The Results Act:

Observations on Commerce's June 1997 Draft Strategic Plan

GGD-97-152R: Published: Jul 14, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the draft strategic plan submitted by the Department of Commerce as required by the Government Performance and Results Act.

GAO noted that: (1) Commerce's draft strategic plan is incomplete in several important respects; (2) of the six elements required by the Act, four are included in the draft plan--a mission statement, goals and objectives, strategies to achieving goals and objectives, and a discussion of key external factors--but each of these has weaknesses, some more significant than others; (3) two of the elements--the relationship between long-term goals and objectives and annual performance goals and the description of program evaluations used to establish general goals and objectives and a schedule for future program evaluations--are missing from the draft plan; (4) the draft plan provides much useful information on Commerce's statutory authorities; (5) however, the draft plan could be more useful to Commerce, Congress, and other stakeholders if it provided a more explicit discussion of crosscutting activities and the major management challenges the Department faces; (6) also, with respect to Commerce's ability to provide reliable program performance information, there is evidence that Commerce's capacity to measure achievement of its goals is questionable in several respects; (7) the draft plan does not explicitly discuss information required by the Act on the other two required elements; (8) for one of these--relating long-term goals and objectives to annual performance goals--the draft plan says only that this type of information will be provided in annual budget requests because, in the Department's view, annual budget requests are the more appropriate vehicle for such a discussion; (9) for the other element--concerning a discussion of the past and future role of program evaluations--the draft plan makes limited references in various sections to a few studies, but those references do not respond to the Act's requirements; (10) the draft plan appears to reflect Commerce's consideration of its major statutory responsibilities and provides a separate section under each strategic theme that spells out the statutory support for the goals articulated and helps stakeholders understand the complexity and diversity of Commerce's activities; (11) the draft plan also does not adequately account for the major management challenges the Department faces, such as the need to implement a sound financial management system to ensure that programs are managed efficiently and effectively to achieve the goals identified in the draft plan; and (12) the Department reported that its financial systems are seriously outdated and fragmented and are unable to provide reliable information.

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