Managing for Results:

Agencies Need to Fully Identify and Report Major Management Challenges and Actions to Resolve them in their Agency Performance Plans

GAO-16-510: Published: Jun 15, 2016. Publicly Released: Jun 15, 2016.

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J. Christopher Mihm
(202) 512-6806
mihmj@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires agencies to describe their major management challenges and identify associated performance information in their agency performance plans (APP). GAO found, however, that 14 of 24 agencies reviewed did not describe their major management challenges in their APPs as required. This is, in part, because the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) guidance is not clear that major management challenges should be identified in the APP. GPRAMA also requires agencies to develop and report performance information–specifically performance goals, measures, milestones, planned actions, and an agency official responsible–needed to resolve the issue. However, GAO found that 22 of the 24 agencies reviewed did not report complete performance information for each of their major management challenges. Again, this may be in part because OMB's guidance is unclear. As a result, it was not always transparent what these agencies considered to be their major management challenges or how they planned to resolve these challenges. GAO also found that the number of major management challenges reported by these agencies ranged from none (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) to 17 (Department of Defense) with most having 5 or more. GAO found there were generally seven management functions that were most frequently cited as major management challenges across these 24 agencies: 1) acquisition and procurement, 2) contract management and contractor oversight, 3) cybersecurity, 4) financial management, 5) human capital management, 6) addressing improper payments, and 7) real property management.

GAO selected illustrative examples from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to demonstrate actions agency officials took to help address an area that they determined to be a management challenge and was also one of GAO's high-risk areas. For example, DHS began implementing an action plan with milestones and performance measures to strengthen its management functions which is also a high risk issue area; and NASA implemented key components of an action plan including instituting new tools aimed at providing increased insight into project performance over its acquisition management high risk area. While more work remains for these three agencies, the actions taken to date show progress and align with GPRAMA requirements that challenges should also include performance information.

Why GAO Did This Study

GPRAMA requires agencies to identify and report on how they will resolve major management challenges—programs or management functions with greater vulnerability to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement where a failure to perform well could seriously affect the ability of an agency or the government to achieve its mission or goals. Agencies are to describe challenges and provide performance information for resolving those challenges in agency performance plans.

GPRAMA includes a provision for GAO to periodically review its implementation. The objectives of this report were to (1) assess to what extent agency performance plans and reports address major management challenges that include, for example, GAO High-Risk issues and challenges identified by the agency Inspector General; and (2) identify illustrative examples that selected agencies reported taking to address their major management challenges. GAO examined agency performance plans and reports using GPRAMA and interviewed OMB and agency staff.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that OMB clarify its guidance and is making specific recommendations to the agencies that did not comply with GPRAMA. OMB concurred, but of the 22 agencies to which GAO made specific recommendations 18 agreed, 2 neither agreed nor disagreed, and 2 did not agree. GAO continues to believe that these recommendations should be implemented, as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202) 512-6806 or mihmj@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires agencies to describe their major management challenges and identify associated performance information in their agency performance plans. In June 2016, GAO reported that USAID had not described their major management challenges in their agency performance plan or report, or provide complete performance information for each of their major management challenges. USAID concurred with our recommendation and in May 2017 implemented our recommendation when it published its 2016 annual performance report which describe its major management challenges and identified performance goals, performance metrics, planned actions, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving each major management challenge.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) should describe USAID's major management challenges and identify performance goals, performance measures, planned actions, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of USAID's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2018, USDA had made progress in implementing this recommendation by identifying its major management challenges and associated planned actions to address each challenge in its 2017 Agency Financial Report. USDA issued the 2018 agency financial report, but did not include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, and an agency official responsible for addressing each major management challenge. When the 2019 agency financial report or other related report is issued, we will update the status of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Agriculture should describe the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) major management challenges and include performance goals, performance measures, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of USDA's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires agencies to describe their major management challenges and identify associated performance information in their agency performance plans for addressing those challenges. In June 2016, GAO reported that the Department of Commerce (Commerce) had not provided complete performance information for each major management challenge. Commerce concurred with our recommendation and in August 2018 implemented our recommendation when it updated its Annual Performance Plan and Report (APPR) FY17 and FY19 to include a description of Commerce's major management challenges, as well as related performance goals and measures, performance milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Commerce should describe the Department of Commerce's major management challenges and include performance goals, performance measures, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of the Department of Commerce's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. In May 2018, the Department of Defense provided us with its corrective action plan for addressing this recommendation. According to the plan, the agency's major management challenges will be identified in DOD's forthcoming strategic plan and the challenges will be addressed in the next agency performance plan. In its 2020 Annual Performance Plan, DOD addressed the recommendation by identifying major management challenges for meeting the agency's performance goals and included planned actions. DOD continued to include performance goals, measures, and an agency official (office) responsible. As a result, this recommendation is closed as implemented.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Defense should include planned actions for each of the Department of Defense's (DOD) major management challenges and ensure that required information about its major management challenges, currently in DOD's Agency Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2015-2018, be included in its agency performance plan so that progress toward resolving each of its major management challenges is transparent and reported annually.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its fiscal year 2018 APP, the Department of Education described the agency's major management challenges and identified performance goals, performance measures, planned actions, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving each major management challenge.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Education should include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, planned actions, and an agency official responsible for resolving each of the Department of Education's major management challenges as part of the department's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Energy (DOE) included management priorities and associated key challenges and departmental initiatives (planned actions) to address its major management challenges in the FY 2016 Agency Financial Report (AFR). The DOE FY 2016 Annual Performance Report/FY 2018 Annual Performance Plan identifies performance goals, performance measures, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving each of the management challenges.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Energy should describe the Department of Energy's major management challenges and include performance goals, performance measures, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of the Department of Energy's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 requires agencies to describe their major management challenges and identify associated performance information. In June 2016, GAO reported that the Department of Homeland Security did not report complete performance information including performance goals, performance measures, and milestones for each of their major management challenges. The Department of Homeland Security agreed with our recommendation, but stated it believed it had met the intent of GPRAMA requirements for major management challenges, that not all challenges were conducive to a performance goal, and that no further action would be taken by the Department of Homeland Security. In June 2017 DHS asked us to close the recommendation as not implemented.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Homeland Security should include performance goals, performance measures, and milestones for each of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) major management challenges as part of DHS's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: According to the Department of Justice's action plan to address GAO's recommendations, it will report the Office of Inspector General Top Management Challenges in both the Annual Financial Report (AFR) and the Annual Performance Report(APR)/Annual Performance Plan(APP). For the APR/APP, the Department of Justice will also include the appropriate performance goals, performance measures, milestones, planned actions addressing the challenges and the name(s) of agency official(s) responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges. As of May 2019, however, the Department of Justice had not taken any actions to implement our recommendation. For example, in its response to the Justice Inspector General's top performance and management challenges in its fiscal year 2018 AFR, Justice described some actions its has taken and planned actions to resolve the challenges. However, the response does not include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges. We will continue to monitor Justice's progress by reviewing it's 2019 AFR and other performance-related documents when they are publicly issued.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Attorney General should describe the Department of Justice's major management challenges and include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, planned actions and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of the Department of Justice's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: According to the Department of Labor's action plan to address GAO's recommendations, it will comply with the updated Circular A-11 guidance to report on major management challenges in its next Annual Performance Report (APR), published with the FY 2018 Congressional Budget Justification. In its 2016 APR, the Department of Labor took steps to implement this recommendation by including planned actions and an agency official responsible for each of the three issues it identified as a major management challenge. Further action is needed to establish performance goals, performance measures, and milestones. In its 2017 APR or Agency Financial Report, Labor did not include performance goals, performance measures, or milestones for two of three issues identified by Labor as major management challenges, specifically "Job Corps Center Security and Cost Control" and "Securing and Maintaining Legacy Information Systems". In May 2018, Labor told us additional goals, milestones, and measures are not needed. However, this is inconsistent with GPRAMA and OMB A-11 guidance which require performance goals, measures, and milestones for major management challenges. Those three issues continued to be major management challenges in Labor's FY 2018 APR, but the information required by GPRAMA was not included. We will review Labor's 2019 APR or Agency Financial Report when released and update the status of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Labor should describe the Department of Labor's major management challenges and include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, planned actions, and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of the Department of Labor's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires agencies to describe their major management challenges and identify associated performance information. In June 2016, GAO reported that the Department of State did not report complete performance information for each of their major management challenges. The Department of State concurred with our recommendation and in May 2017 implemented our recommendation to dentify performance goals, performance metrics, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving each major management challenge in it 2016 annual performance report.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of State should include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of the Department of State's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 2018, the Department of Transportation took steps to implement this recommendation by identifying its major management challenges and including planned actions to address each challenge in its Fiscal Year 2017 Agency Financial Report (AFR). However, the FY 2018 AFR and related documents did not include the other required information. Subsequently, Transportation released it's FY 2018 Performance Report and FY 2020 Performance Plan. The document identified the agency's major management challenges, and included performance goals, performance measures, planned actions, milestones, and an agency official responsible for each management challenge. As a result, we closed this recommendation as implemented.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Transportation should describe the Department of Transportation's major management challenges and include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, planned actions and an agency official responsible for resolving major management challenges as part of the Department of Transportation's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2018, Treasury made progress on implementing this recommendation by identifying its major management challenges and associated planned actions for addressing each challenge in its Fiscal Year 2017 Agency Financial Report. We found Treasury needs to include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving each challenge. Similarly, our review of Treasury's FY 2018 AFR found the document did not include performance information required under GPRAMA. When the 2019 AFR or related document is issued, we will update the status of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of the Treasury should include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving major management challenges as part of the Department of the Treasury's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its Fiscal Year 2018 APP, EPA took steps to implement this recommendation by clearly identifying its major management challenges and including planned actions for resolving them. Further action was needed to establish performance goals, performance measures, milestones, and identify an agency official responsible for resolving the challenge. In its Fiscal Year 2019 APP, EPA reported performance information consistent with GPRAMA requirements for each of the major management challenges identified by the agency.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, planned actions and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of EPA's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  14. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its fiscal year 2019 APP, the General Services Administration described the agency's major management challenges and identified performance goals, performance measures, planned actions, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving the challenges.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) should describe GSA's major management challenges and include performance goals, performance measures, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of GSA's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  15. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to its website, for fiscal year 2019, HHS is meeting its performance reporting requirements as designated in the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 and OMB Circular A-11 through the program performance information provided in the FY 2018 HHS Budget Justifications to Congress. As of September 2018, however, HHS had not taken action to implement our recommendation. Our review of HHS' 2019 Congressional Budget Justification and related documents found that it did not include information required by GPRAMA. In May 2019, we reviewed HHS's Fiscal Year 2020 Performance Plan and Report. In the document, HHS identified four "Major Management Priorities" that represent the agency's major management challenges: 1) Moving to a 21st Century Workforce, 2) Restoring Market Forces, 3) Making HHS More Innovative and Responsive, and 4) Generating Efficiencies through Streamlined Services. For each challenge, HHS provided information on its progress with each initiative, including performance goals, performance indicators, and milestones. Each initiative also named an official responsible for resolving the challenge. As a result of HHS's actions to update its performance plan and report with this information, this recommendation is closed as implemented.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) should include performance goals, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving each of HHS's major management challenges as part of HHS's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Department of Interior has taken action to improve the public reporting of major management challenges and has implemented this recommendation. Specifically we found that the Department of Interior's 2018/2019 Annual Performance Plan & 2017 Report clearly stated major management challenges and included a cross-reference to the corresponding goal or objective with relevant performance goals, measures, milestones, and planned actions. The report also listed agency officials responsible for resolving the challenge.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of the Interior should describe the Department of Interior's major management challenges and include performance goals, performance measures, planned actions, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of the Department of the Interior's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  17. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its Fiscal Year 2018 APP, NASA clearly identified its major management challenges and cross-referenced their approach for resolving them to relevant strategic goals. Those strategic goals included performance goals, performance measures, planned actions, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving the challenge.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) should include performance goals, performance measures, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving major management challenges as part of NASA's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  18. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to its letter in response to our recommendation, if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not identify any major management challenges that meet the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) definition, the APP will include a clear statement to that effect. In its 2018 APP, NRC clearly stated that it did not have major management challenges.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission should affirmatively state that the agency does not have major management challenges when applicable in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  19. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request to Congress, NSF identified its major management challenges and included performance goals, performance measures, planned actions, milestones and an agency official responsible for resolving each of the management challenges.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) should describe NSF's major management challenges and identify performance goals, performance measures, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving each of its major management challenges as part of NSF's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

  20. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its Fiscal Year 2018 Congressional Budget Justification, OPM clearly identified its major management challenges and included performance goals, performance measures, planned actions, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving each challenge as required under GPRAMA.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) should identify performance goals, performance measures, and milestones for each of OPM's major management challenges as part of OPM's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  21. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires agencies to describe their major management challenges and identify associated performance information in their agency performance plans. In June 2016, GAO reported that SBA had not described their major management challenges in their agency performance plan or report, or provide complete performance information for each of their major management challenges. SBA concurred with our recommendation and implemented our recommendation. Specifically, its 2018 Congressional Budget Justification/2016 annual performance report described its major management challenges and identified performance goals, performance metrics, planned actions, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving each major management challenge.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) should describe SBA's major management challenges and include performance goals, performance measures, milestones, and an agency official responsible for resolving major management challenges as part of SBA's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  22. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On July 25, 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued guidance to organizations within Veterans Affairs for responding to the Inspector General's Major Management Challenges. The Office of Performance Management within VA has requested that each response include the following: estimated resolution timeframe; title of the responsible agency official; associated strategic goal; associated strategic objective; associated external-facing performance measure; and an action plan. Accordingly and in line with our recommendation, VA's Fiscal Year 2016 AFR includes performance goals and milestones for each of its major management challenges.

    Recommendation: To improve the public reporting of major management challenges and to ensure performance information is useful, transparent, and complete, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) should include performance goals and milestones for each of its major management challenges as part of VA's agency performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  23. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In revised A-11 guidance issued in July 2016, OMB took a number of actions to clarify what information and in which document major management challenges should be reported. Specifically, the guidance defines major management challenges and affirmatively states that these challenges and associated performance information are to be included in the Annual Performance Plan (APP). Further, the guidance includes a new section that answers how agencies should report performance improvement actions for items identified as major management challenges in the APP. In addition, the guidance addresses how and where agencies are to report in the event that they do not have major management challenges. These actions address the recommendation GAO made to OMB.

    Recommendation: To help participating agencies improve their public reporting, the Director of OMB should revise relevant guidance to align with GPRAMA and require agencies to describe their major management challenges and identify performance goals, performance measures, milestones, planned actions, and an agency official responsible for resolving each of the challenges in their APP. The guidance should also address how to report in the event that the agency determines it does not have major management challenges.

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

 

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