Government Performance and Results Act:

Information on Science Issues in the Department of Energy's Accountability Report for Fiscal Year 1999 and Performance Plans for Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001

RCED-00-268R: Published: Aug 25, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 2000.

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James E. Wells, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) accountability report for fiscal year (FY) 1999 and performance plans for fiscal years 2000 and 2001, focusing on whether the report: (1) conveyed a coherent picture of the Department's science programs; and (2) clearly links to its budget.

GAO noted that: (1) DOE's accountability report for FY 1999 and performance plans for FY 2000 and FY 2001 do not convey a clear picture of the Department's science programs because they are not consistent over time; (2) when compared with the accountability report and 2000 performance plan, DOE's FY 2001 performance plan made significant changes to its business line concerning science, such as rewriting the strategic goal for science, without explaining the reasons for the changes or their impact on DOE's focus; (3) DOE changed all of the strategic objectives supporting this new business line, making it difficult to clearly track the focus of DOE's science efforts; (4) without an explanation for the change, it is difficult to determine whether DOE intends to continue its previous work or refocus its efforts; (5) many of the annual performance goals and measures DOE used in its accountability report and performance plans did not sufficiently describe the Department's specific science activities, explain how these activities will help achieve the overall goal for the science business line, or, when the activities are completed, indicate how much progress will have been made toward reaching the goal; (6) as a result, it was difficult to determine what DOE was trying to accomplish in science or how it planned to get there; (7) DOE's accountability report for FY 1999 and performance plans for FY 2000 and FY 2001 provided clear links to the budget; (8) DOE's 2001 performance plan tried to strengthen this linkage by presenting performance measures by budgetary decision unit rather than by objective and performance goal; (9) in changing the format of the plan, DOE did not provide a clear crosswalk with its plans in previous years, making it hard to find specific measures in the latest plan or to track measures across years; (10) the FY 2001 performance plan does not specifically cite the performance goals presented in the accountability report and the 2000 performance plan, making it harder to compare the two plans; (11) DOE provides a code that links performance measures in the 2001 plan with their performance goals from the 2000 plan, but this coding system is difficult to follow; (12) although the accountability report for FY 1999 and the performance plans for FY 2000 and FY 2001 address weaknesses GAO previously identified, the documents do not indicate enough progress for GAO to believe that the weaknesses have been resolved; and (13) the quality of information on performance is also limited because the accountability report does not explain how DOE verified and validated the results tied to each performance measure.

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