Performance Budgeting: Opportunities and Challenges

GAO-02-1106T Published: Sep 19, 2002. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2002.
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This testimony discusses efforts to link resources to results--also known as "performance budgeting." During the past decade, Congress and several administrations have put in place a structure for increasing the focus on and accountability for government performance. Federal agencies have been working to carry out the Government Performance Act, which requires the development of periodic strategic and annual performance plans and reports. Absent structural change in a number of major entitlement programs, budgetary flexibility will continue to decline and eventually disappear--while demands for new federal resources to address such emerging challenges as homeland security and other issues become more compelling and pressing. Given the country's longer-range fiscal imbalance, there is also a need to broaden the measures and focus of the federal budget process to accommodate these goals. The nation's fiscal challenges escalate rapidly just beyond the 10-year budget projection period. As a result, new metrics and mechanisms are needed to better highlight the longer-term implications of existing programs and proposed new fiscal commitments. Furthermore, in order to address emerging challenges, it is necessary to address both retirement and health programs encumbering the nation's fiscal future, in addition to reexamining the base of existing programs--both discretionary programs and other entitlements--to free up resources to address new needs in a rapidly changing society. Such an examination should be cross-cutting and comprehensive in nature--all relevant policy tools and federal programs, including tax preferences, should be "on the table" in addressing such policy areas as low-income housing or health care financing and delivery. Although such a comprehensive reassessment will take time and may have to be addressed in phases, it is critically important that it occur. An extensive public education effort will be required to fully inform the American people about a long-term outlook under current policy portfolio as well as the alternative choices that are available.

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