Managing for Results:

Barriers to Interagency Coordination

GGD-00-106: Published: Mar 29, 2000. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 2000.

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GAO reviewed the federal government's management of crosscutting program activities, focusing on: (1) an overview of programs with mission fragmentation and overlap in 1998 and 1999; (2) barriers to interagency coordination within the last decade; and (3) potential approaches for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of crosscutting programs.

GAO noted that: (1) mission fragmentation and program overlap are widespread in the federal government; (2) in 1998 and 1999, GAO found that this situation existed in 12 federal mission areas, ranging from agriculture to natural resources and environment; (3) GAO also identified, in 1998 and 1999, 8 new areas of program overlap, including 50 programs for the homeless that were administered by 8 federal agencies; (4) although GAO's work indicates the potential for inefficiency and waste, it also shows areas, such as counterterrorism, where the intentional participation by multiple agencies may be a reasonable response to a complex public problem; (5) in either situation, implementation of federal crosscutting programs is often characterized by numerous individual agency efforts that are implemented with little apparent regard for the presence of efforts of related activities; (6) decisionmakers and managers are finding that achieving results on public problems increasingly calls for effective interagency coordination; (7) however, GAO's work has shown that agencies encounter a range of barriers when they attempt such coordination; (8) one such barrier concerns missions that are not mutually reinforcing or that may even conflict, making reaching a consensus on strategies and priorities difficult; (9) another significant barrier to interagency coordination is agencies' concerns about protecting jurisdiction over missions and control over resources; (10) because of these kinds of concerns, the Army, Air Force, and Navy have resisted any efforts to consolidate the services' medical departments into a single health agency; (11) interagency coordination is often hindered by incompatible procedures, processes, data, and computer systems; (12) GAO has offered several possible approaches for better managing crosscutting programs to ensure that crosscutting goals are consistent, program efforts are mutually reinforcing, and where appropriate, common or complementary performance measures are used as a basis for management; (13) GAO has stated that the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 could provide the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), agencies, and Congress with a structured framework for addressing crosscutting program efforts; and (14) if GPRA is successfully implemented, OMB's governmentwide performance plan and the agencies' annual performance plans and subsequent performance reports should provide Congress with new information on federal program efforts, including crosscutting programs.

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