Managing For Results:

Agencies' Annual Performance Plans Can Help Address Strategic Planning Challenges

GGD-98-44: Published: Jan 30, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 12, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal agencies' strategic plans submitted in response to the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, focusing on: (1) summarizing its observations on agencies' September plans; and (2) providing additional information on how the next phase of the Results Act's implementation--performance planning measurement--can be used to address the critical planning issue GAO observed in reviewing the September strategic plans.

GAO noted that: (1) on the whole, agencies' September plans appear to provide a workable foundation for Congress to use in helping to fulfill its appropriations, budget, authorization, and oversight responsibilities and for agencies to use in setting a general direction for their efforts; (2) agencies' strategic planning efforts are still very much a work in progress; (3) GAO's reviews of September plans indicate that continued progress is needed in how agencies address three difficult planning challenges--setting a strategic direction, coordinating crosscutting programs, and ensuring the capacity to gather and use performance and cost data; (4) GAO found that agencies can build upon their initial efforts to set a strategic direction for their programs and activities; (5) the next stage in the Results Act's implementation--performance planning and measurement--can assist agencies in addressing the challenge of setting a strategic direction; (6) as an agency develops its performance plan, it likely will identify opportunities to revise and clarify those strategic goals in order to provide a better grounding for the direction of the agency; (7) also, as agencies develop the objective, measurable annual performance goals as envisioned by the Act, those goals can serve as a bridge that links long-term strategic goals to agencies' daily operations; (8) the Results Act's requirements for annual performance plans and performance measurement can also provide a structured framework for Congress, Office of Management and Budget, and agencies to address agencies' crosscutting programs--the second critical planning challenge; (9) GAO found that although agencies have begun to recognize the importance of coordinating crosscutting programs, they must undertake the substantive coordination that is needed for the effective management of those programs; (10) the third critical planning challenge is the need for agencies to have the capacity to gather and use sound program performance and cost data to successfully measure progress toward their intended results; (11) under the Results Act, agencies are also to discuss in their annual performance plans how they will verify and validate the performance information that they plan to use to show whether goals are being met; and (12) verified and validated performance information, in conjunction with augmented program evaluation efforts, will help ensure that agencies are able to report progress in meeting goals and identify specific strategies for improving performance.

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