Department of Commerce: Status of Achieving Key Outcomes and Addressing Major Management Challenges

GAO-01-793 Published: Jun 15, 2001. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 2001.
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This report reviews the Department of Commerce's fiscal year 2000 performance report and fiscal year 2002 performance plan required by the Government Performance and Results Act to assess Commerce's progress on achieving selected key outcomes. Commerce's combined performance report and performance plan is a significant improvement over its fiscal year 1999 performance report and fiscal year 2001 performance plan and addresses the recommendations made in GAO's June 2000 report. Furthermore, the report indicates that Commerce has made progress toward achieving two of the selected key outcomes. However, progress toward achieving the remaining two outcomes is unclear largely because of weaknesses related to measuring performance. Specifically, some of the measures are output-oriented, rather than outcome oriented; some measures have known limitations, which Commerce acknowledges; many of the measures used to assess performance in the past are being discontinued for the future; and Commerce plans to rely on one, narrowly focused measure to demonstrate progress for each performance goal related to these key outcomes. Furthermore, other data exist within the International Trade Administration (ITA) that could support additional measures related to these performance goals.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should direct ITA and the Bureau of Export Administration (BXA) to reassess the measures that are used to assess progress in achieving their organizational performance goals. Specifically, ITA and BXA should consider using more than one measure to address goals that are multifaceted or are difficult to measure. In addition, ITA should consider developing trade agreement compliance and enforcement measures based on data currently gathered by its trade compliance unit.
Closed – Implemented
Commerce reports and GAo agrees that it has complied with GAO's recommendation to reassess its performance measures with actions that were taken in fiscal years 2002 through 2004. Specifically, they state that the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), formerly the Bureau of Export Administration, has abolished almost all of its output measures and replaced them with both efficiency and outcome measures. For example, BIS replaced the measure to count the number of international cooperative exchanges with a measure that counts the number of targeted deficiencies remedied in the export control systems of program nations. Similarly, BIS has revised performance measures to track the efficiency of the export licensing program to effectively monitor timely processing of all license applications submitted by U.S. exporters rather than merely counting the number of licenses that were processed. In response to GAO's recommendation that BIS and ITA should consider using multiple measures, the agency reports that (1) BIS has added internal measures that satisfy this part of the recommendation and that (2) ITA has initiated a process for assessing how well its programs met customer needs, which will ultimately provide metrics aimed at improving customer relationships. Commerce also reports that ITA has prepared an action plan for fiscal year 2003 that, among other things, stated that ITA would use data related to trade compliance from the Trade Compliance Center database in one of its redesigned performance metrics.

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