The Results Act:

Observations on the Department of State's May 1997 Draft Strategic Plan

NSIAD-97-198R: Published: Jul 18, 1997. Publicly Released: Aug 5, 1997.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the draft strategic plan submitted by the Department of State as required by the Government Performance and Results Act, focusing on: (1) the draft plan's compliance with the Results Act requirements and its overall quality; (2) whether State's key statutory authorities were reflected in the plan; (3) whether cross-cutting functions and interagency involvement were included; (4) whether the draft plan addressed major management problems; and (5) State's capacity to provide reliable information about its operations and performance.

GAO noted that: (1) State's May 6, 1997, draft strategic plan is useful in setting and clarifying U.S. foreign policy goals, but it does not contain sufficient information to fully achieve the purposes of the Results Act and is incomplete in several important respects; (2) in particular, State's draft strategic plan omits two elements required by the Results Act; (3) it does not contain components identifying the relationship between long-term goals/objectives and annual performance goals or a description of how program evaluations were used to establish or revise strategic goals, or a schedule for future program evaluations; (4) to meet the other four requirements of the Results Act, State's plan needs to be more descriptive and consistent with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance; (5) for example, State's mission statement is described in two sections of the plan; (6) the plan could be improved by consolidating these sections into a single mission statement; (7) the strategic goals sections clearly set out foreign policy goals but do not consistently explain what results are expected from State's programs or when to expect the results; (8) the plan contains several sections labeled strategy for specific goals, however, it does not specifically identify the actions and resources needed to meet the plan's goals or include a schedule for significant actions; (9) the draft plan would be more useful to State, Congress, and other stakeholders if it included a description of the statutory basis for State's broad foreign policy responsibilities and explicit discussions of cross-cutting functions, major management problems, and adequacy of data and systems; (10) the plan is consistent with State's basic statutory responsibilities, but it does not discuss them; (11) State's draft plan recognizes that there are several cross-cutting issues and is designed to: (a) coordinate the roles and missions of U.S. government agencies involved in foreign affairs activities; and (b) serve as a basis for consultation to sharpen and achieve broad agreement on U.S. foreign policy goals; (12) State's plan highlights many of its management responsibilities in ensuring its diplomatic readiness but does not address many of the serious management challenges facing the Department; and (13) State's capacity to provide reliable information about its operations and program performance is questionable because of long-standing deficiencies in the Department's information and financial accounting systems.

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