Results Act:

Observations on the Small Business Administration's Draft Strategic Plan

RCED-97-205R: Published: Jul 11, 1997. Publicly Released: Aug 5, 1997.

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Judy A. England Joseph
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Small Business Administration's (SBA) draft strategic plan, focusing on: (1) whether it fulfills the requirements of the Results Act, and GAO's views on its overall quality; (2) whether it reflects SBA's key statutory authorities; (3) whether it reflects interagency coordination for crosscutting programs, activities, or functions that are similar or complementary to other federal programs; (4) whether it addresses major management problems that GAO has previously identified; and (5) the adequacy of SBA's data and information systems for providing reliable information for measuring results.

GAO noted that: (1) a significant amount of work remains to be done by SBA before its draft strategic plan can fulfill the requirements of the Results Act; (2) the plan lacks two required critical elements: (a) a discussion of the relationship between the long-term goals and objectives and the annual performance goals; and (b) a description of how program evaluations were used to establish or revise strategic goals and a schedule for future program evaluations; (3) furthermore, the four elements that the plan contains could better conform to the act's requirements and the Office of Management and Budget's guidance; (4) many of the goals and objectives appear less outcome-oriented (directed at the long-term results that SBA wants to achieve), but rather process-oriented; (5) the strategies, which consist entirely of one-line statements, are too vague to enable an assessment of whether they would help achieve the goals and objectives in SBA's plan; (6) furthermore, because of the way in which the information is presented, the linkage between specific performance measures, strategies, and objectives is not clear; (7) while the plan identifies certain key external factors, it does not yet include a discussion of how the external factors will be taken into account when assessing progress toward goals; (8) because the plan is incomplete, the Congress may be missing critical information for its consultation with SBA; (9) SBA's draft strategic plan reflects consideration of the key statutory provisions authorizing SBA's programs and activities; (10) the plan could benefit from more explicit references to the agency's major statutes and a clearer linkage between the authorities and the agency's mission, goals, and objectives; (11) SBA's draft strategic plan does not explicitly address the relationship of SBA's activities to similar activities in other agencies and provides no evidence that SBA coordinated with other agencies in developing its plan; (12) because the plan's strategies are vague, the extent to which the plan addresses management problems that GAO has previously identified is unclear; (13) SBA's capacity to provide reliable information on the achievement of strategic goals is uncertain; (14) not all of the goals and objectives in the plan are stated in a manner that is measurable; (15) therefore, it is unclear as to what information will be needed and how SBA will assemble and store the information; and (16) however, the plan identifies a number of potential performance measures for which obtaining reliable and accurate data could be difficult, expensive, or both.

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