Presidential and Congressional Transition

  • The Management Agenda provides high-level information for new leaders about the critical management challenges facing the federal government and lays out the actions needed to address those challenges.

  • GAO’s Management Agenda

    Chris Mihm, Managing Director, Strategic Issues, describes how the management agenda can help policy makers and other leaders address existing problems and ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of new policies going forward.

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  • Manage Finances to Improve the Nation’s Fiscal Condition

    The incoming Administration and Congress face major challenges to improve the nation’s fiscal condition. These challenges include reducing the gap between revenue and spending, addressing a multibillion-dollar tax gap, reducing billions of dollars in improper payments, and improving the reliability of financial information.

  • Manage Acquisitions to Maximize Cost Savings and Performance

    In recent years, the federal government has spent approximately $440 billion annually to acquire goods and services. To maximize cost savings and performance, Congress and the incoming Administration need to address issues involving major systems acquisitions; the protection of critical technologies and supply chains; federal contracting, and services acquisitions.

  • Develop and Manage Information Technology to Meet the Government's Needs

    Advances in information technology (IT) change the way agencies do business. Managing this technological change government-wide poses a number of challenges for the incoming Congress and Administration, specifically in acquiring and operating these systems.

  • Strengthen Cybersecurity Over Sensitive Data and Protect Critical Infrastructure Systems

    Federal agencies and our nation’s critical infrastructures depend on computerized (cyber) information systems and electronic data to carry out operations and to process, maintain, and report essential information. The security of these systems and data is vital to public confidence and the nation’s safety, prosperity, and well-being.

  • Strengthen Human Capital Capabilities to Enhance Performance

    Strategic federal human capital management is fundamental to maximizing the government’s performance and assuring its accountability to the nation as a whole. Challenges for Congress and the incoming administration include addressing mission critical skills gaps, recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce, aligning human capital strategies across government, and changing agency cultures.

  • Collaborate to Achieve National Outcomes

    The incoming Administration and Congress face challenges that involve multiple agencies, specifically: inefficient government operations, insufficient collaboration across agencies, and mismanaged federal grants. Strategies to improve how agencies work together can also help them address these challenges.

  • Improve Federal Performance to Better Achieve Results

    Given the increase in public demands for a more effective and accountable federal government, it is critical that Congress and the incoming administration collect and use evidence to drive improvements and better achieve results. Agencies should use data for decision making, enhance regulatory processes, build evaluation capacity, and improve the visibility of agency-wide risks.

  • Use Data to Drive Decisions

    Challenge: Insufficient Use of Performance Information

    During the past 20 years, more federal managers have collected and reported performance information. However, managers across government surveyed by GAO have not reported increases in the use of that information in decision making over time. Timely and high quality performance information and other evidence, such as program evaluations and research studies, are essential to identify and address complex challenges and pinpoint improvement opportunities. Performance information and evidence are key to identifying where improvements are needed (in areas such as collaboration, or program design or delivery) and achieving critical results.

    We identified five practices that enhance the use of performance information in decision making. The strongest driver of the use of performance information was whether federal managers had confidence in that information’s validity.

    In addition, agencies are testing various mechanisms—such as pay-for-success, performance partnerships, and tiered-evidence grants—to build and use evidence to improve results.

    Key Actions Needed:

    1. Demonstrate sustained leadership commitment to use performance data and evidence to inform agency decision making.
    2. Maintain and build on leadership-driven annual reviews to assess progress toward meeting agency strategic objectives, and identify improvements.
    3. Expand the use of data-driven performance reviews to assess progress toward meeting agency performance goals, and identify improvements.
    4. Test, assess, and adopt promising evidence-based policymaking approaches to better achieve outcomes.
  • Using Performance Information for Decision Making

    Title: Using Performance Information for Decision Making 

Image: Illustration containing the following components:

--Demonstrating management commitment
--Aligning agencywide goals, objectives, and measures
--Improving the usefulness of performance information
--Developing the capacity to use performance information
--Communicating performance information frequently andeffectively

Use of performance information leads to improved results.

Source: GAO-05-927.  |  Modified from GAO-14-747
  • GAO Contact

    J. Christopher Mihm

    Managing Director, Strategic Issues


  • Improve the Regulatory Process

    Challenge: Promoting Regulatory Transparency and Systematic Reviews

    Federal agencies use regulations to achieve goals such as ensuring public health and safety, controlling environmental pollution, and overseeing financial markets and institutions. Given the significant benefits and costs of regulation, it is crucial that rulemaking procedures and practices be effective and transparent.

    Agencies must ensure that their regulations reflect the best available information and are reevaluated to ensure they achieve intended goals. Opportunities exist to strengthen agency procedures to ensure that regulations are responsive, efficient, up-to-date, and consistent.

    Key Actions Needed:

    1. Improve the transparency of agencies’ regulatory processes and activities to enhance oversight and better facilitate public comment and debate.
    2. Ensure regular agency reviews of existing regulations, related guidance, and regulatory user fees to inform decisions to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them.
    3. Strengthen internal controls to ensure consistent agency procedures for the development, review, dissemination, and evaluation of regulations, guidance, and user fees.
  • Agency Rulemaking Authority

    Title: Agency Rulemaking Authority

Image: Triangular shape illustration listing the below components from top to bottom.

Congress provides authority to agencies

Statutes may be implemented by regulations, which are legally enforceable

Agency may explain how regulations are interpreted, but these documents generally are not binding

Source: GAO analysis of agency authority.  |  Modified from GAO-15-368 and GAO-16-720
  • GAO Contact

    J. Christopher Mihm

    Managing Director, Strategic Issues


  • Encourage Agencies to Evaluate Their Programs

    Challenge: Little Evidence for Decision Making

    Program evaluation studies provide systematic evidence on the extent to which programs have met their intended objectives. Evaluations that explain variation in program performance or why objectives were not met can provide critical insight into what actions could improve federal performance. As of June 2014, two-thirds of federal agencies lacked evaluations for most of their programs and half lacked the organizational capacity to produce credible evaluations useful to decision makers.

    Key Actions Needed:

    1. Demonstrate sustained leadership commitment to the use of evaluation results.
    2. Establish—and provide stable funding for—central offices responsible for objective evaluation of agency programs.
    3. Invest in the hiring and continuing education of evaluators.
    4. Consult with congressional and other stakeholders in developing evaluation agendas that meet their information needs.
  • Key Elements of Evaluation Capacity

    Title: Key Elements of Evaluation Capacity

Image: Illustration of 3 key elements connected by double-arrowed lines.

Component 1: An enabling environment providing demand and support for the use of evidence in management and policy making
Component 2: Organizational resources and policies to support the supply and use of credible, useful evaluations
Component 3: Evaluation coverage, dissemination of results, and use in management, policy making, or budgeting

  • GAO Contact

    Nancy Kingsbury

    Managing Director, Applied Research and Methods


  • Implement Enterprise Risk Management

    Challenge: Lack of Visibility Over Agency-wide Risks

    Federal leaders manage complex missions such as protecting Americans from public health and security threats, building and managing safe transportation systems, and maintaining a safe workplace. Risk is any uncertainty with the potential for a negative outcome or challenge or a positive outcome or opportunity. 

    Federal leaders need greater visibility over risks they face in achieving their mission and need to more effectively manage these risks and increase value to citizens.

    Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) is the practice of identifying and managing a risk portfolio that covers an entire organization. In a federal agency, this portfolio allows leaders to see commonalities or relationships among risks in various programs and operations across the agency and in its partnerships with other agencies and organizations. While a longstanding practice in the private sector, ERM is a relatively new practice in much of the federal government that has the potential to improve outcomes and help leaders better plan and manage risks. In July 2016, the Office of Management and Budget made ERM a requirement for federal agencies.

    Key Actions Needed:

    1. Share good practices that have been used successfully to manage enterprise risks.
    2. Develop an approach for agencies to sustain the sharing of ERM implementation experiences and good practices and approaches.
    3. Encourage employees to engage in candid conversations about agency risks.
    4. Involve internal and external stakeholders as part of risk assessment and solutions.
  • Key Elements of Enterprise Risk Management Frameworks

    Title: Key Elements of Enterprise Risk Management Frameworks

Image: Illustration of Essential Elements of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) sequentially arranged.

1. Align the ERM process to goals and objectives:
Ensure the ERM process maximizes the achievement of agency mission and results. 

2. Identify Risks:
Assemble a comprehensive list of risks both threats and opportunities that could affect the organization from achieving its goals and objectives. 

3. Assess Risks:
Examine risks considering both the likelihood of the risk and the impact of the risk on the organization mission.

4. Select Risk Responses:
Select the response (based on risk appetite) acceptance, avoidance, reduction, sharing/transfer, or maximize opportunity.

5. Monitor Risks:
Monitor how risks are changing and if responses are successful.

6. Communicate and Report on Risks:  
Communicate risks to stakeholders and report on the status of addressing the risk. 

Source: GAO.  |
  • GAO Contact

    J. Christopher Mihm

    Managing Director, Strategic Issues


  • Promote Transparency and Open Government to Enhance Civic Engagement and Foster Innovation

    To foster transparency, improve oversight, and enhance public participation in decision-making, Congress and the new administration are challenged to ensure government and public access to reliable and complete federal financial and performance information. Attention to these initiatives can help agencies gather more data, make data more accessible, be more responsive to the public, and involve the public in accomplishing social goals.