Given record budget deficits and continuing fiscal pressures, the federal government must seek to deliver results more efficiently. The prior Administration sought to improve efficiency under the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) by requiring programs to have at least one efficiency measure and procedures for improving efficiency, and show annual efficiency gains. The current administration has also emphasized efficiency in some initiatives. GAO was asked to examine (1) the types of PART efficiency measures and the extent to which they included typical elements of an efficiency measure; (2) the extent to which selected programs showed gains and how they used efficiency measures for decision making; (3) the challenges selected programs faced in developing and using efficiency measures; and (4) other strategies that can be used to improve efficiency. GAO analyzed the 36 efficiency measures in 21 selected programs in 5 agencies and a generalizable sample from the other 1,355 measures governmentwide, reviewed documents and interviewed officials from selected programs, reviewed literature on efficiency, and interviewed experts.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Office of Management and Budget||1. The Director of OMB should evolve toward a broader approach that emphasizes identifying and pursuing strategies and opportunities to improve efficiency at each of the governmentwide, agency, and program levels. At the governmentwide level, OMB should look for additional opportunities to consolidate or restructure duplicative or inefficient operations that cut across agency lines. One vehicle for doing this is the GPRA-required governmentwide performance plan.|
|Office of Management and Budget||2. The Director of OMB should evolve toward a broader approach that emphasizes identifying and pursuing strategies and opportunities to improve efficiency at each of the governmentwide, agency, and program levels. At the agency level, OMB should clarify its A-11 guidance to agencies on establishing efficiency goals and strategies in their agency-level GPRA strategic and performance plans, and reporting on the results achieved in performance reports. Guidance should stress the importance of looking for efficiencies across as well as within components and programs and maintaining or improving key dimensions of performance such as effectiveness, quality, or customer satisfaction, while also striving for efficiency gains.|
|Office of Management and Budget||3. The Director of OMB should evolve toward a broader approach that emphasizes identifying and pursuing strategies and opportunities to improve efficiency at each of the governmentwide, agency, and program levels. At the program level, OMB should clarify whether agencies are to continue developing and using program-level efficiency measures. If so, OMB should provide enhanced guidance and technical support to agencies that addresses how to develop and use efficiency measures to improve efficiency and mitigate the challenges we identified.|
|Office of Management and Budget||4. The Director of OMB should collect and disseminate information on strategies and lessons learned from successful efforts to improve efficiency by federal agencies, other governments, and the private sector. Possible vehicles for collection and dissemination of this information include good practices guides, workshops, Web sites, wikis, and management councils, such as the President's Management Council and the Performance Improvement Council.|