Performance Budgeting:

Initial Agency Experiences Provide a Foundation to Assess Future Directions

T-AIMD/GGD-99-216: Published: Jul 1, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 1, 1999.

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Paul L. Posner
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed performance budgeting in the federal government, focusing on the: (1) postponement of the performance budgeting pilots that are required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA); and (2) challenges that confront these pilots and any effort to more closely relate performance expectations and spending estimates.

GAO noted that: (1) much can be learned from the initial efforts of some agencies to demonstrate the performance consequences of budget requests; (2) given the importance of performance budgeting to achieving GPRA's full potential and the delay of performance budgeting pilots called for by the act, it is critical that promising approaches be explored and encouraged; (3) the performance plans being developed under GPRA show potential to inform the budget process and change the nature of its dialogue by more routinely introducing performance information into budgetary decision-making; (4) many challenges will remain--from defining outcome goals to developing effective performance measures and reliable cost information; (5) GPRA and any performance budgeting initiative cannot be expected to eliminate conflict inherent in the political process of resource allocation; (6) the linkage of performance plans and budget requests does not guarantee that decisions will be made solely on the grounds of performance--nor should they be, there are other important criteria; (7) however, the absence of meaningful links can inhibit the usefulness of performance information for resource allocation decisions; and (8) only through continued experimentation and the mutual efforts of Congress and the executive branch will the potential, and limits, for performance budgeting within the federal government be determined.

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