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Highlights

GAO was asked to examine (1) the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) and agency perspectives on the effects that the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) recommendations are having on agency operations and program results; (2) OMB's leadership in ensuring a complementary relationship between the PART and the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA); and (3) steps OMB has taken to involve Congress in the PART process. To do this, we also followed up on issues raised in our January 2004 report on the PART.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
To facilitate an understanding of congressional priorities and concerns, Congress may wish to consider the need for a strategy that includes (1) establishing a vehicle for communicating performance goals and measures for key congressional priorities and concerns; (2) developing a more structured oversight agenda to permit a more coordinated congressional perspective on crosscutting programs and policies; and (3) using such an agenda to inform its authorization, oversight, and appropriations processes.
Closed - Implemented
In response to GAO's work suggesting the need for a more robust Congressional strategy for indicating its performance priorities and using performance information in its deliberations, the House Budget Committee included in the FY 2009 Congressional Budget Resolution a requirement that all committees include recommendations for improved governmental performance in their annual "views and estimates." In response, Committees indeed indicated their performance priorities and have held hearings on these areas.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget 1. The Director of OMB should ensure that congressional leadership and key committees are given an opportunity to provide input early in the PART process on the performance issues and program areas they consider to be the most important and in need of review.
Closed - Implemented
As we said in our October 2005 report on the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), most Congressional staff we spoke with still report a lack of up-front consultation about PART. Consistent with the spirit of our recommendation, in June 2005, the Administration has introduced The Government Reorganization and Program Performance Improvement Act of 2005 (GRPPI). Under GRPPI, a sunset commission would submit to the Congress for its approval a proposed schedule for reviewing the performance of, and need for, Executive Branch agencies and programs at least once every 10 years. More recently, OMB required all executive branch agencies to schedule meetings with the appropriate Congressional committees to explore ways that PART information could prove valuable to them. In response to GAO's recommendations, OMB also requires agencies to brief authorizing and appropriations committees in advance of submitting their congressional budget justifications on concluded and planned PART assessments and their inclusion in the budget justification materials; OMB also considers this outreach when assigning quarterly "grades" for the budget and performance integration initiative of the President's management Agenda.
Office of Management and Budget 2. The Director of OMB should seek input from congressional committees on the performance information they find useful and how that information could best be presented to them.
Closed - Implemented
As we said in our October 2005 report on the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), most Congressional staff we spoke with still report a lack of up-front consultation about PART. In response to our recommendations, OMB sent a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of key Congressional committees informing them about PART. It also indicated that OMB asked all executive branch agencies to schedule meetings with each committee's staff to explore ways that PART information could prove valuable to them. It invited them to provide feedback on individual PARTs and recommend ways to improve programs. Earlier, in June 2005, the Administration has introduced The Government Reorganization and Program Performance Improvement Act of 2005 (GRPPI). Under GRPPI, a sunset commission would submit to the Congress for its approval a proposed schedule for reviewing the performance of, and need for, Executive Branch agencies and programs at least once every 10 years. Lastly, OMB now requires agencies to brief authorizing and appropriations committees in advance of submitting their congressional budget justifications on concluded and planned PART assessments and their inclusion in the budget justification materials; OMB also considers this outreach when assigning quarterly "grades" for the budget and performance integration initiative of the President's management Agenda.
Office of Management and Budget 3. The Director of OMB should target individual programs to be reassessed based on factors such as the relative priorities, costs, and risks associated with clusters of related programs, and in a way that reflects the congressional input described above.
Closed - Implemented
OMB confirmed that GAO's work on program assessment significantly informed its new policies and guidance on reassessing program performance. In its June 2009 guidance to agencies on preparing their FY 2011 budget submissions and performance plans, OMB noted the importance of refocusing resources on the highest national priorities. To that end, it refocused its program assessment efforts and directed agencies to identify a limited number of high-priority performance goals and begin to define the strategies and means to achieve them. OMB noted that these goals should generally target challenges that cut across multiple agencies and should consider input from Congressional authorizers and appropriators. The guidance specifically required agencies to identify related programs within and outside of the agency that are integral to or may affect achieving the goal. The President also increased funding for program evaluations, noting that when there are many programs that target similar issues and have similar goals, rigorous evaluations can answer questions about which programs have the greatest impact. Building on these steps, in June 2010 OMB issued Fiscal Year 2012 budget formulation guidance, that directs agencies to include in their budget submissions, where appropriate, an analysis of how to better integrate key tax and spending policies with similar objectives and goals.

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