USAID Reform:

Efforts Address Most Key Practices but Could Improve in Performance Assessment and Strategic Workforce Planning

GAO-19-609: Published: Sep 11, 2019. Publicly Released: Sep 11, 2019.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Jason Bair
(202) 512-6881
BairJ@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

USAID has undertaken a number of projects to reform its organizational structure, workforce, and programs—with the ultimate goal of helping partner countries become more self-reliant.

We found USAID generally addressed 9 of the 11 key practices necessary for successful agency reforms, but only partially addressed 2 others. For example, USAID solicited input from employees through briefings and town halls. But it hasn’t identified outcome-oriented performance measures for all its projects. It also hasn’t completed a strategic workforce plan to ensure that it can meet the agency’s future staff needs. We recommended that it do so.

USAID sign

USAID sign

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Jason Bair
(202) 512-6881
BairJ@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

The reform efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) consist of a total of 32 reform projects—31 projects being implemented by USAID's Transformation Task Team and an additional Human Resources Transformation project that predates the 31 projects. As of July 2019, USAID has completed 19 reform projects and is implementing 12 additional projects, which it intends to complete by mid-2021. The task team has one additional project in the planning phase.

In planning and implementing these efforts, USAID has generally addressed nine of 11 key practices for organizational transformation and partially addressed two. For example, USAID generally addressed the key practice of involving employees and key stakeholders such as the Department of State and Congress through a variety of mechanisms, such as briefings and town halls. USAID also used data and evidence to guide its reform efforts by integrating employee and external input into its reform plans. Morever, USAID addressed fragmentation, overlap, and duplication by planning a restructuring effort to streamline operations and achieve efficiencies. Further, it generally addressed leadership focus and attention by designating a reform coordinator and establishing a dedicated team responsible for managing and planning USAID's reform efforts.

However, while USAID established goals for its reform efforts, it established outcome-oriented performance measures for only four of its 32 projects. Establishing such measures would improve its ability to assess the results of the changes it is making. In addition, while USAID is developing a strategic workforce plan, it has yet to develop the tools needed to identify and meet staffing needs arising from the reforms in order to fully assess its workforce. Completing a strategic workforce plan with these tools could help USAID ensure it has the workforce needed to meet existing and emergent program demands. Addressing these gaps could help USAID make long-term improvements in its efficiency and effectiveness.

Extent to Which USAID's Reform Efforts Have Addressed GAO-Identified Key Practices for Planning and Implementing Agency Reforms

Key practice

Extent addressed

Determining the appropriate role of the federal government

Involving employees and key stakeholders

Using data and evidence

Addressing fragmentation, overlap, and duplication

Addressing high risk areas and long-standing management challenges

Leadership focus and attention

Managing and monitoring

Employee engagement

Employee performance management

Establishing goals and outcomes

Strategic workforce planning

Legend:

• = Generally addressed: USAID addressed a practice without significant gaps in its coverage of the actions associated with this key practice.

⊙ = Partially addressed: USAID addressed a practice with significant gaps in its coverage of the actions associated with this key practice.

Source: GAO analysis of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) information. | GAO-19-609

Why GAO Did This Study

In March 2017, the President issued an executive order to federal agencies intended to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch. The order required the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop a plan to reorganize and streamline the government. In April 2017, OMB issued additional guidance to agencies on implementing the order. In response, USAID launched several efforts to reform its organizational structure, workforce, programs, and processes with the ultimate goal of ending the need for foreign assistance by helping partner countries become more self-reliant. GAO's prior work has shown that successful agency reforms depend on following key practices for organizational transformation, such as establishing goals and outcomes and involving key stakeholders.

This report examines (1) the status of USAID's reform efforts and (2) the extent to which USAID has addressed key practices in planning and implementing those efforts. GAO reviewed USAID reform plans, proposals, and related documents and met with officials involved in its reform efforts. GAO also assessed USAID's planning and implementation of its reform efforts against 11 key practices identified in GAO's June 2018 report, Government Reorganization: Key Questions to Assess Agency Reform Efforts (GAO-18-427).

What GAO Recommends

USAID should (1) establish outcome-oriented performance measures to assess the effectiveness of its reform efforts and (2) complete a strategic workforce plan necessary to support its reform efforts. USAID concurred with the recommendations.

For more information, contact Jason Bair at (202) 512-6881 or BairJ@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of USAID should establish outcome-oriented performance measures to assess the effectiveness of USAID's reform projects. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of USAID should ensure that the agency completes a strategic workforce plan necessary to support its reform efforts. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 5, 2019

Aug 15, 2019

Jul 30, 2019

May 23, 2019

Apr 29, 2019

Apr 10, 2019

Mar 14, 2019

Mar 12, 2019

Nov 20, 2018

Nov 15, 2018

Looking for more? Browse all our products here