA's new SEE process was intended to be simpler, less administratively burdensome, and better aligned with NOAA's strategic plan than the preceding system. GAO was asked to review the SEE process. This report identifies (1) the SEE process steps for developing and executing NOAA's budget, (2) how NOAA uses the SEE process to identify budget requirements, and (3) the status of NOAA's efforts to implement SEE. GAO reviewed relevant NOAA policies, guidance, and other documents regarding the SEE process and interviewed NOAA officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making any recommendations in this report.

For more information, contact Anne-Marie Lasowski Fennell at (202) 512-3841 or

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