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The Department of Agriculture's (USDA) fiscal year 2000 performance report and fiscal year 2002 performance plan have the potential for focusing the department's missions, but these efforts are compromised in several areas. USDA's goals and measures are too general to give insight into what USDA is actually trying to achieve. It is difficult to assess USDA's progress when it uses unrealistic goals to achieve strategic outcomes and when it uses untimely data that has not been consistently verified. In two areas--strategic human capital management and information security--progress in measuring USDA's performance has been frustrated by the lack of goals and measures for identified issues. Finally, by not sharing information about the major management challenges identified by its own Inspector General, USDA's agencies miss the opportunity to develop strategies and plans to respond to these issues.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture To improve USDA's performance reporting and planning, the Secretary of Agriculture should (1) set priorities for improving the timeliness of the data that USDA is using for measuring its performance, (2) improve USDA's performance report by including more consistent discussions of data verification and validation, (3) better match the department's goals and outcomes with its capabilities for expanding and maintaining global market opportunities, (4) include performance goals and measures for strategic human capital management issues and information security issues in the departmental plan, (5) make reducing food stamp trafficking an annual performance goal in USDA's plan, and (6) address and include the Office of the Inspector General's major management challenges in the future performance plans. To facilitate the last recommendation, the Inspector General should work with the Chief Financial Officer and USDA agency officials in identifying and including major management challenges in USDA's performance plans.
Closed - Implemented
USDA has taken some action on most aspects of GAO's recommendation, as reported by USDA's Fiscal Year 2004 Performance and Accountability Report. For example, this report identifies the major management challenges identified by USDA's Inspector General and USDA's actions to addresses these challenges. USDA is also implementing management initiatives to addresses strategic human capital management issues, information security weaknesses, and its capabilities for expanding global market opportunities. USDA's report also includes expanded discussion of the quality of the data it is using as it assesses its performance.

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