Index


Managing For Results: Agencies' Annual Performance Plans Can Help Address
Strategic Planning Challenges (Letter Report, 01/30/98, GAO/GGD-98-44).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal agencies'
strategic plans submitted in response to the Government Performance and
Results Act of 1993, focusing on: (1) summarizing its observations on
agencies' September plans; and (2) providing additional information on
how the next phase of the Results Act's implementation--performance
planning measurement--can be used to address the critical planning issue
GAO observed in reviewing the September strategic plans.

GAO noted that: (1) on the whole, agencies' September plans appear to
provide a workable foundation for Congress to use in helping to fulfill
its appropriations, budget, authorization, and oversight
responsibilities and for agencies to use in setting a general direction
for their efforts; (2) agencies' strategic planning efforts are still
very much a work in progress; (3) GAO's reviews of September plans
indicate that continued progress is needed in how agencies address three
difficult planning challenges--setting a strategic direction,
coordinating crosscutting programs, and ensuring the capacity to gather
and use performance and cost data; (4) GAO found that agencies can build
upon their initial efforts to set a strategic direction for their
programs and activities; (5) the next stage in the Results Act's
implementation--performance planning and measurement--can assist
agencies in addressing the challenge of setting a strategic direction;
(6) as an agency develops its performance plan, it likely will identify
opportunities to revise and clarify those strategic goals in order to
provide a better grounding for the direction of the agency; (7) also, as
agencies develop the objective, measurable annual performance goals as
envisioned by the Act, those goals can serve as a bridge that links
long-term strategic goals to agencies' daily operations; (8) the Results
Act's requirements for annual performance plans and performance
measurement can also provide a structured framework for Congress, Office
of Management and Budget, and agencies to address agencies' crosscutting
programs--the second critical planning challenge; (9) GAO found that
although agencies have begun to recognize the importance of coordinating
crosscutting programs, they must undertake the substantive coordination
that is needed for the effective management of those programs; (10) the
third critical planning challenge is the need for agencies to have the
capacity to gather and use sound program performance and cost data to
successfully measure progress toward their intended results; (11) under
the Results Act, agencies are also to discuss in their annual
performance plans how they will verify and validate the performance
information that they plan to use to show whether goals are being met;
and (12) verified and validated performance information, in conjunction
with augmented program evaluation efforts, will help ensure that
agencies are able to report progress in meeting goals and identify
specific strategies for improving performance.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  GGD-98-44
     TITLE:  Managing For Results: Agencies' Annual Performance Plans 
             Can Help Address Strategic Planning Challenges
      DATE:  01/30/98
   SUBJECT:  Strategic planning
             Congressional/executive relations
             Program evaluation
             Federal agency accounting systems
             Agency missions
             Federal agency reorganization
             Accountability
             Internal controls
             Interagency relations
IDENTIFIER:  Government Performance and Results Act
             GPRA
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to Congressional Requesters

January 1998

MANAGING FOR RESULTS - AGENCIES'
ANNUAL PERFORMANCE PLANS CAN HELP
ADDRESS STRATEGIC PLANNING
CHALLENGES

GAO/GGD-98-44

Strategic Planning Challenges

(410196)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  BIA - Bureau of Indian Affairs
  BOR - Bureau of Reclamation
  CFO - Chief Financial Officer
  DOD - Department of Defense
  DOE - Department of Energy
  DOT - Department of Transportation
  EASI - Easy Access for Students and Institutions
  EPA - Environmental Protection Agency
  ESA - Employment Standards Administration
  FAA - Federal Aviation Administration
  FASAB - Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board
  FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency
  FFELP - Federal Family Education Loan Program
  FWS - Fish and Wildlife Service
  GMRA - Government Management Reform Act of 1994
  GPRA - Government Performance and Results Act
  GSA - General Services Administration
  HCFA - Health Care Financing Administration
  HHS - Department of Health and Human Services
  HUD - Department of Housing and Urban Development
  IRS - Internal Revenue Service
  ITA - International Trade Administration
  MMS - Minerals Management Service
  NAPA - National Academy of Public Administration
  NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  NPS - National Park Service
  NRC - Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  NSF - National Science Foundation
  NSLDS - National Student Loan Data System
  NSTC - National Science and Technology Council
  OMB - Office of Management and Budget
  OPM - Office of Personnel Management
  OSHA - Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  PTO - Patent and Trademark Office
  QDR - Quadrennial Defense Review Report
  SBA - Small Business Administration
  SSA - Social Security Administration
  SSI - Supplemental Security Income
  TPCC - Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee
  USAID - U.S.  Agency for International Development
  USDA - U.S.  Department of Agriculture
  VA - Department of Veterans Affairs

Letter
=============================================================== LETTER


B-278878

January 30, 1998

The Honorable Richard K.  Armey
Majority Leader
House of Representatives

The Honorable John Kasich
Chairman, Committee on the Budget
House of Representatives

The Honorable Dan Burton
Chairman, Committee on Government
Reform and Oversight
House of Representatives

The Honorable Bob Livingston
Chairman, Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives

In recent years, governments around the world, including ours, have
faced a citizenry that is demanding that government become at the
same time more effective and less costly.\1

These twin demands are the broad forces behind the move to a
performance-based approach to management in public sector
organizations--the most important effort to improve government
management in over a generation.  Congress enacted the Government
Performance and Results Act of 1993, commonly referred to as "GPRA"
or "the Results Act," in conjunction with the Chief Financial
Officers (CFO) Act and information technology reform legislation,
such as the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, to address these twin demands
and to instill performance-based management in the federal
government. 

The Results Act seeks to shift the focus of government decisionmaking
and accountability away from a preoccupation with the
activities--such as grants and inspections made--to a focus on the
results of those activities--such as real gains in employability,
safety, responsiveness, or program quality.  Under the Act, agencies
are to develop strategic plans, annual performance plans, and annual
performance reports.\2 The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is
also to prepare the annual federal government performance plan that
is based on the performance plans of individual agencies.  Agencies
submitted the first cycle of the strategic plans to Congress and OMB
in September 1997.  The first federal government performance plan is
to be submitted to Congress in February 1998 with the President's
fiscal year 1999 budget; and the first annual performance plans,
which were to be submitted to OMB in the fall of 1997, are due to
Congress after the submission of the President's budget. 

On October 30, 1997, we submitted a statement for the record at the
request of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight on
those strategic plans.\3 As requested, this report builds upon that
statement to (1) summarize our observations on agencies' September
plans and (2) provide additional information on how the next phase of
the Results Act's implementation--performance planning and
measurement--can be used to address the critical planning issues we
observed in reviewing the September strategic plans.\4


--------------------
\1 See, for example, Managing for Results:  Experiences Abroad
Suggest Insights for Federal Management Reform (GAO/GGD-95-120, May
2, 1995); Managing for Results:  State Experiences Provide Insights
for Federal Management Reforms (GAO/GGD-95-22, Dec.  21, 1994); and
Government Reform:  Goal-Setting and Performance (GAO/AIMD/GGD-95-R,
Mar.  27, 1995). 

\2 Agencies are required to submit to the President and Congress
annual reports on program performance for the previous fiscal year
(the first reports for fiscal year 1999 are due by March 31, 2000)
reviewing the agencies' success in achieving the performance goals
established in their annual performance plans. 

\3 Managing for Results:  Building on Agencies' Strategic Plans to
Improve Federal Management (GAO/T-GGD/AIMD-98-29, Oct.  30, 1997). 

\4 See Managing For Results:  Critical Issues for Improving Federal
Agencies' Strategic Plans (GAO/GGD-97-180, Sept.  16, 1997) for a
discussion of the critical planning issues we first observed in the
draft strategic plans agencies used during their consultations with
Congress last summer. 


   SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

This report is based on our reviews of 24 major agencies' strategic
plans that were formally submitted to Congress and OMB by September
30, 1997.  To do these reviews, we used the Results Act supplemented
by OMB's guidance on developing the plans (Circular A-11, part 2) as
criteria to determine whether the plans contained the six elements
required by the Act.  As agreed, we focused our reviews on the
progress of agencies' strategic planning efforts, specifically their
efforts to improve their strategic plans, with particular attention
to the key planning challenges that are most in need of sustained
attention.  Agencies included in our analysis are listed in appendix
I, and our observations on individual agencies are summarized in
appendixes II through XXV.  To gather information on how annual
performance planning and measurement could be used to address the
critical planning challenges we observed in our reviews of the
September plans, we relied on our recent report on critical
challenges needing sustained attention, our report on governmentwide
implementation of the Results Act, our guidance for congressional
review of Results Act implementation, and our guidance on effectively
implementing the Act.\5

We reviewed individual agency plans from September 30, 1997, through
November 1997.  Our work was conducted in accordance with generally
accepted government auditing standards.  We provided a draft of this
report for comment to the Director of OMB on January 5, 1998; a
discussion of OMB's comments appears at the end of this letter.  In
addition, we provided drafts of the appendices we prepared on
individual agency plans to the relevant agencies for comment.  The
comments from those agencies are summarized in the relevant
appendixes. 


--------------------
\5 See GAO/GGD-97-180, Sept.  16, 1997; The Government Performance
and Results Act:  1997 Governmentwide Implementation Will Be Uneven
(GAO/GGD-97-109, June 2, 1997); Agencies' Strategic Plans Under GPRA: 
Key Questions to Facilitate Congressional Review (GAO/GGD-10.1.16,
May 1997); and Executive Guide:  Effectively Implementing the
Government Performance and Results Act (GAO/GGD-96-118, June 1996). 


   RESULTS IN BRIEF
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

On the whole, agencies' September plans appear to provide a workable
foundation for Congress to use in helping to fulfill its
appropriations, budget, authorization, and oversight responsibilities
and for agencies to use in setting a general direction for their
efforts.  These plans represent a significant improvement over the
draft plans we reviewed last summer.  For example, we found that all
but six of the draft plans were missing at least one element required
by the Results Act, and about a third were missing two of the six
required elements.  In contrast, the September plans we reviewed
contained at least some discussion of each element required by the
Act.  And, in many cases, those elements that had been included in
the draft plans were substantially improved. 

Nonetheless, agencies' strategic planning efforts are still very much
a work in progress.  Our reviews of September plans indicate that
continued progress is needed in how agencies address three difficult
planning challenges:  setting a strategic direction, coordinating
crosscutting programs, and ensuring the capacity to gather and use
performance and cost data.  First, we found that agencies can build
upon their initial efforts to set a strategic direction for their
programs and activities.  Specifically, many of the strategic goals
contained in the September plans did not focus on results to the
extent feasible and were not always expressed in a manner conducive
to assessing progress in terms of actual performance.  Also, the
plans often did not clearly link planning elements, such as strategic
goals, objectives, and strategies.  In addition, many of the
strategies were incomplete and underdeveloped in that they lacked a
discussion of how agencies would accomplish goals.  For example, some
plans lacked information on resources needed to achieve goals or
failed to address critical issues, such as unreliable information
systems, that threaten agencies' ability to meet strategic goals and
objectives. 

The next stage in the Results Act's implementation--performance
planning and measurement--can assist agencies in addressing the
challenge of setting a strategic direction.  As an agency develops
its performance plan, which is to contain the annual performance
goals it will use to track progress toward its strategic goals, it
likely will identify opportunities to revise and clarify those
strategic goals in order to provide a better grounding for the
direction of the agency.  Also, as agencies develop the objective,
measurable annual performance goals as envisioned by the Act, those
goals can serve as a bridge that links long-term strategic goals to
agencies' daily operations.  For example, an annual goal that is
linked to a program and also to a long-term strategic goal can be
used both to (1) hold agencies and their program offices accountable
for achieving those goals and (2) assess the reasonableness and
appropriateness of that strategic goal for the agency as a whole.  In
addition, annual performance planning can be used to better define
strategies for achieving strategic and annual performance goals. 

The Results Act's requirements for annual performance plans and
performance measurement can also provide a structured framework for
Congress, OMB, and agencies to address agencies' crosscutting
programs--the second critical planning challenge.  In our reviews of
the September plans, we found that although agencies have begun to
recognize the importance of coordinating crosscutting programs, it is
important that they undertake the substantive coordination that is
needed for the effective management of those programs.  In a recent
report on mission fragmentation and program overlap, we noted that
Congress, OMB, and agencies can continue to use the Results Act as a
framework for ensuring that goals for crosscutting programs are
consistent and, as appropriate, that program efforts are mutually
reinforcing.\6 Likewise, Congress and OMB can use this framework,
including the OMB-prepared federal government performance plan, to
facilitate the identification of program overlap, duplication, and
fragmentation among federal agencies. 

Finally, the third critical planning challenge is the need for
agencies to have the capacity to gather and use sound program
performance and cost data to successfully measure progress toward
their intended results.  For example, our work has shown that the
lack of reliable, timely performance and cost data has hampered, and
may continue to hamper, agencies' efforts to identify appropriate
goals and confidently assess performance.\7 Our work has also shown
that the September plans often did not adequately cover how program
evaluations would be used to assess the contributions of programs to
goal achievement and the appropriateness of those goals.  Under the
Results Act, agencies are also to discuss in their annual performance
plans how they will verify and validate the performance information
that they plan to use to show whether goals are being met.  Verified
and validated performance information, in conjunction with augmented
program evaluation efforts, will help ensure that agencies are able
to report progress in meeting goals and identify specific strategies
for improving performance. 


--------------------
\6 Managing for Results:  Using the Results Act to Address Mission
Fragmentation and Program Overlap (GAO/AIMD-97-146, Aug.  29, 1997). 

\7 GAO/GGD-97-109, June 2, 1997; and GAO/GGD-97-180, Sept.  16, 1997. 


   BACKGROUND
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

The Results Act is the centerpiece of a statutory framework that
Congress put in place during the 1990s to help resolve the
long-standing management problems that have undermined the federal
government's effectiveness and efficiency and to provide greater
accountability for results.  In addition to the Results Act, the
framework comprises the CFO Act and information technology reform
legislation, including the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and the
Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996.  Congress enacted the CFO Act to remedy
decades of serious neglect in federal financial management by
establishing chief financial officers across the federal government
and requiring the preparation and audit of annual financial
statements.  The information technology reform legislation is based
on the best practices used by leading public and private sector
organizations to manage information technology more effectively.\8

Under the Results Act, strategic plans are the starting point and
basic underpinning for performance-based management.  In our report
on agencies' draft strategic plans, we noted that complete strategic
plans were crucial if they were to serve as a basis for guiding
agencies' operations and be used to help congressional and other
policymakers make decisions about activities and programs.\9 The Act
requires that an agency's strategic plan contain six key elements. 
These elements are (1) a comprehensive agency mission statement; (2)
agencywide long-term goals and objectives for all major functions and
operations; (3) approaches (or strategies) and the various resources
needed to achieve the goals and objectives; (4) a description of the
relationship between the long-term goals and objectives and the
annual performance goals; (5) an identification of key factors,
external to the agency and beyond its control, that could
significantly affect the achievement of the strategic goals; and (6)
a description of how program evaluations were used to establish or
revise strategic goals and a schedule for future program evaluations. 

Building on the decisions made as part of the strategic planning
process, the Results Act requires executive agencies to develop
annual performance plans covering each program activity set forth in
the agencies' budgets.\10 The first annual performance plans,
covering fiscal year 1999, are to be submitted to Congress after the
President's budget is submitted, which is approximately February
1998.  Each plan is to contain an agency's annual performance goals
and associated measures, which the agency is to use in order to gauge
its progress toward accomplishing its strategic goals.  OMB is to use
the agencies' performance plans to develop an overall federal
government performance plan that is to be submitted with the
President's budget.  The performance plan for the federal government
is to present to Congress a single cohesive picture of the federal
government's annual performance goals for a given fiscal year. 


--------------------
\8 See Executive Guide:  Improving Mission Performance Through
Strategic Information Management and Technology (GAO/AIMD-94-115, May
1994) for a discussion of the consistent best practices used by
senior managers in leading organizations. 

\9 GAO/GGD-97-180, Sept.  16, 1997. 

\10 The term "program activity" refers to the listings of projects
and activities in the appendix portion of the Budget of the United
States Government.  Program activity structures are intended to
provide a meaningful representation of the operations financed by a
specific budget account. 


   SEPTEMBER PLANS INCLUDED
   REQUIRED ELEMENTS AND ADDRESSED
   MANY WEAKNESSES IN DRAFT PLANS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

Agencies' September plans appear to provide a workable foundation for
the continuing implementation of the Results Act.  These plans
represent a significant improvement over the draft plans we reviewed
last summer.\11 In those reviews, we found that all but six of the
draft strategic plans were missing at least one required element, and
about a third were missing two of the six required elements.  In
addition, just over a fourth of those plans failed to cover at least
three of the required elements.  Moreover, we found that many of the
elements included in the plans contained weaknesses--some that were
more significant than others. 

The agencies, on the whole, made a concerted effort during August and
September to improve their plans.  For example, all of the September
plans we reviewed contained at least some discussion of each element
required by the Act.  And, in many cases, those elements that
contained weaknesses were substantially improved by September.  For
example: 

  -- The Department of Transportation explained more clearly how its
     mission statement is linked to its authorizing legislation. 

  -- The Small Business Administration (SBA) improved its ability to
     assess progress toward its strategic goals by stating when
     specific performance objectives would be met. 

  -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) better explained the
     scope of its crosscutting functions by identifying major
     crosscutting functions and interagency programs and its
     coordination with those agencies. 

  -- The Department of Education improved its discussion of external
     factors that could affect its achievement of strategic goals by
     describing agency actions to mitigate against those factors. 

Appendixes II through XXV contain our observations on the progress
and remaining challenges of individual agencies' strategic planning
efforts. 


--------------------
\11 See GAO/GGD-97-180, Sept.  16, 1997, for a list of our reports on
27 agencies' draft strategic plans (the 24 major agencies plus the
U.S.  Trade Representative, OMB, and the U.S.  Postal Service). 


   CRITICAL PLANNING CHALLENGES
   REMAIN TO BE ADDRESSED AS
   EFFORTS UNDER THE RESULTS ACT
   PROCEED
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

Although the September plans appear to provide a workable foundation
for the continuing implementation of the Results Act, we found that
critical planning challenges remain.  Among the remaining critical
challenges are (1) clearly establishing a strategic direction for
agencies by improving goal-setting and measurement; (2) improving the
management of crosscutting program efforts by ensuring that those
programs are appropriately coordinated to avoid duplication,
fragmentation, and overlap; and (3) ensuring that agencies have the
data systems and analytic capacity in place to better assess program
performance and costs, improve management and performance, and
establish accountability.  The forthcoming annual performance
planning and measurement processes offer agencies an opportunity to
make progress in addressing these challenges. 


      AGENCIES CAN USE THE ANNUAL
      PERFORMANCE PLANNING PROCESS
      TO BUILD UPON THEIR INITIAL
      EFFORTS TO ESTABLISH A
      STRATEGIC DIRECTION
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.1

By improving on their draft strategic plans, agencies' September
plans undertook the first steps toward setting a strategic direction
for their programs and activities.  However, we found that the
September plans often lacked clear articulation of the agency's
strategic direction:  (1) strategic goals and objectives were not as
measurable and results oriented as possible, (2) linkages among
planning elements were not clear, and (3) strategies for achieving
those goals and objectives were incomplete or underdeveloped.\12
However, the performance planning and measurement phase of the
Results Act offers agencies an opportunity to continue to refine
their strategic directions. 

In our reviews of agencies' September plans, we found that some
agencies have begun to address the challenge of setting a strategic
direction.  For example: 

  -- The most notable improvement in the plan for the Department of
     Health and Human Services (HHS) is the inclusion of an outline
     of strategic objectives for accomplishing the Department's six
     strategic goals.  Those objectives are largely focused on
     outcomes and are defined in measurable terms.  This plan also
     identifies for each strategic objective the key measures of
     progress.  For example, one measure of progress for the
     outcome-oriented objective of "reducing the use of illicit
     drugs" is "death rate of persons aged 15 to 65 attributed to
     drug use."

  -- The September plans of the Departments of Agriculture,
     Education, and the Treasury now include helpful matrixes to link
     various planning elements, such as goals, objectives, measures,
     and programs or responsible organizational components.  These
     matrixes are also useful in assessing a plan's underlying logic,
     determining programmatic accountability, and identifying
     crosscutting programs and potential duplication and overlap
     among program efforts.  For example, Treasury's September plan
     contained an appendix that identified which bureau or office is
     responsible for achieving its Department-wide goals and
     objectives. 

  -- The September plan for the Department of Energy (DOE) better
     explains how it plans to accomplish many of its goals.  The plan
     provides greater specificity on the money, staff, workforce
     skills, and facilities that the agency plans to employ to meet
     its goals.  For example, to support its national security goal,
     DOE's plan says it will need to change the skills of its
     workforce and how it constructs new experimental test
     facilities. 

Although improvements were not isolated to these agencies, we also
found that agencies need to further clarify their strategic
directions if the Results Act is to be effective in guiding the
agencies and informing congressional and other decisionmakers.  The
goals and objectives of many agencies could be more results oriented
and expressed in a manner that will better allow for a subsequent
assessment of whether the goals and objectives have been achieved. 
For example, the plan for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
contains the following objectives supporting the goal for its
compensation and pension area:  "(1) evaluate compensation and
pension programs and (2) modify these programs, as appropriate."
Also, although the first goal in the Social Security Administration's
(SSA) September plan "[t]o promote valued, strong, and responsive
social security programs and conduct effective policy development,
research, and program evaluation" sets a strategic direction for the
agency, it could be stated in more measurable terms to better enable
the agency to make a future assessment of whether it is being
achieved. 

Another challenging area for agencies in setting strategic direction
in the September plans was to establish linkages among planning
elements, such as goals, objectives, and strategies.  For example,
Treasury's plan says that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a
role in three law enforcement objectives--to reduce counterfeiting,
money laundering, and drug smuggling.  However, the IRS plan
contained no specific strategy to help achieve any of those
objectives.  In another example, the September plan for the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) included lists of objectives and
strategies under each goal with no explanation of how the strategies
would contribute to achievement of the objectives. 

Another weakness of agencies' September plans was incomplete and
underdeveloped strategies for achieving long-term strategic goals and
objectives.  More specifically, we found that agencies did not always
provide an adequate discussion of the resources needed to achieve
goals.  For example, SBA's September plan did not contain any
discussion on the resources, such as human resources and information
technology, needed to achieve its goals.  Although other plans we
reviewed discussed resources, the discussions were incomplete.  For
example, few plans discussed the physical capital resources, such as
facilities and equipment, needed to achieve their goals.  Although
many agencies may not rely heavily on physical capital resources,
even the plans of some of those that do, such as the General Services
Administration and the National Park Service, a component of the
Department of the Interior, did not provide a focused discussion of
their capital needs and usage. 

The role that information technology played, or can play, in
achieving agencies' long-term strategic goals and objectives was
generally neglected in the September plans.  The government's track
record in employing information technology is poor, and the strategic
plans we reviewed often contained only limited discussions of
technology issues.  For example, most of the Department of Defense's
(DOD) strategic goals are fundamentally linked to information
technology.  However, we have placed DOD's management of critical
information management processes on our high-risk list.  We believe
DOD's strategic plan would be significantly enhanced if it more
explicitly linked its strategic goals to a strategy for improving
management and oversight of information technology resources. 
Additionally, DOD should recognize the dramatic impact the Year 2000
problem will likely have on its computer operations, including the
mission-critical applications identified in its strategic plan.\13

The Department of State's September plan also does not specifically
address the serious deficiencies in State's information and financial
accounting systems.  Rather, the plan notes, in more general terms,
that it will take State several years to develop performance measures
and related databases in order to provide sufficient information on
achievement of its long-term goals.  The lack of such a discussion in
many of the plans is of particular concern because, without it,
agencies cannot be certain that they are (1) addressing the federal
government's information technology problems and (2) better ensuring
that technology acquisition and use are targeted squarely on program
results. 


--------------------
\12 See GAO/GGD-97-180, Sept.  16, 1997; and GAO/T-GGD/AIMD-98-29,
Oct.  30, 1997, for background information on the critical strategic
planning issues we identified in our prior work. 

\13 On January 1, 2000, many computer systems, including DOD and
defense contractor systems, if not adequately modified, will either
fail to run or malfunction simply because the equipment and software
were not designed to accommodate the change of the date to the new
millennium.  See The Results Act:  Observations on DOD's Draft
Strategic Plan (GAO/NSIAD-97-219R, Aug.  5, 1997). 


         ANNUAL PERFORMANCE
         PLANNING AND MEASUREMENT
         OFFERS AGENCIES
         OPPORTUNITY TO BETTER
         CLARIFY A STRATEGIC
         DIRECTION
-------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.1.1

Strategic planning--setting a strategic direction for agency
operations--did not end with the submission of a strategic plan to
Congress last September.  Performance-based management, as envisioned
by the Results Act, is not a linear, sequential process but, rather,
an iterative one in which strategic and performance planning cycles
will result in subsequent revisions to both strategic and annual
performance plans.  Each cycle of strategic planning and performance
planning, particularly in the first few years of governmentwide
implementation of the Results Act, will likely result in agencies
making significant changes and improvements in those documents. 

Consequently, agencies can continue to address the critical planning
challenges associated with setting a strategic direction as they
develop their first annual performance plans.  For example, the
process of defining targeted levels of performance within set time
frames and providing baselines against which to compare actual
performance will likely produce opportunities for agencies to revisit
and improve upon their strategic goals and objectives so that those
goals are as results oriented and measurable as they can be. 

If successfully developed, those annual performance goals can
function as a bridge between long-term strategic planning and
day-to-day operations, thereby assisting agencies in establishing
better linkages among planning elements.  For example, agencies can
use performance goals to show clear and direct relationships in two
directions--to the goals in the strategic plans and to operations and
activities within the agency.  By establishing those relationships,
agencies can (1) provide straightforward roadmaps that show managers
and staff how their daily activities can contribute to attaining
agencywide strategic goals, (2) hold managers and staff accountable
for contributing to the achievement of those goals, and (3) provide
decisionmakers with information on their annual progress in meeting
the goals.  As agencies gain experience in developing these annual
performance goals, they likely will become better at identifying and
correcting misalignment among strategic goals, objectives, and
strategies within their plans. 

The importance of clearly showing how strategies are linked to goals
is underscored by the Results Act requirement that annual goals are
to be based on budgetary program activities.  Unlike previous federal
reform initiatives, the Results Act requires agencies to plan and
measure performance using the same program activity structures that
form the basis for their budget requests.  However, we have found
that the relationships among the budget structures, performance
plans, and strategic plans will require coordinated and recurring
attention by Congress, OMB, and agencies as they move to implement
the annual performance planning and measurement phase of the Act.\14
This attention is important because the wide variability of the
budget structures indicates that the suitability of those structures
for the Results Act's performance planning and measurement will also
vary. 

For example, we reported in 1997 that agency officials we spoke with
confirmed the varying suitability of their program activity
structures for the Results Act's purposes.\15

One agency successfully worked through its recent
performance-planning process using its existing program activities. 
A second agency had a program activity structure that reflected its
organizational units--a structure that is useful for traditional
accountability purposes, such as monitoring outputs and staff
levels--but less useful for results-oriented planning.  Still other
agencies separated performance planning from program activity
structures, believing it necessary to first establish appropriate
program goals, objectives, and measures before considering the link
to the budget.  These agencies planned to rely on the Results Act's
provision to aggregate, disaggregate, or consolidate program
activities in constructing their annual performance plans. 

In addition, annual performance planning can be used to better define
strategies for achieving strategic and annual performance goals.  For
example, annual performance plans provide agencies with another
opportunity to further discuss strategies for information technology
investments and the operational improvements expected from those
investments.  The annual performance plans should also provide annual
performance measures that Congress and other decisionmakers can use
to determine if those investments are achieving the expected
improvements.  Thus, annual performance planning and measurement can
provide decisionmakers with an early warning of information
investment strategies that need to be revisited. 


--------------------
\14 Performance Budgeting:  Past Initiatives Offer Insights for GPRA
Implementation (GAO/AIMD-97-46, Mar.  27, 1997). 

\15 GAO/AIMD-97-46, Mar.  27, 1997


      AGENCIES AND CONGRESS CAN
      USE PERFORMANCE PLANNING TO
      ADDRESS CROSSCUTTING PROGRAM
      EFFORTS
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.2

A focus on results, as envisioned by the Results Act, implies that
federal programs that contribute to the same or similar results
should be closely coordinated to ensure that goals are consistent
and, as appropriate, program efforts are mutually reinforcing.\16 We
have found that uncoordinated program efforts can waste scarce funds,
confuse and frustrate program customers, and limit the overall
effectiveness of the federal effort.\17

This suggests that federal agencies are to look beyond their
organizational boundaries and coordinate with other agencies to
ensure that their efforts are aligned and complementary. 

Agencies' September plans show progress in this area, but
coordination of crosscutting programs continues to be a strategic
planning challenge.  During the summer of 1996, in reviewing early
strategic planning efforts, OMB alerted agencies that augmented
interagency coordination was needed at that time to ensure
consistency among goals in crosscutting programs areas.  However, the
draft strategic plans we reviewed during the summer of 1997 often
lacked evidence that agencies in crosscutting program areas had
worked with other agencies to ensure that goals were consistent;
strategies were coordinated; and, as appropriate, performance
measures were similar. 

Agencies' September plans better described crosscutting programs and
coordination efforts.  Some plans, for example, contained references
to other agencies that shared responsibilities in a crosscutting
program area or discussed the need to coordinate their programs with
other agencies.  For example, as noted earlier, NRC better explained
its crosscutting functions in its September plan.  In addition, the
Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan contains an appendix
that lists the federal agencies with which EPA coordinated.  This
appendix describes the major steps in the coordination process and
lists by strategic goal the agencies with which EPA believes greater
integration and review of efforts will be needed.  Similarly, the
plan for the Department of Transportation contains a table that shows
the contributions of other federal agencies to each of its major
mission areas.  NRC's, EPA's and Transportation's plans illustrate
the kind of presentation that could be especially helpful to Congress
and the administration in identifying program areas to monitor for
overlap and duplication. 

These presentations, and similar ones in other agencies' September
plans that identify agencies with crosscutting programs, also provide
a foundation for the much more difficult work that lies
ahead--undertaking the substantive coordination that is needed to
ensure that those programs are effectively managed.  For example, in
an improvement over its draft plan, the Department of Labor's
September plan refers to a few other agencies with responsibilities
in the area of job training programs and notes that Labor plans to
work with them.  However, the plan contains no discussion of what
specific coordination mechanism Labor will use to realize
efficiencies and possible strategies to consolidate job training
programs to achieve a more effective job training system. 

Our work has shown that the next phases of the Results Act's
implementation will offer a structured framework to address
crosscutting issues.\18 For example, the Act's emphasis on
results-based performance measures as part of the annual performance
planning process should lead to more explicit discussions concerning
the contributions and accomplishments of crosscutting programs and
encourage related programs to develop common performance measures. 
As agencies work with OMB to develop their annual performance plans,
they can consider the extent to which agency goals are complementary
and the need for common performance measures to allow for
cross-agency evaluations.  Also, the Results Act's requirement that
OMB prepare a governmentwide performance plan that is based on the
agencies' annual performance plans can be used to facilitate the
identification of program overlap, duplication, and fragmentation. 

Our work also indicates that if agencies and OMB use the annual
planning process to highlight crosscutting program efforts and
provide evidence of joint planning and coordination of those efforts,
the individual agency performance plans and the governmentwide
performance plan should help provide Congress with the information
needed to identify agencies and programs addressing similar missions. 
Once these programs are identified, Congress can consider the
associated policy, management, and performance implications of
crosscutting program efforts and whether individual programs make a
sufficiently distinguishable contribution to a crosscutting national
issue.  This information should also help identify the performance
and cost consequences of program fragmentation and the implications
of alternative policy and service delivery options.  These options,
in turn, can lead to decisions concerning department and agency
missions and the allocation of resources among those missions.\19


--------------------
\16 GAO/AIMD-97-146, Aug.  29, 1997. 

\17 GAO/GGD-97-109, June 2, 1997. 

\18 GAO/AIMD-97-146, Aug.  29, 1997. 

\19 GAO/AIMD-97-146, Aug.  29, 1997. 


      PERFORMANCE PLANNING CAN
      ASSIST AGENCIES IN BUILDING
      THE CAPACITY TO GATHER,
      PROCESS, AND ANALYZE
      PERFORMANCE AND PROGRAM COST
      INFORMATION
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.3

Our previous work has shown that agencies need to have reliable data
during their planning efforts to set realistic goals and later, as
programs are being implemented, to gauge their progress toward
achieving those goals.\20 In addition, in combination with an
agency's performance measurement system, a strong program evaluation
capacity is needed to provide feedback on how well an agency's
activities and programs contributed to achieving its goals and to
identify ways to improve performance.\21 However, our work has also
found serious shortcomings in agencies' ability to generate reliable
and timely data to measure their progress in achieving goals and to
provide the analytic capacity to use that data.  The Results Act's
requirement that annual performance plans discuss the verification
and validation of data provides agencies with an opportunity to be
forthcoming about data limitations and to show how those limitations
will be addressed.  Verified and validated performance information,
in conjunction with augmented program evaluation efforts, will help
ensure that agencies are able to report progress in meeting goals and
identify specific strategies to improve performance. 

The absence of both sound program performance and cost data and the
capacity to use those data to improve performance is a critical
challenge that agencies must confront if they are to effectively
implement the Results Act.  Efforts under the CFO Act have shown that
most agencies are still years away from generating reliable, useful,
relevant, and timely financial information, which is urgently needed
to make our government fiscally responsible.  The widespread lack of
available program performance information is equally troubling.  For
example, in our June report on a survey of managers in the largest
federal agencies, we found that fewer than one-third of those
managers said that results-oriented performance measures existed to a
great or very great extent for their programs.\22

Our work also suggests that even when performance information exists,
its reliability is frequently questionable.  For example, our work
has shown that the reliability of performance data currently
available to a number of agencies is suspect, because the agencies
must rely on data collected by parties outside the federal
government.  In a recent report, we noted that the fact that data
were largely collected by others was the most frequent explanation
offered by agency officials for why determining the accuracy and
quality of performance data was a challenge.\23 In our June 1997
report on the implementation of the Results Act, we also reported on
the difficulties that agencies were experiencing as a result of their
reliance on outside parties for performance information.\24

Agencies are required under the Results Act to describe in their
annual performance plans how they will verify and validate the
performance information that will be collected.  This section of the
performance plan can provide important contextual information for
Congress and agencies to address the weaknesses in this area.  For
example, this section can provide an agency with the opportunity to
alert Congress to the problems the agency has had or anticipates
having in collecting needed results-oriented performance information. 
Agencies can also use this section to alert Congress to the cost and
data quality trade-offs associated with various collection
strategies, such as relying on sources outside the agency to provide
performance data and the degree to which those data are expected to
be reliable.  The discussion in this section can also provide
Congress with a mechanism for examining whether the agency currently
has the data to confidently set performance improvement targets and
will later have the ability to report on its performance. 

More broadly, continuing efforts to implement the CFO Act also are
central for ensuring that agencies resolve their long-standing
problems in generating vital information for decisionmakers.  In that
regard, the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB) has
developed a new set of accounting concepts and standards that
underpin OMB's guidance to agencies on the form and content of their
agencywide financial statements.\25 As part of that effort, FASAB
developed managerial cost accounting standards that were to be
effective for fiscal year 1997.  These standards are to provide
decisionmakers with information on the costs of all resources used
and the costs of services provided by others to support activities or
programs.  Such information would allow for comparisons of costs
across various levels of program performance. 

However, because of serious agency shortfalls in cost accounting
systems, the Chief Financial Officers Council--an interagency council
of the CFOs of the major agencies--requested an additional 2 years
before the standard would be effective.  FASAB recommended extending
the date by 1 year, to fiscal year 1998, with a clear expectation
that there would be no further delays. 

Under the Results Act, another aspect of performance planning is a
requirement for agencies to discuss the use and planned use of
program evaluations that can provide feedback on how well an agency's
activities and programs contributed to the achievement of its goals
and to assess the reasonableness and appropriateness of those goals. 
However, our recent report on agencies' draft plans stated that 16 of
the 27 draft plans did not discuss program evaluations.\26 Although
all the September plans included discussions of program evaluations,
we continued to find weaknesses in those discussions.  However, this
is not surprising because agencies that had not undertaken program
evaluations prior to the preparation of the first cycle of strategic
plans would not likely be able to discuss in their September plans
how they used program evaluations to help develop the plans. 

Of greater concern, many agencies, including the Departments of
Health and Human Services, Justice, and Labor, also did not discuss
how they planned to use evaluations in the future to assess progress
or did not offer a schedule for future evaluation as required by the
Results Act.  In contrast, the National Science Foundation's
September plan contains a noteworthy exception to this trend.  The
plan discusses how the agency used evaluations to develop key
investment strategies, action plans, and its annual performance plan. 
It also discusses plans for future evaluations and provides a general
schedule for their implementation. 

Over the longer term, the program performance information that
agencies are to generate under the Results Act should be a valuable
new resource for Congress to use in its program authorization,
oversight, budget, and appropriation responsibilities.  As we have
noted before, to be most useful in these various contexts, that
information needs to be consolidated with budget data and critical
financial and program cost data, which agencies are to produce and
have audited under the CFO Act.\27 This consolidated program
performance, cost, and budget information, in conjunction with the
annual performance plans, should provide congressional and other
decisionmakers with a more complete picture of the results,
operational effectiveness, and costs of agencies' operations. 


--------------------
\20 GAO/GGD-97-109, June 2, 1997. 

\21 Managing for Results:  Analytic Challenges in Measuring
Performance (GAO/HEHS/GGD-97-138, May 30, 1997). 

\22 GAO/GGD-97-109, June 2, 1997. 

\23 GAO/HEHS/GGD-97-138, May 30, 1997. 

\24 GAO/GGD-97-109, June 2, 1997. 

\25 FASAB was created in October 1990 by the Secretary of the
Treasury, the Director of OMB, and the Comptroller General to
consider and recommend accounting principles for the federal
government.  If accepted by Treasury, OMB, and GAO, the standards are
to be adopted and issued by OMB and GAO. 

\26 GAO/GGD-97-180, Sept.  16, 1997. 

\27 Financial Management:  Continued Momentum Essential to Achieve
CFO Act Goals (GAO/T-AIMD-96-10, Dec.  14, 1995). 


   CONCLUSION
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

Agencies, on the whole, made significant progress in improving their
plans during August and September 1997.  The strategic plans they
formally submitted to Congress and OMB in September 1997 appear to
provide a workable foundation for the continuing implementation of
the Results Act.  Nonetheless, the critical planning challenges that
we found demonstrate that the effective implementation of
performance-based management and accountability, as envisioned by the
Results Act, is still, as to be expected, very much a work in
progress. 

Since performance-based management is not a linear, sequential
process but, rather, an iterative one, each subsequent strategic and
performance planning cycle can, and likely will, result in revisions
to preceding planning documents.  Therefore, Congress, OMB, and
agencies' senior managers can use the next stage of performance-based
management---performance planning and measurement--to ensure that
agencies continue to address the critical planning challenges as well
as maintain momentum on the implementation of the Results Act. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS AND OUR
   EVALUATION
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

On January 5, 1998, we provided a draft of this report to the
Director of OMB for comment.  We provided drafts of the appendixes we
prepared on individual agency plans to the relevant agencies for
comment, and the comments from those agencies are summarized in the
relevant appendixes. 

On January 13, 1998, a senior OMB official provided us with OMB's
comments on this report.  He generally agreed with our observations
and said that the report was a useful compilation of our work on
agencies' September strategic plans.  The official also said that
this report underscores that the implementation of the Results Act
will be an ongoing, iterative process in which agencies will learn
from their initial experiences in developing strategic plans and can
then apply those lessons learned as they continue to develop
strategic planning processes.  In addition, the official provided
technical comments that were incorporated in this report. 


---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :7.1

As arranged with your offices, unless you publicly announce its
contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report
until 30 days after its issue date.  At that time, we will send
copies of this report to the Minority Leader of the House; the
Ranking Minority Members of your Committees; other appropriate
congressional committees; and the Director, Office of Management and
Budget.  We will also make copies available to others on request. 

If you have any questions concerning this report, please contact me
on (202) 512-8676. 

J.  Christopher Mihm, Associate Director, Federal Management
 and Workforce Issues


AGENCIES COVERED BY THIS REVIEW
=========================================================== Appendix I

Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
Department of Defense
Department of Education
Department of Energy
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of the Interior
Department of Justice
Department of Labor
Department of State
Department of Transportation
Department of the Treasury
Department of Veterans Affairs
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency
General Services Administration
Office of Personnel Management
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Small Business Administration
Social Security Administration
U.S.  Agency for International Development


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
AGRICULTURE'S STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================== Appendix II

On July 10, 1997, we issued a report on the U.S.  Department of
Agriculture's (USDA) May draft strategic plan (Results Act: 
Observations on USDA's Draft Strategic Plan, GAO/RCED-97-196R). 
USDA's publicly issued strategic plan was submitted to the President
and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested, we have reviewed
USDA's September strategic plan and compared the results of our
assessment with our observations on the draft plan, as reported in
July.  On October 17, 1997, we briefed your staffs on our assessment
of the September strategic plan.  The key points from that briefing
are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT ON USDA'S DRAFT
STRATEGIC PLAN

USDA's May 1997 draft strategic plan included a Department-wide
strategic overview as well as 30 plans for the mission areas,
agencies, and staff offices that make up the Department.  We reviewed
the overview and the 16 agency plans that are directly related to
accomplishing USDA's mission and implementing its programs.  We also
reviewed the plans for the offices of the Chief Financial Officer and
the Chief Information Officer. 

We observed that the May draft strategic plan did not fulfill the
requirements of the Results Act.  USDA's overall mission and goals
were contained in the Department-wide strategic overview; the
overview then referred the reader to the agencies' plans for
information on the six required elements.  However, only one of the
agencies' plans we reviewed contained all six required elements.  The
draft strategic plan also fell short in several other areas necessary
for achieving the purposes of the Results Act.  Among other things,
the draft strategic plan lacked an emphasis on externally focused
goals and objectives, adequate quantifiable performance measures, and
good linkages between the agencies' goals and the Department's goals. 

We also reported that we could not determine the extent to which
coordination with other federal agencies, both within and outside the
Department, occurred in the formulation of the draft strategic plan. 
It was also unclear whether agencies' goals and objectives had been
assessed for duplication and complementary functions.  USDA's
Department-wide strategic overview acknowledged the role of USDA
agencies that carry out similar and/or complementary functions but
did not recognize the role of other federal agencies.  Many of the
agencies' plans generically recognized the roles of other federal
agencies in accomplishing their missions.  However, there was little
evidence in either the Department-wide strategic overview or the
agencies' plans to suggest that the agencies coordinated with other
agencies--internally or externally--when developing their goals and
objectives. 

USDA's draft plan addressed some, but not all, of the high-risk
issues and management problems we had previously identified. 
Generally, information on how USDA planned to address these high-risk
issues and management problems, such as the need to reduce losses in
the farm loan program, was included as goals and objectives in the
agencies' plans.  However, USDA's draft plan did not address some
management issues, such as the need to reform milk marketing orders,
improve the management of agricultural trade programs, and strengthen
financial controls under credit reform.  In addition, we have
identified significant, long-standing Department-wide problems in
information technology, accounting, and financial management. 
However, USDA's draft strategic plan did not adequately recognize and
address these problems.  For example, the plan for the Office of the
Chief Information Officer lacked time frames and milestones and the
resources needed to accomplish the stated goals.  We also noted that
it lacked an explanation of how the goals were specifically linked to
the agencies' plans. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN USDA'S
SEPTEMBER STRATEGIC PLAN

USDA made significant improvements in its September strategic plan. 
This plan incorporates many changes that make it more responsive to
the requirements of the Results Act.  The strategic plan complies
with the six elements required by the Results Act and includes many
of the key attributes necessary for a quality plan.  It also includes
information on some management challenges that we identified in the
past. 

While all 16 agencies' plans contain the six required elements, the
clarity of information presented varies across the plans.  For
example: 

  -- Most of the agencies' plans have comprehensive and concise
     mission statements.  However, the mission statements for two
     agencies' plans--concerning the Agricultural Marketing Service
     and Rural Development--are stated so broadly that it is
     difficult to determine what the basic purpose of the agency is
     or how it differs from that of other agencies.  For example, it
     is unclear how the mission of the Agricultural Marketing Service
     differs from the missions of the Grain Inspection, Packers and
     Stockyards Administration and the Foreign Agricultural Service. 

  -- Most of the agencies' plans have results-oriented goals and
     objectives.  However, some plans--those of the Farm Service
     Agency, Food and Consumer Service, Animal and Plant Health
     Inspection Service, and the Forest Service--have too many goals
     and objectives structured around existing programs and
     activities rather than the ultimate results that these agencies
     should achieve.  For example, the Farm Service Agency's plan has
     four goals that we believe could be combined under two that
     would fulfill the agency's mission--(1) improving the economic
     viability of the agriculture sector and (2) protecting the
     environment. 

  -- All of the agencies' plans provide more detailed strategies and
     improved information on the resources needed for achieving goals
     and objectives, compared with the information provided in the
     May draft plan. 

  -- All of the agencies' plans provide a detailed discussion of the
     external factors beyond the control of the agency that could
     affect the achievement of the goals.  However, the linkages
     between external factors and their impact on specific goals
     could be improved in some plans, such as the plans for the four
     research agencies. 

  -- Unlike the May draft, in which only 1 of the 16 agencies' plans
     included information on the relationship between annual
     performance goals and strategic goals, all of the agencies'
     September plans include this information.  However, the quality
     of the descriptions provided in this section of the agencies'
     plans varies by agency.  For example, some plans, such as those
     for the Food and Consumer Service, Farm Service Agency, Food
     Safety and Inspection Service, and Center for Nutrition Policy
     and Programs, easily allow the reader to envision how the annual
     performance goals relate to the strategic goals; other agencies'
     plans, such as those for the Economic Research Service and the
     Risk Management Agency, are less clear. 

  -- Most of the agencies' plans provide greater detail than they did
     in the May draft on how program evaluations were used to develop
     the strategic plan and how they will be used in the future. 
     However, two plans--those for the Food Safety and Inspection
     Service and the Agricultural Research Service--state that
     program evaluations were not used to develop the strategic plan,
     although information on program evaluations planned for the
     future is included; and the plan for the Agricultural Marketing
     Service states that program evaluations were not used to develop
     the plan and are not planned for the future.  While these
     agencies state that they did not use formal program evaluations
     when developing their plans, the information provided in the
     plans indicates that the results of relevant studies and
     assessments were actually used to help develop the plans--which
     in our opinion meets the requirements of the Results Act. 
     Consequently, we believe that these agencies may be using too
     narrow a definition for the term "program evaluation." According
     to an August 7, 1997, letter, sent by the House Majority Leader
     to the Director, OMB, program evaluations should include all
     significant evaluations relevant to the development and future
     assessment of an agency's plan.  The letter suggested that this
     definition include reviews by the Inspector General, GAO, and
     others that deal with program implementation and operating
     policies and practices. 

Moreover, we found that many of the key attributes necessary for a
quality plan, which were missing in the May draft plan, have been
included in the September strategic plan.  These include clear
linkages between the agencies' goals and their statutory authorities
as well as the Department-wide goals; a better focus on external
goals rather than internal processes (the result of a separation of
strategic goals from management initiatives); and a more complete
discussion of relevant performance measures, although some agencies
are still developing baseline information and targets.  For targets
included in the plans, it is sometimes unclear whether they are
annual or 5-year targets. 

Some of the management challenges facing USDA that we raised in the
past have been included in the September plan.  For example, reform
of the milk marketing orders is included in the Agricultural
Marketing Service's plan as an objective.  Similarly, USDA revised
its strategic plan to address certain accounting and financial
management issues that the draft plan did not adequately address. 
For example, the strategic plan reflects USDA's efforts to strengthen
controls for establishing and reestimating loan subsidy costs, as
required under credit reform.  Also, the strategic plan recognizes
that additional staff and resources may be needed to ensure that USDA
can accomplish the goals set out in the plan for the Office of the
Chief Financial Officer. 

USDA'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
IMPROVED FURTHER

In addition to the suggestions that we have made herein to improve
the clarity of some agencies' plans, some more significant aspects of
the strategic plan could be further improved.  These improvements
include (1) explaining interagency coordination for crosscutting
issues and (2) addressing previously identified management problems. 

USDA's September strategic plan provides more detailed information
about other agencies--both internal and external to the
Department--that share responsibilities for achieving the stated
goals and objectives.  The Department-wide strategic overview now
includes links to agencies outside of the Department that are
important partners to USDA agencies.  In addition, the agencies'
plans not only identify the agencies that they coordinate and consult
with, in some cases they also identify the specific roles of these
other agencies.  However, we still could not determine from the
information provided in most of the agencies' plans whether
consultations actually took place with these agencies to resolve
crosscutting issues.  Moreover, we could not determine whether an
assessment of duplicative or complementary programs and activities
was performed when the agencies were developing their goals and
objectives.  In addition, we found that while many agencies' plans
explain that stakeholders were consulted during the plan's
development, they usually do not clearly identify the stakeholders. 
Although this information is not required to be included in the
strategic plan by the Results Act, we believe that including
information in the agencies' plans that clearly identifies all
stakeholders would be helpful. 

In addition, the September plan still does not include two management
issues that we identified in the past.  In particular, the Foreign
Agricultural Service's plan still does not address the numerous
problems we have identified in agricultural trade programs. 
Furthermore, there is little evidence to suggest that substantial
progress has been made in addressing our concerns about information
technology.  Although USDA has added time frames for completing the
14 objectives appearing in its Office of Chief Information Officer's
plan, each time frame has a completion date "through FY 2002." We are
concerned about the absence of earlier time frames, or at least
interim ones, for resolving major Department-wide information
technology problems, such as the Year 2000 issue.  By establishing
such time frames, it is not clear what priority USDA is really
placing on solving its information technology problems or whether the
Department has adequate strategies for doing so.  In addition,
although the Office of Chief Information Officer's plan includes a
number of goals and objectives to better manage its $1 billion in
annual investments for information technology, we remain concerned
about the lack of information in the plan on the resources needed to
accomplish these goals and objectives and how they link to the
agencies' plans. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

We provided a draft of our observations on USDA's strategic plan for
the Department's review and comment.  We met with USDA's Acting Chief
Financial Officer and the Director, Planning and Accountability
Division, Office of Chief Financial Officer, who told us that they
were pleased that we had recognized the significant improvements made
to the strategic plan and that the additional comments made by us
would help them as they continue to refine and enhance the plan.  In
addition, USDA made the following observations: 

  -- USDA disagreed with our statement that program evaluations were
     not used to develop the Animal and Plant Health Inspection
     Service's plan.  While we agree that this plan recognizes the
     importance of using program evaluations to set performance
     goals, it does not clearly identify how the results of program
     evaluations were used to develop the strategic plan. 
     Consequently, we have deleted this statement from our report to
     reflect the agency's comment, but we would suggest that the
     Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service add language to
     clarify how program evaluations were used to develop its plan. 

  -- USDA noted that while there is no duplication of services
     between the Agricultural Marketing Service and the Grain
     Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration and the
     Foreign Agricultural Service, the mission statement of the
     Agricultural Marketing Service would be clarified, in future
     versions of the plan, to distinguish it from the mission
     statements of the other two agencies. 

  -- In connection with our observation about the Food and Consumer
     Service's plan having too many goals that were structured around
     current programs rather than results, USDA told us that the Food
     and Consumer Service had considered structuring its plan around
     a smaller number of generic goals.  However, the agency chose to
     establish six goals corresponding to its existing programs
     because it believed that a plan structured in this manner would
     be more meaningful to all interested parties, including external
     partners and program participants.  While we agree that setting
     up goals around familiar programs and activities may make the
     plan easier to understand, this approach may ultimately defeat
     the purpose of the Results Act--which is to require agencies to
     focus on outcomes by reevaluating what they do and why they do
     it.  Therefore, we would suggest that the Food and Consumer
     Service consider restructuring the goals in its plan around
     broader outcomes rather than current programs. 

  -- USDA disagreed with our statement that the Foreign Agricultural
     Service plan still does not address the numerous problems that
     we have identified in the past relating to agricultural trade
     programs.  For example, USDA believes that the Foreign
     Agricultural Service has addressed the concerns outlined in our
     report entitled U.S.  Department of Agriculture:  Foreign
     Agricultural Service Could Benefit From Better Strategic
     Planning (GAO/GGD-95-225, Sept.  28, 1995) by including
     information on agency resource allocation, overseas priorities,
     and trade opportunities under the management initiatives section
     of the plan.  According to USDA, other issues raised by us, such
     as streamlining the agency's foreign service, will be addressed
     in the annual performance plan.  Although we agree that some
     issues that we have raised in the past can be appropriately
     addressed by including them in the annual performance plan,
     others cannot.  Over the past decade, we have issued a series of
     reports that raise serious concerns about the fundamental
     operations of the Foreign Agricultural Service's export
     programs, such as the Foreign Market Development Program, Market
     Access Program, P.L.  480 Program, and Export Credit Guarantee
     Program.  We believe that solutions to these problems will
     require long-term planning that has not been adequately
     addressed in the strategic plan. 

  -- Finally, USDA stated that it did not believe that the Office of
     Chief Information Officer's strategic plan had to be the medium
     to address specific solutions to the individual agencies' issues
     identified in previous audits.  Our observations on the Office
     of Chief Information Officer's plan, however, did not discuss
     the need for specific solutions; rather, we noted that the plan
     lacked sufficient information on time frames, resources, and how
     the goals and objectives were linked to other USDA agencies'
     plans.  We believe that such information is essential to clearly
     identify what priority USDA is placing on solving its
     information technology problems and determining whether the
     Department has adequate strategies for addressing these issues. 
     This is especially important given the Secretary of
     Agriculture's May 1997 direction to subcabinet officials that
     fixing USDA's long-standing, pervasive information technology
     management problems must be a top priority.  USDA also disagreed
     with our statement that there is a perceived lack of attention
     on the Year 2000 issue.  While we recognize that the plan
     discusses the Year 2000 issue, we are concerned about the stated
     time frames for completion for this objective.  By stating a
     "through FY 2002" completion time frame for the Year 2000
     problem, we believe that the plan does not present an adequate
     strategy for resolving one of USDA's most pressing information
     technology management problems and one that must be solved
     within the next 2 years. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Robert A.  Robinson, Director, Food and Agriculture Issues;
Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, (202)
512-5138. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
COMMERCE'S STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================= Appendix III

On July 14, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of Commerce's
draft strategic plan (The Results Act:  Observations on Commerce's
June 1997 Draft Strategic Plan, GAO/GGD-97-152R).  Commerce's
formally issued strategic plan was submitted to OMB and Congress on
September 30, 1997.  As requested, we reviewed Commerce's revised
strategic plan, compared it with the earlier draft version that we
reported on in July, and identified significant changes or
improvements that Commerce made in the areas covered by our July
report and areas or required plan elements where additional
improvements still could be made as the plan evolves.  We briefed
your staffs on our findings on October 17, 1997.  Our findings are
summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

Commerce's draft strategic plan was inadequate and incomplete in
several respects.  Of the six elements required by the Results Act,
four were included in the draft plan--a mission statement, goals and
objectives, strategies for achieving goals and objectives, and a
discussion of key external factors--but each of these had weaknesses,
some more significant than others.  For example, the mission
statement included the core functions of the Department and mentioned
the role of businesses and universities but not the important role
also played by other government entities.  While there were useful
linkages among themes, goals, objectives, and responsible components,
the goals and objectives were not as results oriented as they could
be.  The draft plan identified the Commerce bureau responsible for
each goal and objective but did not adequately discuss strategies for
achieving those goals and objectives or include required information
describing the operational processes, staff skills, and technologies,
as well as the human, capital, information, and other resources
needed to achieve them.  Many but not all key external factors were
discussed, but the factors that were identified appeared to be used
to justify programs rather than to show how those factors could
affect the achievement of goals. 

Commerce's draft strategic plan did not explicitly discuss the other
two elements required by the Results Act--the relationship between
long-term goals and objectives and annual performance goals and the
description of program evaluations used to establish general goals
and objectives and a schedule for future program evaluations.  The
draft plan said that relating long-term goals and objectives to
annual performance goals will more appropriately be done in the
Department's future annual budget requests.  The draft plan made
limited references in various sections to a few past studies of
Commerce programs, but those references did not describe how the
studies were used to establish general goals and objectives, and the
draft plan did not provide a schedule for future program evaluations. 
Concerning other plan components, the draft plan provided much useful
information on Commerce's statutory authorities.  However, the draft
plan could have been more useful to Commerce, Congress, and other
stakeholders if it had provided a more explicit discussion of
crosscutting activities, the major management challenges the
Department faces, and the Department's ability to provide reliable
financial and other management and program information to measure
achievement of its goals. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN COMMERCE'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

Commerce's publicly issued strategic plan incorporated improvements
in several areas and now addresses, to some extent, all of the
elements required by the Results Act.  The improvements that the
Department made are steps in the right direction and address some but
not all of the weaknesses discussed in our July 1997 report on an
earlier draft of the plan.  The plan's discussions of strategic goals
have been expanded to briefly indicate Commerce's strategy for
achieving each goal.  For example, under the theme of keeping America
competitive with cutting-edge science and technology, the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a goal to "predict
and assess decadal to centennial change." The plan now describes how
NOAA will approach this goal by addressing questions dealing with air
quality, ozone depletion, greenhouse warming, and climate change. 

Also, the plan now more explicitly acknowledges the need to link
strategic goals and objectives to annual performance goals and
includes an illustrative performance measure for each of the
objectives under the three strategic themes.  For example, the
illustrative performance measure for two of the Patent and Trademark
Office's (PTO) objectives is "reduced pendency time." This
illustrative performance measure is one of several that addresses
PTO's goal of granting exclusive rights for limited times to
inventors for their discoveries.  Similarly, the plan's three
strategic theme chapters now more strongly emphasize the importance
of external factors that could affect achievement of Commerce's
strategic goals and identify more key external factors.  Under the
economic infrastructure strategic theme, for example, the plan now
includes a reference to the International Trade Administration's
(ITA) strategy to identify obstacles to U.S.  exports and plans for
removing such obstacles and marshaling U.S.  government resources to
eliminate barriers. 

Commerce's revised strategic plan includes new sections on program
evaluations, interagency linkages, and major management challenges. 
The new section on the role of program evaluations discusses current
evaluations as well as future evaluation plans, provides examples,
highlights the difficulties in specifying the level and focus of
future evaluations because of year-to-year competition for funds, and
states that future evaluations for many Commerce bureaus will be
included in annual performance plans and budgets.  The new section on
interagency linkages acknowledges the importance of close interagency
ties and emphasizes the Department's commitment to strengthen those
ties by reaching out to other federal agencies with complementary
responsibilities.  In addition, the partnership sections of the three
strategic theme chapters now more fully identify and discuss
Commerce's shared mission responsibilities with other federal
agencies.  Under the economic infrastructure theme, for example, the
plan now emphasizes those aspects of Commerce's mission that are
complementary.  It points out that Commerce chairs the Trade
Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), a 20-member interagency task
force charged by the President and Congress with developing and
implementing the National Export Strategy. 

The new section on management challenges recognizes and discusses
three of the key management challenges facing the Department that
were highlighted in our July report--weather service modernization,
Census 2000, and financial management systems.  Finally, the
usefulness of the plan has been improved by the addition of an index
or matrix, which shows which Commerce bureaus are responsible for
which strategic themes and goals; and an appendix, which provides
clearer and more comprehensive information on, and consolidates in
one place in the plan, the statutory and other authorities for the
Department and its bureaus, themes, and goals and objectives. 

COMMERCE'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

While the overall quality of Commerce's strategic plan has been
improved since we reported in July 1997 on an earlier draft of the
plan, further improvements still could be made in each of the
elements required by the Results Act.  As we indicated in our July
report, the mission statement could be made more complete by
explicitly recognizing that several other federal agencies as well as
state and local governments also play major roles in the areas
covered by Commerce's three strategic themes.  In the export controls
area under the economic infrastructure theme, for example, the plan
acknowledges that Commerce shares mission responsibilities with the
Departments of Defense, Energy, and State and the Arms Control and
Disarmament Agency, but the mission statement does not recognize this
or other shared responsibilities. 

Similarly, the treatment of crosscutting functions could clarify
Commerce's role in the three strategic theme areas, specify how the
Department's efforts intersect with or complement the efforts of the
other participants, and identify which other government entities
Commerce coordinated its plan with and the results of that
coordination.  The Department's September 30, 1997, letter
transmitting the revised plan to Congress said that Commerce
consulted with stakeholders, provided them and congressional
committees with copies of its draft plans, and responded to
stakeholder and congressional comments.  According to Commerce's
transmittal letter, there were no unresolved contrary views
concerning its plan. 

The strategies for achieving each strategic goal could be further
expanded to specify how Commerce will hold its bureaus and managers
accountable for meeting strategic goals and the resources that will
be required to meet them.  The linkages between long-term strategic
goals and objectives and annual performance goals could be improved
by (1) making the illustrative performance measures more outcome
oriented, such as by using the "number of counseling sessions" as a
measure of ITA's economic infrastructure objective to "increase trade
assistance targeted to small and medium-sized businesses," or (2)
showing how the performance measures that were added cause results. 
The discussion of external factors could identify and discuss more
key factors beyond Commerce's direct control that could affect
achievement of its goals, such as congressional concerns about the
Census Bureau's plans for conducting Census 2000, and specify how the
external factors that are identified will be addressed or mitigated. 
The discussion of program evaluations could indicate more
specifically how evaluations were used to establish goals/objectives
and performance measures. 

Finally, the discussions of Commerce's major management challenges
and its capacity to provide reliable data on performance could
acknowledge and discuss more of the major management challenges and
data capacity problems that we emphasized in our July 1997 report,
such as managing modern information technology and the "year 2000
computer problem." Also, the plan could relate identified management
challenges, including performance measurement limitations, to
Commerce's strategic goals and objectives, discuss their implications
for achievement of its strategic goals and objectives, and indicate
more specifically how and when the Department expects to overcome
these challenges.  The plan could be made more useful to stakeholders
and would better meet the intent of the Act if it identified and
discussed these types of problems as well as other material
weaknesses or high-risk areas, such as NOAA's fleet for acquiring
marine data, that are disclosed in Commerce's Federal Managers'
Financial Integrity Act reports or financial statements. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS ON COMMERCE'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

Given the diversity of its programs and activities and its bureaus'
independence, Commerce faced an especially formidable challenge in
developing its strategic plan.  The Department developed a "thematic"
strategic plan that covers its major functions and activities; is
consistent with relevant statutory and other authorities; and
addresses, to some extent, the various elements required by the
Results Act.  The plan's readability, usefulness, and overall
effectiveness as a planning and oversight tool could be enhanced by
streamlining its organization and content to eliminate many of the
details that do not relate directly to the Act's requirements, thus
reducing its 178-page length. 

AGENCY COMMENTS AND OUR EVALUATION

We provided a copy of a draft of this briefing document to the
Department of Commerce for review and comment.  On October 17, 1997,
the Director for Budget, Management and Information and Deputy Chief
Information Officer provided us with written comments.  He
characterized our review as balanced and fair and said that the
Department clearly agrees that it needs to do more planning with
other agencies and crosscutting programs and that this is a very high
departmental priority.  In this regard, he said that the Department
has stepped forward as the lead agency to link with the National
Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) in forming the Performance
Consortium and that a dozen other federal departments and agencies
have joined Commerce in this effort to develop common planning
activities and elements. 

The Director also said that the Department disagrees with our
suggestion that its plan could be improved by providing additional
information in certain areas and eliminating many of the details that
do not relate directly to the Act's requirements.  He said that the
Department made a specific decision to have a single, integrated
strategic plan that covers all its bureaus.  The Department believes
that its plan demonstrates clearly how the Commerce bureaus fit
together and provide critical service to the nation and that it
addresses some of the administration's key priorities and secures the
buy-in of its bureaus.  As Commerce's strategic plan evolves, we
continue to believe that its readability and specificity could be
improved by streamlining its organization, content, and presentation. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

L.  Nye Stevens, Director, Federal Management and Workforce Issues;
General Government Division, (202) 512-8676. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
DEFENSE'S STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================== Appendix IV

On August 5, 1997, we issued a report on DOD's draft strategic plan
(The Results Act:  Observations on DOD's Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/NSIAD-97-219R).  The Department of Defense's formally issued
Results Act strategic plan was submitted to OMB and Congress on
September 30, 1997.  As requested, we reviewed the strategic plan and
compared its changes to DOD's draft plan.\1 On October 17, 1997, we
briefed your staffs on our further observations on the strategic
plan.  The key points from that briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR AUGUST REPORT

Our prior evaluation revealed that DOD's draft plan included
discussions of each of the six critical components required in
strategic plans but that some were of higher quality than others.  We
noted, for example, that DOD's draft plan contained a succinct
mission statement and general goals and objectives that cover its
major functions and operations and reflect its broad statutory
defense responsibilities, but it did not include schedules for
initiating and completing significant actions to achieve its goals. 
We also noted that, although DOD included some discussion of other
elements, such as formidable management problems, these discussions
could be more complete.  And, we suggested several improvements to
the draft plan, including that DOD (1) more completely state
strategies for achieving its goals and include schedules of
significant actions; (2) link and discuss how external factors could
affect its ability to achieve its goals; (3) discuss how program
evaluations were used in developing its goals and identify key issues
for future evaluations; (4) discuss planned or ongoing actions to
resolve persistent management problems, including time frames and
required resources; and (5) identify and discuss coordination efforts
for programs that crosscut with other agencies' programs.  Finally,
we suggested that DOD develop one clear and succinct document to
serve as its strategic plan. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN THE STRATEGIC
PLAN

DOD revised its general goals and objectives to provide a clearer
presentation.  In line with the revision, DOD also rearranged its
description of how the performance goals it is developing will be
related to the general goals in an effort to improve the
description's clarity.  It also defined some terms and included some
additional information in the rearranged description.  DOD's general
goals and objectives as reworded still cover its major functions and
operations and reflect its broad statutory defense responsibilities. 

DOD also included a table listing the major management problems that
we have identified as high-risk areas and the documents, such as the
DOD Logistics Strategic Plan, that address each of the high-risk
areas.  However, it did not include an explanation of what actions
will be taken to address the high-risk areas and when the problems in
these areas are expected to be corrected.  Additionally, DOD did not
adopt our other suggested improvements, nor did it consolidate the
strategic plan into one succinct document. 

STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE FURTHER
IMPROVED

We believe that DOD's strategic plan could be further improved by
adopting the suggestions we made in our August 5, 1997, report
(summarized herein).  We believe that addressing these areas would
provide decisionmakers and stakeholders the information necessary to
ensure that DOD has well-thought-out strategies for resolving ongoing
problems, achieving its goals and objectives, coordinating
crosscutting activities, and becoming more results oriented, as
expected by the Results Act. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

DOD officials reiterated that the QDR, alone, has been the
Department's finalized strategic plan since it was issued in May
1997.  They also stated that they included a table listing the
underlying plans that address the high-risk management problems noted
in our August 5 report but did not attach or include significant
detail from the underlying plans because that would have made their
submission too voluminous.  They said that they did not include
details in summary fashion because that would not have provided
enough information.  They noted that DOD is working to address its
management problems and said that those interested in seeing how the
problems are being addressed should read the underlying plans. 
Additionally, the officials noted that although coordination of
programs and activities that crosscut other agencies' programs are
not discussed in DOD's strategic plan, DOD coordinates and cooperates
extensively with other federal agencies as part of its ongoing
strategic planning process.  Finally, DOD officials commented that in
congressional consultations, the only change suggested was that DOD
reword a couple of its general goals and objectives. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

David R.  Warren, Director, Defense Management Issues; National
Security and International Affairs Division, (202) 512-8412. 


--------------------
\1 For our August 5 report, we reviewed DOD's Quadrennial Defense
Review Report (QDR), issued in May 1997, and DOD's June 23, 1997,
letter, which explained how it believes the QDR meets Results Act
strategic planning requirements.  DOD was required to perform the QDR
by section 923 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal
Year 1997 and intended it to be a fundamental and comprehensive
examination of America's defense needs from 1997 to 2015, including
potential threats, strategy, force structure, readiness posture,
military modernization programs, defense infrastructure, and other
elements of the defense program.  For this report, we reviewed the
QDR and DOD's September 30, 1997, letter, which updates how DOD
believes the QDR meets Results Act strategic planning requirements. 
DOD, however, considers the QDR, alone, to be its strategic plan. 
Including the additional documents in our reviews gave DOD more
credit toward meeting requirements and expectations for strategic
plans than would have resulted from considering the QDR alone. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
EDUCATION'S STRATEGIC PLAN
=========================================================== Appendix V

On July 18, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of Education's
draft strategic plan (The Results Act:  Observations on the
Department of Education's June 1997 Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/HEHS-97-176R).  Education's formally issued strategic plan was
submitted to OMB and Congress on October 3, 1997.  As requested, we
have reviewed the publicly issued strategic plan and compared it with
the observations in our July 18 report.  On October 16, 1997, we
briefed your staffs on further observations on the strategic plan. 
The key points from that briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

The Department's June 17, 1997, draft plan generally complied with
the Results Act.  Overall, it is a useful document and included all
but one of the six elements required by the Act--it did not discuss
how the agency's long-term goals and objectives will be related to
its annual performance goals.  The plan's long-term goals and
objectives were succinct and logically linked to its mission
statement, and the quality of the goals and objectives reflected the
Department's thoughtful deliberation in its efforts to comply with
the Results Act.  In addition, the plan addressed in some form all of
the Department's major statutory responsibilities. 

Although the plan presented a logical and fairly complete description
of how the Department intends to achieve its mission, we identified a
few areas in the draft plan that could be improved.  We observed that
the plan could benefit from more information, clarity, and context in
some of its components.  The plan should have included an explanation
of the relationship between its long-term goals and objectives and
its annual performance goals as well as a complete description and
schedule of program evaluations.  It could also have better addressed
the Department's major statutory responsibilities. 

The Department has the primary responsibility for implementing
federal education policy and programs, but several other federal
agencies also provide education-related programs and services.  In
our past work, we have identified opportunities for consolidating
programs in certain areas, such as job training and early childhood
education, to eliminate inappropriate duplication.  The draft
strategic plan did a good job of identifying crosscutting program
activities in elementary and secondary programs, but it did not
identify or discuss activities for postsecondary programs that
require coordination.  By discussing the agencies and activities
involved with the Department's higher education programs, the
strategic plan could provide Congress with a more complete picture of
the scope of the Department's coordination activities. 

In its discussion of core strategies for achieving its strategic
goals and objectives, the Department identified several management
challenges it will face in the coming years, but it provides little
detail about these challenges and how it will meet them.  This type
of information could help the Department and its stakeholders
identify major management problems that could impede the Department's
efforts to achieve its goals and objectives.  Further, stakeholders
could benefit from knowing what the Department has done, is doing, or
plans to do to address such problems. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN THE STRATEGIC
PLAN

The Department's strategic plan issued October 3, 1997, included
several significant improvements that make it more responsive to the
requirements of the Results Act than its draft plan.  The
Department's plan now addresses all six elements required by the
Results Act.  The plan addressed the relationship between the
agency's long-term goals and objectives and its annual performance
plan--the only element missing from its draft plan--by including a
matrix linking long-term goals and objectives in the strategic plan
with fiscal year 1997 appropriation information and agency programs. 
The matrix indicated where programs have a significant number of
activities or products supporting an objective.  Though the strategic
plan does not specifically describe how the Department intends to
measure the performance of its programs each year, the matrix and the
supplemental information on the Department's performance indicators
(shown in appendix A of the plan) provided a better understanding of
the relationship between the Department's strategic and annual
performance plans.  The Department states that the strategic plan was
based, in part, on objectives and indicators in draft program
performance plans prepared for key programs in the winter of 1997. 
According to the plan, the annual performance plan (which includes
budget and performance plans for each of the Department's programs)
will further clarify this linkage. 

The Department's October 1997 plan also provided a description of the
program evaluations and assessments that were used to develop each of
its four strategic goals as well as evaluations that will help to
"inform the implementation" of the plan and provide data for the
performance indicators supporting the goals.  For example, at the end
of the narrative describing Goal 2 (build a solid foundation for
learning for all children), the plan stated that early evaluations of
the Even Start program and crosscutting evaluations of Goals 2000 and
the reauthorized elementary and secondary education programs were
used to develop this goal.  In addition to the evaluations
highlighted in the introduction of each goal, appendix B of the plan
described 57 key program evaluations and other studies, including
information on when the evaluation data were or will be collected
and, in many instances, how often the data will be collected in the
future.  The Department's strategic plan also identified agency
efforts that will help to avoid duplication among its evaluation
efforts and reduce respondent burden. 

In addition, the narrative supporting the Department's mission
statement now encompasses the Department's major statutory
responsibilities.  Our review of the Department's draft plan
indicated that it had failed to address the agency's statutory
requirements for basic education for adults, vocational
rehabilitation, education of individuals with disabilities, and
school-to-work opportunities.  In its October 1997 plan, the
Department addressed this weakness by including as one of its key
agency functions "providing grants for literacy, employment, and
self-sufficiency."

The plan more clearly addressed the Department's civil rights
function within the goals and objectives sections.  During our review
of the Department's draft plan, we observed that the agency's civil
rights function, although reflected in its mission statement, was not
addressed in the plan's long-term goals or objectives.  In support of
two objectives related to goals 1 and 4, the Department added
strategies for addressing its civil rights function.  Objective 1.5
is to get families and communities fully involved with schools and
school improvement efforts.  In support of this objective, the plan
states that the Department will create collaborative partnerships
among parents, community groups, and other stakeholders that ensure
equal educational opportunity, and provide civil rights training and
technical assistance to build these linkages.  Objective 4.2 is to
provide Education's partners the support and flexibility they need
without diminishing accountability.  In support of this objective,
the plan adds the following strategy:  to build civil rights
partnerships to achieve shared civil rights objectives and secure
timely improvements for students. 

As required by the Results Act, the Department described in its draft
plan several factors outside the agency's program scope and
responsibilities that could negatively affect its ability to achieve
its strategic goals.  The Department strengthened this discussion in
the plan by describing agency actions intended to mitigate against
seven key external factors that could affect the achievement of its
long-term goals.  For example, the plan states that school systems
will need to undertake long-term investments in professional
development and other capacity-building activities if education
reforms are to succeed.  Yet, pressures outside of the Department's
control may encourage school systems to focus instead on
demonstrating short-term gains.  To counter these pressures, the plan
states that the Department will (1) work with program and technical
assistance providers to highlight the importance of sustained
professional development aligned with the standards and (2) emphasize
the importance of professional development in its performance
indicators. 

Consistent with our suggestions in our July report, the Department's
strategic plan also addressed several other issues.  The plan
specifically identified coordination activities related to the
Department's postsecondary education programs and activities.  It
listed interagency coordination and data matches with, for example,
the Social Security Administration, the Immigration and
Naturalization Service, and the Selective Service as a strategy for
ensuring that postsecondary student aid delivery and program
management are efficient (objective 3.3).  Core strategies to achieve
this objective also included working with the Internal Revenue
Service on tax refund offsets and address matches and the Department
of the Treasury on administrative offsets to increase defaulted
student loan collections. 

In addition, the Department has taken the important step to revise
the date for its Year 2000 conversion performance indicator.  The
plan established 1998, rather than 1999, as the year all of its
relevant computer systems will be Year 2000 compliant, thus allowing
more time for system testing and validation.  While the Department
had previously included the Year 2000 conversion effort in its draft
plan, it established in its current plan December 31, 1999, as the
deadline for repairing seven mission critical systems.  As we pointed
out, the Year 2000 problem is not technically challenging; however,
it is massive and complex.  With about 800 days before the Year 2000
deadline, the current plan's performance indicator of assuring that
all systems have been evaluated and, where necessary, converted to
make them Year 2000 compliant by December 31, 1998, is a major
improvement.  In recognition of the critical challenge facing federal
agencies in dealing with this issue, GAO has added the Year 2000
problem as one of its high-risk areas. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

The Department has made significant strides in its October 1997 plan
in recognizing major management challenges facing the Department.  In
our review of its draft strategic plan, we discussed the Department's
particularly difficult challenge in improving its information systems
for the student aid program.  We discussed the problems that the lack
of an integrated student financial aid system creates.  We also
discussed the Department's reengineering effort, known as "Easy
Access for Students and Institutions (EASI)," which was being
developed to redesign the entire student assistance program delivery
system.  In its draft strategic plan, the Department identified EASI
as an important part of its core strategy for integrating its aid
systems.  However, as we pointed out, the project had a history of
false starts.  We subsequently recommended in another report that the
Department should first develop a systems architecture to address
system integration deficiencies before proceeding with new major
systems development.\1 The Department's plan eliminated EASI from its
core strategies and adopted the broader core strategy of (1)
developing an "integrated, accurate, and efficient student aid
delivery system" and (2) ensuring that systems are mission-driven and
consistent with the Department's information technology architecture. 

In our July 18, 1997, report we also highlighted problems with the
Department's management, systems, and processes that affect its
ability to ensure financial accountability, particularly among its
student financial aid programs.  The Department recognized these
problems in its strategic plan and listed the following as its most
important challenges:  (1) student aid systems that are incompletely
integrated, (2) financial data from aid programs that are only
partially consolidated at the student level, and (3) too many
contractors who use different operating systems.  The plan stated
that correcting this situation will require the redesign and
modernization of the federal student financial aid system using the
latest information engineering and computer system technology.  To
address these and other issues, the Department included under Goal 3
a new, separate objective for the management of its postsecondary
student financial aid programs:  "Postsecondary student aid delivery
and program management is efficient, financially sound, and
customer-responsive" (objective 3.3).  The Department identified with
specificity numerous strategies and performance indicators that will
help to address and track agency efforts to achieve this objective. 

  -- Postsecondary program management.  To improve efforts in this
     area, the strategic plan states that the Department will develop
     and utilize a risk management system to target compliance and
     enforcement activities on poorly performing institutions while
     reducing burdens on high performing ones.  Responding to a
     recommendation from its fiscal year 1996 Department-wide
     financial audit, the Department is currently developing this new
     risk analysis system to better utilize its limited monitoring
     resources towards the highest risk institutions.  However, this
     system will not be fully implemented until fiscal year 1998. 
     Another Department strategy to improve the management of its
     student financial aid programs involves expanding the use of the
     case management approach to maximize the effectiveness of
     institutional oversight.  According to the plan, this approach
     encompasses review of recertification applications, compliance
     audits, financial statements, risk management system inputs, and
     program reviews. 

  -- Financial integrity.  The Department stated in its draft
     strategic plan that poor data from the Federal Family Education
     Loan Program (FFELP) have prevented it from obtaining an
     unqualified audit opinion on its annual financial statements for
     the past 4 years.  The Department's plan included several core
     strategies for addressing this data integrity problem, such as
     integrating the multiple student aid databases based on
     student-level records and improving contract performance for
     major information systems by increased use of performance-based
     contracting.  The Department also added to its plan an indicator
     to track the accuracy and integrity of data supplied by
     applicants, institutions, lenders, and guaranty agencies.  Data
     from these sources have been problematic in the past.  In
     addition, the Department's October 1997 strategic plan included
     a new performance indicator related to the financial integrity
     of the Department's postsecondary financial aid programs.  It
     states that:  "There will be no material internal weaknesses
     identified in the student aid programs' portions of the
     Department-wide financial statement audit and no student aid
     program issues that prevent the Department from receiving an
     unqualified opinion on the financial statements." This indicator
     is linked to and supports indicator 26, which now definitively
     states that auditors will issue a clean opinion on the
     Department-wide financial statements every year. 

Although, in general terms, the plan better specifies how the
Department will address this critical financial management weakness,
it still has not completely clarified how it will resolve the data
integrity issues for FFELP or accurately estimate the government
liability that has prevented the Department from obtaining an
unqualified opinion. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

On October 21, 1997, the Department provided written comments on a
draft summary of our observations of its October 3, 1997, strategic
plan.  The Department generally had no objections to our observations
but wanted to clarify several issues we raised in the draft. 

  -- To measure the performance of Department programs, the agency
     will include program performance plans in its detailed annual
     plan currently being prepared by Department staff in conjunction
     with OMB.  The individual program plans will be linked directly
     to "budget activity lines" and will accompany the Department's
     fiscal year 1999 budget justification to Congress in February
     1998.  The Department submitted 17 draft program plans to
     Congress in March 1997 that, among other things, identified each
     program's goals and objectives, key performance indicators,
     program evaluations and other data sources, the year the
     performance indicator data will first be available, and key
     strategies for achieving the objectives.  These performance
     plans were developed by the program offices and have been
     reviewed extensively internally--some have been shared with
     stakeholders.  Program performance plans covering the
     Department's approximately 100 program activities will include
     essentially the same information as the 17 draft plans and will
     be reviewed and updated this fall for inclusion in the agency's
     annual plan. 

  -- The Department's Chief Information Officer has contracted with
     Lockheed to work with the agency to ensure that it meets its
     Year 2000 performance indicator target of December 31, 1998. 
     This activity will be monitored at the highest levels within the
     agency, and progress will be reported at least quarterly through
     the strategic planning tracking process. 

  -- The Department is engaged in several activities that should help
     to resolve the data integrity issues for FFELP and accurately
     estimate the government's liability for this program. 
     Specifically, the Department (1) has developed a workplan,
     approved by the independent accounting firm of Price Waterhouse,
     to address concerns about the government's liability estimate in
     time for the Department's fiscal year 1997 audit; (2) is
     comparing data from the National Student Loan Data System
     (NSLDS) with audited data submitted by selected guaranty
     agencies; and (3) is working with E-Systems, Inc., and direct
     loan origination and servicing contractors to ensure the
     accuracy and timeliness of direct loan data submitted to NSLDS. 

ISSUES AREA CONTACT

Carlotta C.  Joyner, Director, Education and Employment Issues;
Health, Education, and Human Services Division, (202) 512-7014. 


--------------------
\1 Student Financial Aid Information:  Systems Architecture Needed to
Improve Programs' Efficiency (GAO/AIMD-97-122, July 29, 1997)


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
ENERGY'S STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================== Appendix VI

On July 11, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of Energy's
(DOE) draft strategic plan dated June 16, 1997 (Results Act: 
Observations on the Department of Energy's Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/RCED-97-199R).  DOE formally submitted its strategic plan to OMB
and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested, we have reviewed
this strategic plan and compared it with the observations in our July
report.  On October 14, 1997, we briefed your staffs on our further
observations on DOE's strategic plan.  The key points from that
briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR REPORTS

As we reported in July 1997, the draft plan did not meet all the
requirements of the Results Act.  It fully addressed two of the six
required elements of the Results Act--the mission statement and goals
and objectives--partially addressed a third, and acknowledged that
three others needed to be completed for the September plan. 
Furthermore, the draft plan did not expressly link its missions,
goals, objectives, and strategies with DOE's relevant major statutory
responsibilities, although we noted that the missions and activities
defined in DOE's draft plan were generally supported by legislation
and that the draft plan accurately reflected all of DOE's major
legislative requirements.  However, we observed that DOE's missions
have evolved from those that Congress envisioned when it created the
Department in 1977 and that the Results Act provides a forum through
which Congress can review the appropriateness of these missions. 

Our July 1997 report also noted that the draft plan did not identify
programs and activities that are crosscutting or similar to those of
other federal agencies.  In addition, some of the draft plan's
measures addressing management challenges appeared limited in scope
or were unclear.  Finally, we noted several weaknesses in the
information system that DOE uses to track performance measures. 

In addition to our July report, the Secretary of Energy requested our
continued involvement in refining DOE's plan.  On September 2, 1997,
we provided the Department with our comments on its revised draft
strategic plan--dated August 15, 1997 (Results Act:  Observations on
the Department of Energy's August 15, 1997, Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/RCED-97-248R).  In that report, we noted that the revised draft
plan was much improved over the earlier draft.  Specifically, the
revised plan included all six elements required by the Results Act. 
However, we reported that some of the strategies and many of the
measures still did not appear to be results oriented. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN DOE'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

DOE's September 30, 1997, strategic plan incorporated several
improvements that make it more responsive to the requirements of the
Results Act than was the June draft plan.  In July, we observed that
DOE's draft plan fully addressed two of the six required elements of
the Results Act--the mission statement and goals and
objectives--partially addressed a third, and acknowledged that three
others needed to be completed for the September plan.  The September
plan complies with the Results Act requirements by including the
remaining three sections and fully developing the third by adding a
discussion of resource requirements.  In describing its resource
requirements, the September plan states that the Department assumed
budget appropriations consistent with the administration's and
Congress' agreed-upon 5-year budget deficit reduction targets through
fiscal year 2002. 

Our July report also observed that the draft plan did not expressly
link its missions, goals, objectives, and strategies with DOE's
relevant major statutory responsibilities.  The September plan now
shows the linkage between the Department's business line objectives
and its relevant major statutory responsibilities. 

Furthermore, DOE's strategic plan now acknowledges--in its discussion
of key external factors--that the Department participates in some
crosscutting government functions and initiatives that are beyond the
mission of any one agency.  While the plan does not describe how DOE
will work in concert with other agencies, it does acknowledge DOE's
commitment to work closely with other federal agencies, OMB, and
Congress to ensure that its programs provide critical and unique
contributions to these crosscutting efforts. 

DOE'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

DOE did not adopt all of the suggested improvements noted in our July
and September reports.  These suggestions were based on several of
our past reports and represent areas in which we have had
disagreements with DOE in the past.  However, we still believe that
if the Department made these suggested changes--as outlined in our
July and September reports--the plan would better address the goals
of the Results Act. 

One such example that we identified in our September report relates
to an evaluation that we made concerning the vulnerability of U.S. 
oil supplies to disruptions.\1 On the basis of that report, we
believe that DOE's measures for its objective to "reduce the
vulnerability of the U.S.  economy to disruptions in energy supplies"
are not very useful indicators of how the Department's programs will
affect the economy's vulnerability.  DOE's measures are based on six
strategies:  to (1) support activities capable of ending the decline
in domestic oil production, (2) maintain an effective Strategic
Petroleum Reserve, (3) diversify the international supply of oil and
gas, (4) develop alternative transportation fuels and more efficient
vehicles, (5) maximize the productivity of federal oil fields, and
(6) take measures to avoid and respond to domestic energy
disruptions.  However, our report on the vulnerability of oil
supplies observed that, in today's world oil market, replacing oil
imports with domestically produced oil would only marginally lower
the potential costs of disruptions because oil prices are set in the
global marketplace and the price for all oil rises during
disruptions. 

While we agree that one of DOE's strategies--diversify the
international supplies--can lead to measures that contribute to
reducing the vulnerability of the U.S.  economy to disruptions in the
energy supply, our vulnerability report offers five other factors
that we believe would better focus DOE's efforts in developing
strategies and measures for its objective of reducing the
vulnerability to energy supply disruptions:  (1) excess world oil
production capacity, (2) the oil intensity of the U.S.  economy, (3)
the oil dependency of the U.S.  transportation sector, (4) world oil
stocks, and (5) the dependence of the U.S.  economy on oil imports. 

Finally, our July report noted several weaknesses in the information
system that DOE uses to track performance measures.  However, DOE's
September 1997 strategic plan makes no reference to these problems. 
We still believe that DOE will need to modify the information system
it anticipates using to track the strategic plan's performance
measures and identify management problems.  In addition, we also
noted that the information used to update the tracking system depends
on various other information systems that we and DOE's Inspector
General have found contain incomplete or inaccurate information. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

While DOE's strategic plan is organized along four business
lines--energy resources, national security, environmental quality,
and science and technology--the agency is organized by program, and
it is not clear from the plan which program offices are accountable
for implementing the different sections of the plan.  For example,
several of the Department's program offices have science missions,
including the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology and
the Office of Energy Research; the Office of Nonproliferation and
National Security and the Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs
have defense missions.  However, the plan does not describe how the
Department's current organizational alignment is suited to the plan's
four business lines, nor does it provide a matrix showing which
program offices will be held accountable for implementing each
section of the plan. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

On October 10, 1997, we met with DOE officials, including the Acting
Director, Office of Strategic Planning, Budget and Program
Evaluation, to obtain the Department's comments on our observations
about its strategic plan.  DOE officials made three points.  First,
they stated that development of performance measures is
difficult--especially in the science area--and that they recognize
the need to continually work to improve these measures. 

Second, in reference to the disagreements that they had with some of
the policy positions of our past reports, they noted that these
differences will continue; however, they do not believe that they are
strategic planning differences.  We disagree because such differences
have an impact on the substance of the plan.  For example, if DOE
uses incorrect measures, it will not know if it has achieved its
goals and objectives. 

Finally, the officials acknowledged that DOE's strategic plan does
not show program accountability but stated that the Department has
developed a draft matrix document that provides a crosswalk between
its performance measures and the programs.  They also pointed out
that after the Department-level matrix is completed, each program
will need to cascade performance measure accountability to it
subunits. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Victor S.  Rezendes, Director, Energy, Resources, and Sciences
Issues; Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division,
(202) 512-3841. 


--------------------
\1 Energy Security:  Evaluating U.S.  Vulnerability to Oil Supply
Disruptions and Options for Mitigating Their Effects (GAO/RCED-97-6,
Dec.  12, 1996). 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES'
STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================= Appendix VII

On July 11, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of Health and
Human Services' (HHS) draft strategic plan (The Results Act: 
Observations on the Department of Health and Human Services' April
1997 Draft Strategic Plan, GAO/HEHS-97-173R).  HHS submitted its
revised strategic plan to the Office of Management and Budget and
Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested, we reviewed the
revised plan and briefed your staffs on our observations.  The key
points from that briefing are summarized herein, together with a
brief overview of our comments on the initial HHS plan. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

We found HHS' draft strategic plan to be missing most of the key
elements required by the Results Act and to be more a summary of
current programs than a document projecting actions HHS might take in
the next several years to achieve the goals of the Act.  Although HHS
had developed a mission statement that successfully captured the
broad array of its activities, the draft plan did not define
measurable goals and objectives, describe approaches to achieving
these goals and objectives, describe the relationship between
long-term goals and objectives and annual performance, identify key
external factors beyond HHS' control, or describe how program
evaluations were used to establish or revise strategic goals. 

Furthermore, although the draft strategic plan recognized that many
different HHS operating divisions and programs are responsible for
meeting each of HHS' goals, it did not discuss strategies for
coordinating such efforts, nor did it discuss HHS' need to coordinate
its work with other federal agencies. 

Finally, we observed that HHS faces many major management challenges
in carrying out both its program responsibilities and the type of
strategic planning and performance measurement the Results Act
requires.  Two challenges that we highlighted were HHS' reliance on
state, local, and private agencies to carry out many programs for
which it is responsible and HHS' maintenance of financial management
and program integrity.  Although we believed HHS was aware of these
challenges, its plan did not address them.  By acknowledging these
challenges in its plan, however, we pointed out that HHS could foster
a more useful dialogue with Congress about its goals and the
strategies for achieving them. 

IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN HHS'
STRATEGIC PLAN

HHS' revised strategic plan incorporated many of the elements that
were missing from its earlier draft, making it a more useful document
and one that is more responsive to the requirements of the Results
Act.  The current strategic plan includes all six critical elements
as required by the Act.  The most notable improvement is in the
plan's outline of objectives for accomplishing HHS' six strategic
goals.  The objectives are largely focused on outcomes, such as
reducing the use of illicit drugs, and they are defined in measurable
terms, such as increasing the percentage of the nation's children and
adults who have health insurance coverage.  The plan also identifies
for each strategic objective the key measures of progress.  For
example, the two measures to determine the reduction of tobacco use
are the rate of tobacco use among the young and rate of smoking among
adults. 

HHS also added descriptions of its efforts to coordinate both
internally among its operating divisions and externally with other
departments and agencies.  It describes, for example, a range of
approaches to improve internal coordination among the various
operating divisions, such as special initiatives managed by two or
more operating divisions and coordinating councils that integrate
planning and policy development across HHS.  The discussions of
several strategic objectives include a recognition of the need to
cooperate with other departments and agencies.  For example, the plan
indicates that HHS' substance abuse treatment and prevention programs
will work with the Health Resources and Services Administration as
well as the Departments of Education and Justice to support an
initiative to provide information to communities on the incidence of
street and gang violence, domestic violence, and substance abuse and
violence. 

The plan is also improved by HHS' discussion of three types of
challenges that could significantly affect its ability to achieve its
strategic goals--external factors, management issues, and data
administration.  The plan discusses these issues as general obstacles
to achieving the Department's overall goals.  Moreover, it describes
the Department's current status in improving performance with respect
to these specific issues. 

STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE FURTHER
IMPROVED

As its strategic planning process evolves, HHS' plan should continue
to reflect its progress toward results-oriented management.  In the
meantime, however, we observed several opportunities for further
improvements in the plan. 

The greatest opportunities for improvement, in our view, are in HHS'
discussion of its strategies for accomplishing its objectives. 
First, its strategies are not clearly linked to the attendant
measures of success, making it difficult to determine how the
strategies would contribute to the desired outcomes.  For example, to
increase the economic independence of families on welfare, the plan
specifies three strategies--providing technical assistance, promoting
employment, and improving access to child care.  The four measures of
success for economic independence, however, are all related to
employment, with no apparent relationship to the strategies for child
care or technical assistance. 

Second, the plan does not discuss the effectiveness of the outlined
strategies, making no mention of either existing evaluations to
indicate what is known about the effectiveness of these strategies or
plans for future evaluation to determine their effectiveness.  For
example, some of the strategies were built around a common HHS
approach to support state-administered programs:  technical
assistance, training, and identifying and disseminating best
practices.  Yet, we have found in our work on these programs that
there have been problems in implementing such strategies:  in some
cases, HHS' technical assistance was inadequate, the capacity of
regional offices to provide assistance and training was limited, and
the dissemination of research and best practices was lacking.  In
addition to drawing on past evaluations, HHS' plans should identify
future evaluations to determine how well its strategies are working. 

Third, the plan does not discuss the resources required to implement
the strategies.  For example, strategies to enhance the fiscal
integrity of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) programs
include consolidation of Medicare payment systems to improve HHS'
ability to identify aberrant billing and improve payment accuracy. 
However, there is no mention of the resources necessary to implement
such a strategy. 

Fourth, although the plan identifies key external factors that affect
achievement of the strategic objectives, there is little discussion
of how HHS intends to ameliorate these factors.  For example, a key
external factor to achieving a number of objectives is the state of
the economy, yet the plan does not indicate how the strategies will
adjust to changes in the economy. 

While the plan reflects a recognition of management and information
challenges to achieving HHS' goals, including those mentioned in our
July correspondence, it provides little discussion of potential
solutions.  For example, the plan acknowledges HHS' reliance on
state, local, and tribal government organizations, contractors, and
private entities and mentions the need to coordinate with them but is
less specific on how it would do so. 

Similarly, HHS' plan recognizes the importance of improving its
financial management information.  In July, we reported that HHS had
not addressed its problems in complying with the Government
Management Reform Act of 1994 (GMRA), which would furnish
decisionmakers with reliable, consistent financial data.  While the
revised plan acknowledges that obtaining an unqualified or clean
opinion on its financial statements is a fundamental and critical
objective and challenge for HHS, it does not specify the corrective
actions and timetables to address these concerns. 

With respect to information technology, we noted in our July
correspondence that the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and the
Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 set forth requirements that promote more
efficient and effective use of information technology to support
agency missions and improve program performance.  While the plan
identified several information technology initiatives that may help
HHS achieve some program objectives, the plan does not discuss how
HHS intends to identify and coordinate information technology
investments in support of overall Department-wide goals and missions. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

We provided HHS officials with a draft of this appendix.  While they
were pleased that we recognized the improvements made to the plan,
they agreed that the plan can be further improved.  In their view,
strategic planning is a continuous process; ongoing assessments and
updates will be needed to strengthen the plan and ensure that it
continues to provide relevant direction for their program activities. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Bernice Steinhardt, Director, Health Services Quality and Public
Health Issues; Resources, Community, and Economic Development
Division, (202) 512-7119. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT'S
STRATEGIC PLAN
======================================================== Appendix VIII

On August 8, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of Housing
and Urban Development's (HUD) draft strategic plan (Results Act: 
Observations on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's
Draft Strategic Plan, GAO/RCED-97-224R).  HUD submitted its strategic
plan to OMB and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested, we
have reviewed the strategic plan and compared it with the
observations in our August report.  On October 14, 1997, we briefed
your staffs on our further observations on the strategic plan.  The
key points from that briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR AUGUST REPORT

HUD's draft strategic plan included five of the six components
required by the Results Act.  The plan was missing a description of
how program evaluations were used in establishing the strategic
objectives, including a schedule of future evaluations.  Also, HUD's
treatment of the other five required components did not yet fully
comply with the Results Act or OMB's guidance.  The draft included
two separate mission statements, which did not define the agency's
basic purpose or focus on its core programs.  One of the statements,
which focused on restoring the public's trust, was not clearly
supported by HUD's strategic objectives.  While the strategic
objectives covered HUD's major program activities, they did not
clearly describe how HUD would assess whether it was making progress
toward achieving those objectives.  Also, the discussion of HUD's
strategies to achieve its objectives and the relationship of annual
performance goals to the strategic objectives was missing a
discussion of the resources needed and the type of information needed
for its performance goals.  The draft strategic plan only partially
met the requirements of the Results Act to describe key factors that
are external to an agency and beyond its control that could
significantly affect the achievement of its objectives.  The plan
also did not cover the time frames specified by the Results Act. 

The draft strategic plan generally reflected consideration of HUD's
key authorizing statutes.  The draft also discussed HUD's
consultation process and its many community partnerships but did not
reflect whether the Department coordinated with other federal
agencies and did not identify programs or activities that were
crosscutting or similar to those of other agencies. 

HUD's draft strategic plan acknowledged that it faced significant
management challenges and broadly described how these problems would
be addressed.  However, we observed that HUD could improve the plan
by more fully integrating its management reform plan\1

with the strategic plan and providing specific information about how
the plan addressed the Department's financial and management
information weaknesses.  HUD's capacity to provide reliable
information on the achievement of its strategic objectives was
uncertain because the draft strategic plan had not yet been developed
sufficiently to identify the types and sources of the data needed to
evaluate progress.  The plan identified some annual performance goals
for which obtaining reliable data could be difficult because of the
weaknesses associated with HUD's current financial and management
information systems. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN THE STRATEGIC
PLAN

HUD's September 30, 1997, strategic plan covers all six components
required by the Results Act and incorporates many improvements that
make it more responsive to the requirements of the Act. 
Specifically, the plan discusses past evaluations and refines HUD's
mission statement.  The new mission statement clearly identifies
HUD's role in achieving the nation's housing mission.  However, the
language remains very broad in terms of how HUD can empower
communities and individuals to succeed.  A mission statement related
to the management reforms was reworked and is now included in the
plan as the Secretary's personal mission to emphasize the importance
the Secretary places on these reforms.  The strategic plan also links
the strategic objectives and the annual performance goals, expands
the discussion of external factors, and covers the appropriate time
frame.  Additionally, the revised plan addresses HUD's consultation
process and interagency coordination efforts.  The strategic plan
discusses HUD's ongoing and planned coordination with the Departments
of Health and Human Services and Labor.  This coordination will give
HUD the opportunity to identify in future plan updates any programs
that complement or duplicate those administered by other federal
agencies. 

HUD has also improved the discussion of the management problems it
faces and the corrective actions it plans to take.  The strategic
plan now includes (1) an explanation of the agency's current efforts
to integrate its program and financial management systems and clean
up the data in those systems, (2) a discussion of HUD's plans to
address the issues that led to a qualified opinion on the agency's
financial statements for fiscal year 1996, (3) a discussion of the
reform efforts that will affect each objective, and (4) an appendix
that lists the management reform goals to be completed in fiscal year
1998.  The plan also includes a brief discussion of HUD's efforts to
ensure the quality of performance measurement data by requiring
program offices to develop quality assurance plans that will be
reviewed and approved by the Chief Financial Officer.  However, the
agency's ability to accurately measure progress in achieving its
strategic objectives is uncertain because doing so depends on
completing its goal of integrating program and financial management
systems, cleaning up the data in most of HUD's existing systems, and
receiving accurate reporting from local and federal entities. 
Despite the improvements in the discussion of HUD's management
problems, the plan lacks details on how the agency will address the
internal control weaknesses reported by the Office of Inspector
General in the agency's financial statement audit report. 

STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE FURTHER
IMPROVED

Some elements of HUD's strategic plan could be further improved to
better meet the purposes of the Results Act.  HUD will have an
opportunity to address these issues as the strategic plan evolves
further over time. 

  -- While the plan includes a listing of the program evaluations
     under each objective, it does not describe how the evaluations
     were used to develop the strategic objectives and does not
     include a schedule of future evaluations.  Although wording was
     added to the plan stating that evaluation schedules are
     determined on an annual basis, the plan does not include a
     schedule, which is required by the Results Act. 

  -- HUD's discussion of its strategies does not discuss the staff,
     capital, and technology resources needed to achieve the
     Department's strategic objectives, as called for by the Results
     Act.  This issue is a critical one for HUD because of its
     downsizing efforts and planned organizational changes. 

  -- While the discussion of external factors was expanded, the plan
     does not discuss the impact on the strategic plan or on HUD's
     programs if the legislative proposals discussed in the plan are
     not enacted.  Additionally, some of the discussions indicate
     that the external factors may have such a great impact on the
     strategic objectives that HUD may not be able to achieve its
     objectives.  For example, under the strategic objective to
     provide self-sufficiency opportunities for low-income
     individuals, the plan states that HUD has no direct control over
     the extent to which funds will be used to address this
     objective.  Furthermore, the plan states that "realistically,
     relatively few people who have reached their 30s with little
     education, with families, and little work history, will achieve
     great success in this economy."

  -- While HUD included additional information to aid in the
     assessment of the strategic objectives, it is not yet clear
     whether the achievement of a number of the objectives will be
     assessable.  The evaluation component is not yet complete, the
     discussions of strategies omit significant information about
     resources, and the discussions of external factors indicate that
     HUD sees significant impediments to achieving its objectives. 
     As HUD is developing future strategic plan updates and annual
     performance plans, additional consideration should be given to
     what each objective is intended to achieve and how that can best
     be assessed. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

We provided HUD with a draft of this section of the report for review
and comment.  We met with HUD officials from the Office of the Chief
Financial Officer and the Office of Policy Development and Research,
who generally agreed with our observations.  They said that
information in the annual performance reports and the next update of
the plan, which should be available around the end of fiscal year
1998, together should address our observations.  Additionally, they
said HUD prefers to keep the strategic objectives broad so that the
program offices maintain a long-term focus and continue to think of
ways to achieve the objectives. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Judy A.  England-Joseph, Director, Housing and Community Development
Issues; Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division,
(202) 512-7631. 


--------------------
\1 On June 26, 1997, HUD announced its HUD 2020 Management Reform
Plan to address the ongoing operational, informational, and
management concerns. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
THE INTERIOR'S STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================== Appendix IX

On July 18, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of the
Interior's draft strategic plan (The Results Act:  Observations on
the Department of Interior's Draft Strategic Plan, GAO/RCED-97-207R). 
Interior formally submitted its strategic plan to OMB and Congress on
September 29, 1997.  As requested, we have reviewed the publicly
issued strategic plan and compared it with the observations in our
July 18 report.  On October 14, 1997, we briefed your staffs on our
further observations on the strategic plan.  The key points from that
briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

Interior's draft strategic plan did not meet the requirements of the
Results Act.  The Department-wide strategic overview contained the
Department's overall mission and goals and referred to the plans of
its eight components or subagencies for information on the six
elements required by the Act.  However, half of the eight subagency
plans lacked at least two of the six required elements.  Furthermore,
the overall quality of the plan was not yet sufficient to achieve the
purposes of the Act.  Among other things, it did not provide clear
linkages between the subagencies' goals and objectives and the
contributions of these goals and objectives to the Department's major
goals, and some of the goals and objectives in the subagencies' plans
were not stated in a manner to allow for a future assessment of
whether the goals have been achieved. 

We pointed out that Interior has a number of crosscutting areas in
which a more coordinated strategic planning process would help to
provide Department-wide information on programs' results.  These
include environmental protection and remediation, stewardship assets,
Indian programs, land and natural resources management, and
recreation programs. 

Although Interior identified information management resource goals in
its strategic plan, how it plans to achieve and measure the success
of those goals was not clearly delineated.  Traditionally, Interior
has allowed its subagencies to independently acquire and manage
information technology.  This culture has resulted in inefficiencies
in technology investments and information sharing. 

We also noted that Interior needs to continue to address certain
accounting and financial management internal control weaknesses,
including, among other things, weaknesses in accounting for
investments in fixed assets and project cost accounting controls. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN THE STRATEGIC
PLAN

The September 1997 strategic plan--the Department's strategic
overview plan as well as each of the eight subagencies'
plans--incorporates several improvements that make it more responsive
to the requirements of the Results Act than was the draft plan.  As a
whole, the plan provides a clearer presentation of how it covers the
six required elements of the Act by providing explicit linkages
between the requirements of the Act and the relevant parts of the
plan.  Furthermore, each of the four subagencies that had lacked a
number of required elements in the draft plans has added or further
developed many of these elements in the issued plan.  In particular,
each of these four subagencies--the National Park Service (NPS), Fish
and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and
Minerals Management Service (MMS)--added material to address the
relationship between long-term goals and performance goals.  In
addition, both BIA and FWS have included discussions of the
approaches or strategies they will use to achieve their respective
goals and objectives--information that was not present in the draft
plans for these subagencies.  Also, additional information was added
to the overview section of the plan to more fully explain the
Department's approach to program evaluations. 

In addition to more fully addressing several required elements, the
September 1997 overview and subagencies' plans now contain explicit
linkages between the subagencies' goals and objectives and the
contributions of these goals and objectives to the Department's goals
and commitments.  Also, many of the goals included in the issued plan
have been restated in a quantitative manner.  These are positive
changes and will facilitate a future assessment of whether the goals
have been or are being achieved. 

Consistent with the suggestions in our July report, Interior included
a section in the departmental overview discussing its current efforts
to address crosscutting issues throughout the Department and its
strategy for further coordination.  Interior's strategic plan also
includes a more aggressive goal for addressing internal control
weaknesses.  Additionally, a section has been added that specifically
discusses accountability for personal, real, and museum property
(fixed assets).  The plan also discusses integrating the personal and
real property systems with financial and procurement systems that
would appear to represent progress toward attaining project cost
accounting. 

INTERIOR'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

There are a number of aspects of Interior's plan that still can be
improved to better meet the purposes of the Results Act.  In
particular, some of the subagencies--BIA, the Bureau of Reclamation
(BOR), FWS, and NPS--need to more fully develop the program
evaluation component of their plans.  While each of these
subagencies, as well as the departmental overview, has made revisions
to its draft plan in this area, the revisions still do not provide a
complete understanding of specifically how program evaluations were
used in developing the plan or what future evaluations will be done
and when for each of the subagencies.  Including this kind of
information is important because without it, it is difficult for both
the subagencies and other users of the plan to have confidence that
the goals are the correct ones and that the strategies will be
effective. 

Furthermore, while the subagencies have made progress in restating a
number of their goals and objectives in a more measurable way as we
suggested in our July report, this area of the plan still can to be
improved.  Many of the goals and objectives are still process
oriented, not results oriented, and/or expressed in a manner that
will make meaningful performance measurement difficult.  For example,
one of the strategic goals in FWS' plan states that:  "By 2002, the
current maintenance backlog will be reduced annually." As stated, it
is not clear what level of performance is expected or will be
considered acceptable in achieving this goal.  We observed similar
difficulties in several of the subagencies' plans. 

While the September 1997 plan now includes a discussion of ongoing
efforts to coordinate a number of crosscutting issues facing the
Department and identifies its future approach in this area, the plan
still does not explicitly address the crosscutting issues identified
in our July report.  These included the Department's environmental
protection and remediation, stewardship assets, Indian programs, land
and natural resource management, and recreation programs. 

In our July report, we noted that the plan needed to more fully
address information management issues.  This need still exists in the
September plan.  In the September plan, Interior has identified goals
and actions needed to implement the provisions of the Paperwork
Reduction Act of 1995 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 but does not
clearly describe how it plans to achieve, or to measure its success
in achieving, its goals.  Also, Interior needs to explain how it
plans to address the Year 2000 problem as well as significant
information security weaknesses--two issues that we have identified
as high risk across the federal government.\1 Furthermore, the
September plan now states that Interior's critical information
systems will be Year 2000 compliant by September 30, 2000--9 months
after the January 1, 2000, deadline.\2

AGENCY COMMENTS AND OUR EVALUATION

On October 10, 1997, we met with Interior officials, including the
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget and Finance, to obtain the
Department's comments on our observations about its strategic plan. 
Interior believes that the September 1997 plan meets the requirements
of the Results Act.  However, the Department acknowledges that
improvements can be made in several areas.  Interior noted that the
development of its strategic plan is an iterative process and that
future versions of the plan will address areas in which we and others
show a need for improvement.  Furthermore, in connection with
crosscutting issues, Interior commented that it believes that its
current efforts and initiatives in this area are sufficient. 
However, in our view, focusing on results implies that federal
programs' contribution to the same or similar results should be
closely coordinated to ensure that goals are consistent and that, as
appropriate, program efforts are mutually reinforcing.  In connection
with information management issues, Interior commented that it has
detailed plans to address Year 2000 issues and does not believe the
level of detail that we suggested is necessary for inclusion in a
strategic plan.  We continue to believe that clear discussions of
Year 2000 and information security issues would strengthen the
strategic plan and provide linkages for its operational plans.  This
disclosure would help Congress, departmental customers, and the
general public to better understand the Department's goals,
strategies, and measures. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Victor S.  Rezendes, Director, Energy, Resources, and Science Issues;
Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, (202)
512-3841. 


--------------------
\1 GAO High-Risk Series (GAO/HR-97-20, Feb.  1997). 

\2 Interior officials told us that the September 30, 2000, date that
appears in the issued plan is a typographical error.  According to
these officials, the date should be September 30, 1999.  They told us
they will be issuing an errata sheet correcting this error. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE'S STRATEGIC PLAN
=========================================================== Appendix X

On July 11, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of Justice's
February draft strategic plan (The Results Act:  Observations on the
Department of Justice's February 1997 Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/GGD-97-153R).  On August 15, 1997, Justice revised its plan and
we testified on September 30 on the plan's compliance with the Act's
requirements (Results Act:  Comments on Justice's August Draft
Strategic Plan, GAO/T-GGD-97-184).  Justice's formally issued
strategic plan was submitted to OMB and Congress on September 30,
1997.  As requested, we have reviewed the issued strategic plan and
compared it with the observations in our July 11 report and September
30 testimony.  On October 7, 1997, we briefed your staffs on our
further observations on the strategic plan.  The key points from that
briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT AND OUR SEPTEMBER
TESTIMONY

In response to comments on its February strategic plan, Justice
revised its plan in August.  The revised plan addressed many of the
issues we raised in our July report. 

In our July report, we pointed out that of the six elements required
by the Act, three--the relationship between long-term goals and the
annual performance plans, the key external factors that could affect
Justice's ability to meet its goals, and a program evaluation
component--were not specifically identified in the draft plan.  The
remaining three elements--the mission statement, goals and
objectives, and strategies to achieve those goals and
objectives--were discussed, but each had weaknesses.  The most
important of these were that the mission statement did not cover a
major statutory responsibility, goals and objectives were not
consistently as results oriented or measurable as they could have
been, and strategies were not fully developed. 

In addition, we observed that the February draft plan could be more
useful to Justice, Congress, and other stakeholders if it provided a
more explicit discussion of (1) crosscutting activities, (2) major
management challenges, and (3) Justice's capacity to provide reliable
information to manage its programs or determine if it is achieving
its strategic goals.  Recognizing crosscutting issues and the
coordination required to address them is particularly important for
Justice because, as the federal government's attorney, it helps the
various federal law enforcement agencies enforce the law in federal
courts.  Explicit consideration of major management challenges,
including the capacity to produce reliable information for management
decisionmaking, is important because these challenges could affect
Justice's ability to develop and meet its goals. 

In our September testimony, we pointed out that Justice's August
draft plan discussed, to some degree, five of the six required
elements--a mission statement, goals and objectives, key external
factors, a program evaluation component, and strategies to achieve
the goals and objectives.  The August draft plan did not include a
required discussion on the relationship between Justice's long-term
goals/objectives and its annual performance plans. 

In addition, we noted that the August draft plan could have better
addressed how Justice plans to (1) coordinate with other federal,
state, and local agencies that perform similar law enforcement
functions, such as the Defense and State Departments with regard to
counter-terrorism; (2) address the many management challenges it
faces in carrying out its mission, such as internal control and
accounting problems; and (3) increase its capacity to provide
performance information for assessing its progress in meeting the
goals and objectives over the next 5 years. 

IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN
JUSTICE'S STRATEGIC PLAN

Justice's issued strategic plan incorporated several improvements
that make it more responsive to the requirements of the Results Act
than were the February and August draft plans.  Its September plan
discusses each of the Act's required elements.  In particular,
Justice added in its August plan a discussion of eight key external
factors that could significantly affect achievement of its long-term
goals, information that is helpful to Congress in its consideration
of Justice's plan.  However, information about alternatives that
could reduce the potential impact of these external factors was not
provided. 

In addition, Justice's August strategic plan included a discussion of
the role program evaluation is to play in Justice's strategic
planning efforts.  Justice recognized that it has done few formal
evaluations of Justice programs in the past, but the plan
acknowledged that sound program evaluation is an essential aspect of
achieving the purposes of the Act and stated that Justice plans to
examine its evaluation approach to better align evaluations with
strategic planning efforts.  Further, Justice pointed out that it
will continue to improve its efforts to benefit from our evaluations. 
This element of the plan could be more helpful to decisionmakers if
it identified future planned evaluations and their general scope and
time frames, as encouraged by OMB strategic plan guidance. 

Consistent with suggestions in our July report, Justice included in
its issued strategic plan a discussion of its management functions
that address (1) its process for managing its information technology
investments, steps taken to provide security over its information
systems, and strategy to ensure that computer systems accommodate
dates beyond the year 2000; and (2) aspects of its internal control
processes that identify management weaknesses and vulnerabilities. 
Justice also added a discussion on "accountability," debt collection,
and asset forfeiture.  However, the plan would be more helpful if it
included a discussion of corrective actions Justice has planned for
significant internally and externally identified management
weaknesses, as well as how it plans to monitor the implementation of
such actions.  In addition, the plan does not address how Justice
will correct significant problems identified during the Inspector
General's fiscal year 1996 financial statement audits, such as
inadequate safeguarding and accounting for physical assets and
weaknesses in the internal controls over data processing operations. 

JUSTICE'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

Several elements of Justice's issued strategic plan could be further
improved to better meet the purposes of the Results Act.  In
particular, some of the plan's goals and objectives still were not
stated in as results oriented or measurable a form as they could be,
and some of the strategies to achieve the goals and objectives did
not clearly explain how and to what extent Justice programs would
contribute to achieving the goals, how its resources are to be
utilized to achieve the goals, or how Justice plans to assess
progress in meeting those goals.  For example, Justice has a goal to
maximize deterrents to unlawful immigration by reducing the
incentives of unauthorized employment and entitlements.  It is
likewise unclear how Justice will be able to determine the effect of
its efforts to deter unlawful immigration, compared to the effect of
changes in the economic and political conditions in countries from
which illegal aliens originated.  In addition, Justice's mission
statement, which we observed in July as seeming to be incomplete
because it omitted one of its largest budget items--detention and
incarceration function--was not changed. 

One of the elements required by the Results Act was missing when we
reviewed the February and August draft plans--the relationship
between long-term goals and objectives and annual performance plans. 
In its September plan, Justice added a discussion of the relationship
between the strategic plan and the annual performance plan.  In its
discussion, Justice points out that its first annual performance plan
will cover fiscal year 1999 activities and be submitted to Congress
in calendar year 1998, together with the President's budget.  The
performance plan is to contain (1) a Department-wide summary plan,
organized by strategic goals, that reflects high level and
crosscutting annual goals and indicators and (2) more detailed
component and appropriation-specific performance information. 
Justice added that goals and indicators will be supportive of, and
derived from, those set forth in the strategic plan.  Recognizing
that the linkage between the strategic plan and the annual
performance plan is a critical element of the Act, Justice said that
it has revised its internal processes to ensure that the strategic
plan serves as the foundation for the development of annual budgets
and performance plans.  In our opinion, Justice's September strategic
plan could better meet the purposes of the Act by discussing, as
contained in OMB guidance, (1) the type, nature, and scope of the
performance goals to be included in its performance plan; (2) the
relation between the performance goals and the general goals and
objectives; and (3) the relevance and use of performance goals in
helping determine the achievement of general goals and objectives. 
This information is important because the linkage between the goals
and objectives and annual performance plan provides a basis for
judging whether an agency is making progress toward achieving its
long-term goals, not just its annual goals, which would be reflected
in the annual performance plan. 

We observed that the February and August draft plans did not include
a discussion of how Justice's activities would be coordinated with
other related crosscutting law enforcement activities.  The issued
strategic plan includes a goal to coordinate and integrate law
enforcement activities wherever possible and to cooperate fully with
other federal agencies.  However, the plan could better serve the
purposes of the Results Act by discussing how Justice plans to
implement that goal and to measure and assess inputs, outputs, and
outcomes to achieve crosscutting law enforcement goals. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

On October 14, 1997, we obtained oral comments from Justice
officials, including the Director, Management and Planning Staff, on
a draft of our analysis and observations of Justice's issued
strategic plan.  They said that our analysis and observations fairly
represent Justice's strategic plan. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Norman J.  Rabkin, Director, Administration of Justice Issues;
General Government Division, (202) 512-8777. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
LABOR'S STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================== Appendix XI

On July 11, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of Labor's
draft strategic plan (The Results Act:  Observations on Department of
Labor's June 1997 Draft Strategic Plan, GAO/HEHS-97-172R).  Labor
formally submitted its plan to OMB and Congress on September 30,
1997.  As requested, we have reviewed this strategic plan and
compared it with the observations in our earlier report.  On October
16, 1997, we briefed your staffs on our further observations on the
strategic plan.  The key points from that briefing are summarized
herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

To meet the Results Act requirements for a strategic plan, Labor
submitted individual plans for 15 of its 24 component offices or
subunits, which it supplemented with a "strategic plan overview." In
one case, one of Labor's offices--the Employment Standards
Administration (ESA)--did not submit a plan itself, but instead
submitted plans for the four subunits under its responsibility.\1
While OMB Circular No.  A-11 provides agencies discretion to submit
strategic plans that cover only major functions or operations, Labor
provided no indication as to why its other offices or subunits did
not provide plans. 

We reported that neither the overview nor the component plans fully
met the Act's requirements or OMB guidance.  For example, the
overview's mission statement was not sufficiently descriptive of
Labor's basic purpose, and the overview did not include elements
identified by the Act, such as strategies to achieve goals or
evaluations used to establish goals.  Further, a majority of the
component plans did not include all of the elements required by the
Act, such as the strategies to achieve the goals or key factors
affecting goal attainment.  We noted that the overview would be more
useful if it included all of the elements identified by the Act and,
regarding the mission statement specifically, if it communicated more
about Labor's purpose, referring to such basic responsibilities as
job skills development, job placement, and worker protection. 

We also reported that the overview did not include Department-wide,
overarching goals that would facilitate Labor's functioning as a
unified organization with central direction.  Instead, the overview
excerpted and listed the goals contained in the component unit plans
organized around three broad programmatic categories that were not
developed into goals.  We observed that Department-wide goals
enunciated by the Secretary in recent congressional testimony could
serve as the basis from which to develop Department-wide goals that
are results oriented and set out the long-term programmatic policy
and management goals of the agency. 

We found that the goals in the overview and in the component plans
were generally consistent with Labor's statutory responsibilities,
and the plans generally covered all of Labor's major functions and
operations. 

Regarding crosscutting issues, we reported that the strategic
overview recognized the roles of other organizations in carrying out
particular functions and the importance of establishing partnerships
with these organizations to carry out such functions.  However, we
indicated that the overview could be improved if it recognized the
importance and number of other participants--namely, the other 14
federal agencies--involved in one major area of responsibility--job
training.  In so doing, Labor could discuss how its programs fit in
with a broader national job training strategy.  We also found that
the Labor officials responsible for preparing the plan and monitoring
its progress had not consulted with congressional staff regarding the
overview or the component plans. 

Finally, we reported that the strategic overview highlighted the need
for information and data systems to ensure timely and sound
evaluations to assess agency progress in meeting its goals.  However,
the overview did not describe Labor's strategy for ensuring that this
kind of information was collected and used to assess progress and
performance.  The overview also did not discuss how Labor planned to
use information technology to achieve its mission, goals, and
objectives, or to improve performance and reduce costs.  We reported
that the plan could be improved by including a discussion of Labor's
investment technology process, including how Labor planned to address
the Year 2000 problem, or how Labor planned to comply with the
Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, which calls for agencies to implement
modern technology management to improve performance and meet
strategic goals. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN THE STRATEGIC
PLAN

Labor's formally issued strategic plan incorporates many improvements
that make it more responsive to the requirements in the Results Act. 
Labor maintained its original approach of submitting plans for its
component offices or subunits supplemented by a strategic overview. 
However, for this revision, 3 additional offices/subunits prepared
plans that had not prepared draft plans previously (including 1 that
has overall management responsibility for implementing the Results
Act) and the 4 plans originally submitted by ESA's subunits were
consolidated into 1 ESA-level plan for a total of 15 component-level
plans.  In its overview, Labor provided a rationale for the
components included, noting that ".  .  .  strategic plans have only
been required of the 15 program and management agencies of the
Department.  Several staff offices whose functions are in direct
support of the Secretary's office are not included."

Labor's strategic overview and all but 1 of the 15 component unit
plans\2 include all 6 elements.  Further, the overview's mission
statement now provides a more complete description of Labor's basic
purpose of "foster[ing] and promot[ing] the welfare of job seekers,
wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their
working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable
employment, and protecting their retirement investments." Moreover,
discussions of strategies to achieve goals and external factors that
could affect the achievement of goals are discussed alongside
individual goals, which facilitates the understanding of how
particular strategies and external factors are linked to each goal. 

The overview also appears to address Labor's traditionally
decentralized management approach, which has posed numerous
management challenges for Labor in the past.  For example, the
overview now contains five clearly articulated Department-wide goals
that are generally results oriented and that are consistent with
those recently enunciated by the Secretary.  The overview also
includes a sixth Department-wide goal of maintaining a departmental
strategic management process, which may be an indication of a renewed
emphasis by Labor to develop a more strategic approach to
departmental management.  Other indications of this renewed approach
to Department-wide leadership are evident in the similar
organizational style of each of the component plans and the clear
linkage between the strategic overview and the plans.  For example,
in the overview, the strategic goals of each of the units/offices are
highlighted under the appropriate Department-wide goal; and in each
of the plans for the offices/units, the office/unit strategic goals
are categorized according to the Department-wide goal to which they
correspond.  Further, the overview now includes a discussion of the
relationship between the goals in the annual performance plan and in
the strategic plan. 

The overview and component plans we reviewed continue to describe all
of Labor's major functions, and the goals are consistent with
relevant statutes. 

STRATEGIC OVERVIEW PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

Although Labor has made significant improvements to its strategic
plan overview, some sections in the overview may benefit from further
elaboration.  For example, the overview does not detail how
information from evaluations was used to develop the plan, nor does
it specify how future evaluations will help assess Labor's success in
achieving its stated goals.  Instead, the overview discusses the fact
that evaluations in the regulatory agencies have lagged behind those
in the employment and training area.  In that respect, it is even
more important that the overview provide schedules or time lines for
future evaluations, identify what evaluations will be done, and
highlight how future program evaluations will be used to improve
performance.  Along those lines, we had earlier reported that the
experiences of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) as a pilot could provide insight on how evaluations can be
managed.  OSHA has been involved in a number of activities geared
toward making the management improvements intended by the Results
Act.  Although it is not a requirement of the strategic planning
process, we continue to believe that a discussion in Labor's overview
related to the experiences gained from the OSHA pilot
project--including lessons learned and whether best practices or
other lessons could be applied Department-wide or in units with
similar functions--may prove helpful. 

Labor could also improve the overview by continuing to enhance the
discussion of crosscutting issues, such as coordination with others
who have similar roles for particular functions.  While the overview
does make reference to a few other organizations with
responsibilities in this area and notes that Labor will work with
them, there is no discussion of what specific strategies Labor will
use to realize efficiencies through coordination and possible
consolidation of job training programs in order to achieve a more
efficient employment training system. 

A more detailed discussion of internal coordination among those units
responsible for safety and health would also provide additional
benefits to the overview.  Several of the goals of the component
units responsible for ensuring safe and healthful workplaces-- such
as improving workplace safety and health or reducing workers'
exposure to hazards--are similar yet are listed separately for these
component units.  In order to encourage improved coordination between
these units, the overview may benefit from additional discussion on
how these agencies are working together to share information on
efficient enforcement and public education strategies or measurement
tools. 

The overview could also benefit from a more elaborate discussion of
the strategies Labor will use to ensure that its information
technology allows it to achieve its goals.  While the overview
continues to cite the vision of expanded use of technology across
Labor and its component units, the plan does not adequately discuss
the inclusion of a framework--sometimes called a systems
architecture--that will serve as a blueprint for developing and
maintaining integrated information systems.  Such a framework would
help ensure that the data being collected and maintained within Labor
are structured and stored in a manner that makes them consistent,
accessible, understandable, and useful.  The overview also still does
not include a clear, integrated, measurable Year 2000 strategy, which
may be needed to adequately consider the multitude of system and
information interfaces inside and outside of Labor that must be
addressed prior to the millennium change. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

In an October 14, 1997, letter from Labor's Acting Assistant
Secretary for Administration and Management, Labor thanked us for
acknowledging the substantial progress in Labor's plan.  The letter
noted that there is more work to be done and that Labor will address
the concerns we raised about the use of evaluations in developing
plans and evaluating results, crosscutting issues, and internal
coordination among safety and health agencies during the next
revision.  Labor also noted that it will expand its presentation in
the strategic overview to provide additional information on its
information technology.  However, Labor noted that a more detailed
discussion of its systems architecture and its Year 2000 compliant
strategy are included in Labor's separate Information Technology
Strategic Plan and other documents.  Additionally, it said its
approach for addressing information technology in the overview was to
describe the linkage and the importance of information technology in
support of program agencies and the achievement of goals.  While this
approach is reasonable, and our preliminary review of the Information
Technology strategic plan indicates that it tries to address many of
the issues we outlined previously, the strategic overview could still
benefit from clearer cross-referencing and linkage between the two
plans.  Additionally, the Information Technology Strategic Plan may
benefit from clearer linkage between the components' activities and
Labor's activities as a whole to enhance information technology. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Carlotta C.  Joyner, Director, Education and Employment Issues;
Health, Education, and Human Services Division, (202) 512-7014. 


--------------------
\1 In a subsequent report, we said that Labor may want to consider
whether the development of an ESA-level plan would enhance its
planning efforts.  We wrote that such a plan could use common
programmatic themes found in the four subunit plans as a foundation
to help ESA make policy decisions with regards to direction and
operations of its programs, to evaluate whether the programs are
achieving intended results, and to increase coordination among its
program operations.  See The Results Act:  Observations on the Draft
Strategic Plans of Selected Department of Labor Components
(GAO/HEHS-97-188R, July 31, 1997). 

\2 The plan for the Bureau of International Labor Affairs does not
include a discussion of the relationship between the goals in the
annual performance plan and in the strategic plan. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
STATE'S STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================= Appendix XII

On July 18, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of State's
draft strategic plan (The Results Act:  Observations on the
Department of State's May 1997 Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/NSIAD-97-198R).  State issued its formal strategic plan and
submitted it to OMB and Congress on September 27, 1997.  As
requested, we have reviewed the publicly issued strategic plan and
compared it with the observations in our July 18 report.  On October
20, 1997, we briefed your staffs on our further observations on the
strategic plan.  The key points from that briefing are summarized in
the following sections. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

State's draft strategic plan was useful in setting and clarifying
U.S.  foreign policy goals, but it did not contain sufficient
information to fully achieve the purposes of the Results Act and was
incomplete in several important respects.  In particular, the draft
plan omitted two elements required by the Act:  (1) components
identifying the relationship between long-term goals/objectives and
annual performance goals and (2) a description of how program
evaluations were used to establish or revise strategic goals and a
schedule for future program evaluations.  To fully achieve the
purposes of the Act, State's draft plan needed to be more descriptive
and consistent with OMB guidance.  For example, the plan contained
several sections labeled strategy for specific goals, but it did not
specifically identify the actions and resources needed to meet the
plan's goals or include a schedule for taking significant actions. 
State's strategies often focused on describing the Department's role
in various areas instead of describing how State's programs and
operations would help achieve the goals. 

We observed that State's draft plan did not specifically discuss the
likelihood that other agencies might have functions similar to or
possibly duplicative of State's role that could affect the
formulation and implementation of strategies. 

The draft strategic plan addressed some, but not all, of the major
management challenges that the Department faces in carrying out its
foreign policy responsibilities.  These problems include the lack of
attention to cost reduction opportunities, the existence of
widespread weaknesses in overseas mission management, and the
presence of deficiencies in the Department's financial management
system.  The management challenges that State did recognize as part
of its plan included staffing and workforce planning, information
resource management, property management, logistics, security, and
core administrative systems.  These issues were discussed separately
in a diplomatic readiness section of the strategic plan.  We said
that the draft plan would be strengthened if it better described how
meeting these management challenges could affect achievement of the
plan's strategic goals.  Furthermore, we noted that the draft plan
would have been enhanced if it had included a discussion of how the
proposed consolidation of State, U.  S.  Information Agency, and Arms
Control and Disarmament Agency might affect goals, strategies, and
resource requirements.  In addition, we suggested that State's plan
would be easier to use if it contained a clearly labeled agency
mission statement and included a discussion of the Department's key
legal authorities. 

We also observed that State's capacity to provide reliable
information about its operations and program performance was
questionable because of long-standing deficiencies in the
Department's information and financial accounting systems. 
Successfully resolving a number of these material deficiencies in the
Department's financial and information management systems will be
critical to implementing the plan. 

SOME IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN
STATE'S STRATEGIC PLAN

State's September 1997 strategic plan incorporated some improvements
that help make it more responsive to the requirements of the Results
Act. 

With respect to the first element required by the Results Act that
was missing in the draft plan, State introduced a separate section
describing the relationship between the plan's strategic goals and
the goals and objectives in the Department's performance plan.  It
used only one example to describe this relationship, discussing the
linkages between operational and performance goals for achieving the
strategic goal of eliminating the threat from weapons of mass
destruction or destabilizing conventional arms.  This example is
helpful, but it would be more useful if it clearly described how the
resource and performance measurement components will be handled in
the Department's annual program planning cycle.  With respect to the
second missing element, the plan now includes a section dealing with
program evaluations.  However, instead of including a description of
the program evaluations used in developing goals and objectives, as
required by the Results Act, the new section is largely a discussion
of State's rationale for not fully meeting this requirement. 

Consistent with suggestions in our July report, State (1) clearly
labeled its mission statement in the plan and (2) included a detailed
description of the Department's key legal authorities.  A section was
added to the plan explaining how resources from various sources, and
managed by different agencies, are established in the international
affairs function of the President's budget--the "150" account. 

STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE FURTHER
IMPROVED

State's strategic plan focused on the Department's mission and role
in carrying out 16 strategic foreign policy goals.  A few
modifications were made in the strategic goals since our July review
(for example, a goal of promoting broad-based economic growth in
developing and transitional economies was added, and a goal of
improving the well-being of the world's poor was dropped), but the
plan still did not consistently explain what results are expected
from the Department's major functions or when to expect the results. 
Some changes in the Department's strategies were also made, but it
remained unclear how some of the goals are to be achieved or what
level of resources is required.  State's plan specifically
acknowledged that more needs to be done to identify agencies'
capabilities and the resources needed to achieve the goals. 

The plan's section on program evaluations is essentially an
explanation of why the plan does not fully meet the requirements of
the Results Act.  The plan pointed out that no process existed for
systematic evaluation of the foreign affairs goals.  As a result, the
plan did not identify any evaluations used for establishing or
revising the strategic goals or include a schedule for future
evaluations.  It is State's position that it should not be held
strictly accountable for this and other requirements of the Act
because of the complexities of foreign policy, the scope of the
Department's responsibilities that cover most other agencies, and the
complexities of managing overseas missions.  We recognize that
program evaluations in the foreign affairs area are difficult, but we
believe that an effective evaluation process will be critical to
determining the extent to which State is successfully
achieving/helping to achieve goals and what actions may be necessary
to help improve performance. 

Specific discussions of crosscutting functions, management issues,
data capacity, and interagency consultations were included in the
strategic plan, but the discussions did not address many of the
deficiencies noted in our July report.  For example, the sections on
crosscutting and consultative functions described State's efforts to
coordinate preparation of the plan but did not address the potential
for other agencies to have functions duplicative of State's.  As
noted in our July report, State's functional bureaus share
responsibility with multiple U.S.  agencies on various overlapping
issues, including trade and export promotion policy, global programs,
and international security functions.  The plan also noted that the
incorporation of management goals for the integration of other
foreign affairs agencies awaits decisions concerning how the
reorganization will proceed. 

The plan's section on management issues emphasized the importance of
the strategies for achieving diplomatic readiness but noted that this
represents a first effort to set strategic goals for the Department's
major management responsibilities.  It still did not address the
serious management problems related to cost control, overseas embassy
management, and financial management identified in our prior work and
discussed in our July report.  The plan's discussion of data capacity
did not specifically address the serious deficiencies in State's
financial accounting and information systems, but it noted in more
general terms that it will take several years to develop performance
measures and related databases in order to provide sufficient
information on achievement of the goals.  The Chief Financial
Officers Act requires agencies to have accounting and financial
accounting systems that provide for the development of cost
information and systematic measurement of performance.  Currently,
State does not have a true cost accounting system, and, as a result,
reliable cost information by function cannot be provided. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

In addition to developing the data capacity and information systems
essential for measuring progress, State's strategic plan also
acknowledged that much more remains to be done to adequately develop
the Department's long-term strategic planning process.  State's plan
identified several long-term actions as critical to the process,
including the development of

  -- an agency performance plan and mission performance plans for
     each overseas embassy linking annual goals with long-term
     strategic goals,

  -- performance measures, and

  -- a process for conducting performance evaluations. 

State's strategic plan cautioned that it will take substantial effort
to develop a fully refined set of performance measures and a
performance evaluation process.  In discussing its efforts to develop
an integrated planning process, State noted that a process linking
overseas mission performance plans to the Department's strategic and
diplomatic readiness goals will first be in place for the
Department's fiscal year 2000 budget submission. 

As State's strategic plan evolves over time, other matters will
clearly require attention.  For example, State's performance plan
will need to be definitive to compensate for the continued lack of
specificity in State's strategies concerning how the Department will
achieve individual long-term goals and the level of resources needed
for State's activities.  The overseas mission performance plans will
also need to be high quality to be successfully integrated into
State's master plan, in view of (1) the billions of dollars in
resources associated with State's overseas operations and (2) the
historical weaknesses we have identified in overseas embassy
management.  These weaknesses have included insufficient staff
training, poor inventory controls, and questionable procurement
practices.  State's lack of attention to the use of evaluations in
setting and refining its long-term goals and the lack of a specific
schedule for future evaluations are other areas that deserve
attention.  We believe that several areas may require evaluation to
ensure that the Department's strategic planning process is sound,
including the adequacy of State's performance and program planning
processes, the extent to which State and other agencies' functions
may or may not be duplicative, and the adequacy of State's overseas
staffing decisions based on design and implementation of its new
staffing model. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

We obtained oral comments from State officials responsible for the
Department's strategic planning efforts.  They generally agreed with
our description of the progress State made in its strategic plan and
the issues that require further attention.  However, they noted that
in judging the quality of the plan, it is important to keep in mind
the complexities of strategic planning in the foreign affairs area. 
These complexities include the scope of the strategic goals and the
national interests involved, the numerous government agencies sharing
responsibilities, and the lack of proven performance measures in key
functional areas.  Department officials also recognized that the
strategic planning process has not yet paid sufficient attention to
management and cost issues.  However, they expect that the diplomatic
readiness section of the plan will be revised in the spring of 1998,
along with other parts of the plan, based on a series of seminars and
stakeholder discussions scheduled to begin in November 1997. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Benjamin F.  Nelson, Director, International Relations and Trade
Issues; National Security and International Affairs Division, (202)
512-4128. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
TRANSPORTATION'S STRATEGIC PLAN
======================================================== Appendix XIII

On July 30, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of
Transportation's (DOT) draft strategic plan (Results Act: 
Observations on the Department of Transportation's Draft Strategic
Plan, GAO/RCED-97-208R).  DOT's formally issued strategic plan was
submitted to OMB and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested,
we have reviewed the September plan and compared it with the
observations in our July report.  On October 16, 1997, we briefed
your staffs on our further observations on the strategic plan.  Our
key points are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

DOT's draft strategic plan did not fulfill all of the requirements of
the Results Act.  The draft plan met the Results Act's requirements
for mission statement, long-term goals, and a description of program
evaluations; however, each component had weaknesses that could be
improved.  The draft plan did not meet the Act's requirements to
describe strategies for achieving goals, a linkage between long-term
goals and annual performance goals, and those key external factors
that could significantly affect DOT's achieving its goals.  Overall,
the draft was so general that it did not clearly identify the
Department's priorities.  We reported that the quality of the draft
plan could have been improved throughout by adhering more closely to
OMB's guidance for preparing strategic plans and including more
detailed information. 

In addition, the draft plan did not (1) show evidence of coordination
with other agencies that have programs and activities that are
crosscutting or similar to DOT's or (2) adequately address major
management challenges and high-risk areas that we and others
previously identified.  We also observed that DOT's ability to
produce reliable performance information was uncertain because the
draft plan was unclear about what information would be needed to
measure performance.  Finally, the draft plan reflected the
Department's key statutory authorities. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN DOT'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

DOT's September plan reflects significant improvements to the July
draft plan.  The three components of the July draft that already met
the requirements of the Results Act have been improved. 
Specifically, the mission statement has been revised to more closely
track with DOT's authorizing legislation.  In addition, the plan's
discussion of its five long-term goals has been improved by adding
(1) examples of possible performance measures, (2) a few examples of
how specific activities or programs are expected to contribute to
achieving the goals, and (3) an appendix that lists the agencies and
programs that are expected to contribute significantly to each goal. 
Finally, the discussion of program evaluations has been revised to
include a table that lists future evaluations and, for each,
describes the scope, methodology, key issues to be addressed,
schedule, and relationship to the plan's long-term goals. 

Moreover, the September plan meets two of three additional
requirements of the Results Act that the draft plan did not meet. 
First, the revised plan now meets the Act's requirements by
discussing how the annual performance goals, which are being
developed for the fiscal year 1999 budget submission, will link to
DOT's mission and long-term goals.\1 The September plan also includes
a table for each long-term goal showing examples of possible
indicators that may be used to measure annual performance and the
availability of data.  Second, the discussion of those key external
factors that could significantly affect DOT's ability to achieve its
goals has been rewritten and expanded to meet the Act's requirements. 
The September plan identifies new factors--such as legislation to
address long-term financing for the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) and Amtrak--that will affect DOT's ability to achieve its
long-term goals.  The plan also summarizes how economic, social,
political, environmental quality, national defense and security, and
technology trends affect each long-term goal; provides a few examples
of activities needed to mitigate the effect of these trends; and
explains each factor in greater detail in both a separate section and
an appendix. 

Information also has been added to the plan to describe the
Department's activities to coordinate with other agencies in
preparing the plan, examples of data needed to implement the plan,
and several management challenges identified by us and others--issues
not addressed in the draft plan.  The new information on interagency
coordination describes a Department-wide effort to identify
duplication or overlap with programs in other federal agencies and
DOT's activities during the summer of 1997 to share its draft plan
with other federal agencies.  New information concerning data--lists
of potential measures and data sources--was added to the discussion
of each strategic goal.  Additional new information addresses certain
management challenges we raised concerning the need to (1) enhance
transportation safety and security; (2) meet the long-term financing
needs of FAA; (3) improve the management of air traffic control
modernization acquisitions; (4) implement information management
technology reforms called for in the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995
and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996; (5) address any significant
information security weaknesses; and (6) change computer systems to
accommodate dates beyond the year 1999, that is, address the Year
2000 problem. 

Finally, the September plan continues to reflect DOT's key statutory
authorities in an appendix and includes minor clarifications. 

DOT'S PLAN CAN BE FURTHER IMPROVED

DOT's September plan can be further improved in two areas.  First,
the plan's discussion of strategies for achieving its long-term goals
has improved in some areas but still does not meet all requirements
of the Results Act.  The revised plan describes corporate management
strategies for implementing the plan that cut across the Department. 
These strategies provide useful information, for example, in
explaining how long-term goals will be communicated to employees and
how personnel will be assigned accountability for achieving the
goals.  However, the revised plan still does not describe the
operational processes, skills, technology, and resources required to
meet the long-term goals, as required by the Results Act.  The
general discussion of corporate management strategies does not meet
these requirements, which should be addressed for each goal. 
Furthermore, the plan could be improved by following OMB's guidance
on strategic plans and providing additional detail when achieving a
goal is predicated on a significant change in resource or technology
levels.  For example, we have reported that successful implementation
of certain aviation security measures mentioned in the plan is
contingent upon deciding who will finance the security improvements
and developing the needed technology.\2 In addition, the plan could
be improved by following OMB's guidance on including time frames for
initiating or completing significant actions.  The September plan
contains time frames for some significant actions, such as addressing
the Year 2000 problem and obtaining reliable financial statements by
fiscal year 2000; but it does not include time frames for other
significant actions, such as completing air traffic control
modernization and improvements to Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. 

Second, while new information in the plan addresses certain
management challenges we raised in our July report, other issues are
not adequately addressed.  The plan does not adequately address
challenges to (1) improve the oversight of highway and transit
projects, (2) meet the long-term funding needs of Amtrak, and (3)
have adequate financial and other management information.  Although
the revised plan acknowledges these problems, it does not demonstrate
a firm commitment to resolve them through specific strategies.  For
example, the plan mentions our concerns about the need to improve the
oversight of highway and transit projects, which are continuing to
incur cost increases, experience delays, and have difficulties
acquiring needed funding commitments.  The plan states that these
concerns are addressed under corporate management strategies.  The
strategies, however, provide insufficient details to address the
problems with these projects.  As another example, the revised plan
mentions Amtrak in an appendix but provides too little information to
adequately address our concerns about the corporation's very
precarious financial condition, which threatens its survival.  The
plan could be improved by addressing Amtrak's role in a national
transportation framework and providing objectives concerning the
future of Amtrak and strategies for meeting these objectives. 

The plan acknowledges the significance of financial management to the
achievement of its long-term goals and is generally responsive to
specific comments that we made about the draft plan.  The revised
plan includes a new section that discusses (1) general financial
management and (2) the need for and plans to improve financial
management of and accountability for the Department's financial
resources.  However, while the revised plan acknowledges that
unreliable accounting (including cost accounting) information exists
at the program level, it does not provide specific strategies or
timetables for resolving key problems. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

DOT has added specificity to the plan that greatly improves its
overall quality.  However, the plan still takes an "umbrella"
approach--it is expansive enough to encompass all of DOT's programs,
but it does not describe the contributions from specific modes to
implement the plan.  The plan refers to the development of a
"National Transportation Strategy" with subordinate strategies for
air, surface, and maritime elements.  This strategy might provide the
missing link between the Department-wide goals and the programs
throughout DOT. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

We provided copies of a draft of these observations to DOT for review
and comment.  We received comments from DOT's Assistant Secretary for
Administration.  DOT disagreed with our finding that its revised
strategic plan does not describe the operational processes, skills,
technology, and resources required to meet the long-term goals, as
required by the Results Act.  The Department stated that the
strategic plan meets this requirement in two ways.  First, in
discussing each strategic goal, the plan includes a section entitled
"How We Will Achieve the Strategic Goal" that describes the processes
that DOT will employ to achieve the goal.  Second, the Department
stated that the plan meets this requirement in a section that
describes six overarching management strategies--the "ONE DOT
management philosophy," human resources, customer service, resource
and technology, information technology, and resource and business
process management. 

We disagree that the sections of the plan mentioned by DOT fulfill
the Act's requirements.  For the most part, the sections that discuss
how DOT will achieve the goals are too general to do so.  For
example, the plan states that to achieve the mobility goal of
ensuring an accessible, efficient transportation system, DOT will
improve technical assistance.  The plan does not explain the type of
technical assistance, who will receive the assistance, or how the
assistance will improve mobility.  As another example, the plan
states that to achieve its economic growth and trade goal, DOT will
assess the performance of the transportation system as a whole.  The
plan does not explain how such an assessment will help the Department
achieve this goal.  Furthermore, as we mentioned, the plan's
corporate management strategies are also too general to meet the
Act's requirement, although they do provide useful information in
certain areas, such as explaining how the goals will be communicated
to employees.  These strategies provide a philosophy for the
Department to operate under, but not specific steps to achieve the
goals.  For example, the human resources management strategy states
that the Department will "achieve its strategic goals with a
workforce that is knowledgeable, flexible, efficient, and resilient."
The actions to accomplish this include redesigning human resources
programs to "allow DOT to recruit, develop, and deploy a diverse
workforce with those 21st Century competencies needed to achieve the
DOT's strategic goals." The strategy does not explain what
competencies are needed. 

Finally, DOT commented that achieving its strategic goals is not
predicated on a significant change in resource or technological
levels.  We disagree.  As we stated in our observations, successful
implementation of certain aviation security measures mentioned under
the national security goal is contingent upon deciding who will
finance the security improvements and developing the needed
technology. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Phyllis F.  Scheinberg, Associate Director, Transportation Issues;
Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, (202)
512-2834. 


--------------------
\1 The Results Act requires OMB to have agencies prepare annual
performance plans beginning for fiscal year 1999.  This plan is to
contain annual performance goals and identify the performance
measures that an agency will use to assess its progress. 

\2 Aviation Security:  Technology's Role in Addressing
Vulnerabilities (GAO/T-RCED/NSIAD-96-262, Sept.  19, 1996). 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
THE TREASURY'S STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================= Appendix XIV

On July 31, 1997, we issued a report on the Department of the
Treasury's draft strategic plan (The Results Act:  Observations on
the Department of the Treasury's July 1997 Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/GGD-97-162R).  Treasury's formally issued strategic plan was
submitted to OMB and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested,
we have reviewed the September 30 strategic plan and compared it with
the observations in our July 31 report.  On October 15, 1997, we
briefed your staffs on our further observations on the strategic
plan.  The key points from our July report and October briefing are
summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

Treasury's July draft strategic plan was incomplete and did not meet
all of the requirements of the Results Act.  Of the six elements
required by the Act, the Treasury draft plan included four.  Of these
four elements, two--the mission statement and key factors external to
the agency that could significantly affect achievement of the
strategic goals and objectives--generally met the Act's requirements,
but, as we stated, these could have been strengthened.  The
information contained in the plan on the two other elements--goals
and objectives and the strategies to achieve them--was often too
general and vague to be used effectively by Treasury management,
Congress, and other stakeholders.  We said these two elements could
be improved if they were more specific, results oriented, and linked
to the plans of Treasury's bureaus and major program offices.  Two
elements--the relationship between long-term goals and objectives and
annual performance goals, and a description of how program
evaluations were used to establish or revise strategic plans--were
missing from the draft plan we reviewed. 

The draft strategic plan did not adequately address crosscutting
issues and made no mention of whether Treasury had coordinated with
other federal departments and agencies that shared related functions. 
In addition, although a major part of the mission statement was
focused on management, the draft plan did not adequately address some
of the critical management problems facing Treasury that could affect
its ability to achieve its strategic goals and objectives.  Finally,
we said that Treasury's capacity to provide reliable information on
the achievement of strategic and program performance was
questionable. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN TREASURY'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

Treasury's formally issued strategic plan incorporates many
improvements that make it more responsive to the requirements of the
Results Act.  Specifically, Treasury's strategic plan now includes
all six required elements, including two that were missing from the
draft plan.  Also, Treasury revised the four elements that were in
its draft plan so that they better meet the requirements of the
Results Act.  In addition, the plan better addresses Treasury's
critical management problems and includes more information on how the
Department plans to coordinate with other agencies on crosscutting
issues. 

Treasury's plan is now presented as an overview with more detailed
information provided in the plans of its 17 bureaus and major program
offices.  Taken together, the 18 plans comprise Treasury's strategic
plan.\1 Treasury's goals and objectives are now linked with those of
its bureaus and major program offices.  Consequently, the plan
provides a clearer discussion of which bureaus and program offices
have responsibility for carrying out the goals and objectives. 
Treasury's plan also states that details on resources needed to
implement strategies are to be included in bureau and program office
strategic plans as well as the Department's budget submission. 
Because the plan also links the goals and objectives in the overview
plan to the annual performance goals and measures in the strategic
plans of the bureaus and program offices, it provides information on
one of the elements required by the Results Act that was missing from
the draft plan. 

Treasury has also made several other improvements to its plan.  A
section was added describing how program evaluations were used to
develop the plan.  This section also cites examples of planned
evaluations that Treasury is to use as input for future plans.  The
plan includes more information aimed at addressing the critical
management problems the Department faces.  For example, an objective
has been added to the plan to address the Year 2000 computer
problems.  Also, throughout its plan, Treasury addresses crosscutting
issues by pointing out where coordination is required with other
agencies. 

TREASURY'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

Several elements of Treasury's strategic plan could be further
improved to better meet the purposes of the Results Act. 
Specifically, the linkage between Treasury's goals and objectives and
those of its bureaus and major program offices could be made more
complete.  Also, Treasury's plan could be improved if more complete
and detailed information on strategies for achieving goals and
objectives were included in the plans of its bureaus and program
offices.  Treasury's plan could also be improved if performance goals
were provided for each objective and if some of these goals were more
results oriented.  Treasury could also improve its plan by more
explicitly addressing its critical management problems.  Finally,
Treasury's plan could better address issues relating to its capacity
to provide the types of reliable data needed to measure performance
and assess progress in meeting its goals and objectives. 

Treasury's plan could be improved if the linkage between Treasury's
goals and objectives and those of its bureaus and program offices
were more complete.  Specifically, we found several gaps in the
linkage between Treasury's plan and the plans of its bureaus and
components.  For example, Treasury has an objective to "ensure strong
financial management of Treasury accounts." However, only six bureaus
or program offices have corresponding objectives.  For this
objective, Treasury's plan does not include a related objective for
the Financial Management Service, which is responsible for managing
the government's finances, and IRS, the government's primary revenue
collector. 

Treasury's plan could also be improved if more complete and detailed
information on strategies for achieving goals and objectives were
included in the plans of its bureaus and program offices.  Treasury's
plan contains general information on some strategies that are needed
to achieve its goals and objectives.  It also states that more
detailed information regarding resource needs is to be included in
its budget submission and the plans of its bureaus and program
offices.  However, we found several instances where a Treasury
objective was linked to a bureau objective, but the bureau plan
contained no corresponding strategy.  For example, Treasury has three
law enforcement objectives--to reduce counterfeiting, money
laundering, and drug smuggling--where IRS has a role.  However, IRS'
plan contains no specific strategy related to these three objectives. 
Also, where strategies were found in the bureau plans, they could be
improved if more detailed information, such as technological and
resource needs, were included.  For example, IRS lists several
strategies, including expanding nationwide access to taxpayer
information on-line and updating taxpayer information daily, to
achieve its objective to "improve customer service." However, IRS'
plan does not discuss the resources needed to carry out these
strategies. 

Treasury's plan could also be improved if performance goals were
provided for each objective.  We found several instances where
performance goals were missing from bureau plans.  For example,
Treasury's plan has an objective to "improve capacity to recruit,
develop, and retain high-caliber employees." The plan lists six
bureaus and program offices that have related objectives, but only
one, the U.S.  Mint, has a related performance goal. 

Likewise, Treasury could enhance its plan by making its performance
measures more results oriented.  For example, Customs' strategic plan
includes a strategy to prevent drug smuggling whose performance
measures (the number of arrests, seizures, and convictions, for
example) are output oriented.  The plan could be improved if more
results-oriented measures, focusing on lowered drug smuggling rates,
were developed in support of Customs' strategy to prevent drug
smuggling. 

Treasury officials stated that they will attempt to develop
results-oriented measures whenever possible, but that performance
data may be difficult to collect in some cases, and output measures
may be the best data available, at least for the near term. 
Furthermore, they felt that a balance of output-oriented and
results-oriented measures may be desirable since the purpose of
performance measures is to determine an agency's effect on results. 
Nonetheless, Treasury's plan could be further improved if
results-oriented measures were developed to complement output
measures wherever possible. 

As we observed in our review of Treasury's draft strategic plan, the
current plan could also be improved if it explicitly addressed all
critical management problems.  Although the plan states that it
addresses all our high-risk areas and other critical management
issues, its discussion of Treasury's critical management problems is
not always explicit.  For example, IRS' accounts receivable--a
high-risk area--is not addressed specifically in Treasury's or IRS'
plan.  Both plans contain goals related to increasing compliance with
the tax laws and improving customer service, which indirectly could
address IRS' accounts receivable.  However, as we previously
reported, Treasury's strategic plan could be more useful to Congress
and other stakeholders if it more clearly presented how Treasury will
address its critical management problems and how this will facilitate
the Department's achievement of its strategic goals and objectives. 

Similar to our comment on Treasury's draft strategic plan, the
current plan could further be improved if it more clearly addressed
the Department's capacity to measure its progress toward achieving
its goals.  The current overview does contain a very brief discussion
of the Department's efforts to improve performance measurement
systems and data, and specific performance measures are contained
within the plans of the bureaus and program offices.  However, the
Treasury plan does not address the difficulties of developing
measures and collecting reliable data for some important areas of
performance.  For example, IRS and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms both use taxpayer burden as a performance indicator, but
neither agency has adequate measures or data for tracking taxpayer
burden.  We recognize that developing measures of some areas of
Treasury's performance, such as taxpayer burden, will be very
challenging, but the Treasury plan does not discuss how the
Department plans to deal with these challenges. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

On October 30, 1997, we obtained oral comments from Treasury
officials, including the Director of the Office of Strategic
Planning, on a draft of our analysis of Treasury's strategic plan. 
The officials generally agreed with our observations but suggested
several changes to clarify areas where Treasury has improved its
plan.  They said that it was important to emphasize that their July
1997 draft strategic plan was a "working document" issued as required
for consultation purposes with Congress and other stakeholders.  As a
result of the consultation process, they said that the plan was
revised to address the concerns of Congress and other stakeholders,
including GAO and OMB.  Also, while the officials agreed that the
current plan could be further improved in several areas, they said
that the plan meets the Results Act's requirements in that it
contains all six required elements. 

The officials also reiterated that the Department should be
recognized for its Results Act implementation efforts.  In
particular, the officials told us that Treasury has reformatted its
budget to serve as the performance plan required by the Results Act
for the past 2 fiscal years.  Also, last year, the Department issued
its performance report for fiscal year 1996 as part of its budget
submission--ahead of the Act's requirements.  They said that Treasury
intends to better align its performance plan with the goals and
objectives in its strategic plan and to submit the plan as part of
its fiscal year 1999 budget request, scheduled to be released in
February 1998. 

Finally, Treasury officials stated that two of the areas where we
said they could improve their plan--establishing results-oriented
performance measures and collecting reliable data for performance
measures--appear to pose challenges for government agencies in
general.  Nonetheless, Treasury plans to make improvements in both
areas, but officials said that input from Congress and other
stakeholders will be beneficial as they attempt to develop
performance measures that are results oriented and for which reliable
data exist. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Jim White, Associate Director, Tax Policy and Administration Issues;
General Government Division, (202) 512-9110. 


--------------------
\1 We reviewed the strategic plans of the Internal Revenue Service
(IRS); the U.S.  Customs Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms; the Office of Thrift Supervision; and the Office of the
Comptroller of the Currency to assess whether they reflected each of
Treasury's goals and objectives that should apply.  We also assessed
the quality and detail of information on strategies and performance
goals provided in these plans. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF
VETERANS AFFAIRS' STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================== Appendix XV

On July 11, 1997, we issued a report with our observations on the
Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) draft strategic plan, dated June
9, 1997 (The Results Act:  Observations on VA's June 1997 Draft
Strategic Plan, GAO/HEHS-97-174R).  Following this review, VA issued
two additional drafts, dated August 1 and August 15, 1997.  The
August 15 draft was sent by VA to OMB for review and interagency
coordination.  On September 18, 1997, we testified before the
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on
Veterans' Affairs, on the improvements in VA's August 15 draft and
the challenges remaining for VA in implementing the Results Act.\1 VA
submitted its formally issued plan to Congress and OMB on September
25, 1997.  On October 14, 1997, we briefed your staffs on the
observations we made in our September 18 testimony and further
observations based on our review of the formally issued strategic
plan. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY LETTER

We found that VA's June 1997 draft strategic plan represented an
inconsistent and incomplete application of the six key components of
a strategic plan as required under the Results Act.  Also, the draft
plan was somewhat confusing and difficult to follow, mainly because
it had several different levels of goals, objectives, and strategies. 
In addition, the draft plan had not clearly identified needs for VA
to coordinate and share information with other federal agencies.  In
terms of the key strategic planning elements, VA's draft plan (1)
focused more on the process of providing benefits and services than
on results of VA programs for veterans and their families; (2) lacked
objectives and strategies for achieving some of VA's major strategic
goals--in particular, for veterans' benefits programs; (3) provided
only limited discussions of external factors beyond the control of VA
that could affect achievement of strategic goals; and (4) was not
based on formal program evaluations. 

VA officials acknowledged that these elements still need to be
developed.  The June 1997 draft included plans to establish a
schedule of evaluations for VA's major programs.  These evaluations,
in turn, would lead to development of results-oriented strategic
goals.  Also, the draft included plans to identify coordination
efforts with other federal agencies and to develop communication
mechanisms with them. 

IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN VA'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

VA made significant progress in making the strategic plan clearer,
more complete, and more results oriented.  Instead of presenting four
overall goals, three of which were process oriented, VA has
reorganized its draft strategic plan into two sections.  The first
section, entitled ╣Honor, Care, and Compensate Veterans in
Recognition of Their Sacrifices for America,║ is intended to
incorporate VA's results-oriented strategic goals.  The second
section, entitled ╣Management Strategies,║ incorporates the three
other general goals, related to customer service, workforce
development, and taxpayer return on investment.  VA believes that the
process-oriented portions of the plan are important as a guide to
VA's management.  We agree, as long as they are integrated with the
plan's primary focus on results.  In addition, VA filled significant
gaps in the discussions of strategic goals.  The formally issued plan
includes strategic goals covering all of its major programs and
includes objectives, strategies, and performance goals supporting the
strategic goals. 

VA'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE FURTHER
IMPROVED

VA's strategic plan still needs improvement in four major areas:  (1)
development of results-oriented goals, (2) descriptions of how the
goals are to be achieved, (3) discussion of external factors, and (4)
discussion of coordination efforts with other agencies.  Until VA
makes improvements in these areas, its strategic plan will be
incomplete and will not fully comply with the strategic planning
requirements of the Results Act. 

Perhaps the most significant challenge for VA is to develop
results-oriented goals for its major programs, particularly for
benefit programs.  For some major VA programs, the strategic plan's
goals are placeholders for results-oriented goals that have not yet
been developed.  For example, the general goals for four of five
major benefit program areas--compensation and pensions, education,
vocational rehabilitation, and housing credit assistance--are stated
in terms of ensuring that VA is meeting the needs of veterans and
their families.  The objectives supporting VA's general goal for its
compensation and pension area are to (1) evaluate compensation and
pension programs to determine their effectiveness in meeting the
needs of veterans and their beneficiaries and (2) modify these
programs, as appropriate. 

VA has noted that developing results-oriented goals will be difficult
until program evaluations have been completed.  Given the program
evaluation time periods stated in the draft strategic plan, results
for some programs may not be developed for several years.  Also, VA
officials suggested that defining program results is difficult for
programs where congressional statements of the program purposes and
expected results are vague or nonexistent.  This is an area where VA
and Congress can make progress in further clarifying program purposes
and expected results.  Once VA has developed strategic goals focused
on results, it can develop objectives and strategies for achieving
the goals. 

Another remaining challenge for VA is to better integrate discussions
of external factors that could affect its strategic planning.  While
VA added discussions of the implications of demographic changes among
veterans, they are not linked to specific goals in the plan.  For
example, VA noted the impact of increased veteran death rates on
demands for burials in VA and state veterans' cemeteries.  However,
this is not linked to VA's performance goals to complete specific
numbers of cemetery construction and land acquisition projects by
fiscal year 2002.  Discussions of external factors were often limited
to whether Congress would appropriate sufficient funds or make
substantive legislative changes.  Assessments of factors outside VA's
control, such as economic, social, and demographic changes, are also
important in setting VA's goals and in assessing VA's progress in
meeting them. 

The other remaining challenge for VA is to identify areas where it
needs to coordinate and share information with other federal
agencies, as well as develop coordination plans.  VA's strategic plan
identifies this need and includes a goal to (1) identify overlaps and
links with other agencies, (2) enhance communication links with other
agencies, and (3) keep state directors of veterans' affairs and other
state officials apprised of VA benefits and opportunities for
collaboration and coordination. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

VA had substantial consultations with Congress, and we participated
in these consultations at the request of the House and Senate
Committees on Veterans' Affairs.  In addition, VA held consultation
sessions with representatives of veterans service organizations.  VA
has attributed improvements in its formally issued strategic plan to
these consultations. 

VA officials have stressed that they consider strategic planning a
continuing, long-term process.  Based on comments by VA officials and
the changes VA has already made to its strategic plan, we expect
further improvements over the next few years. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

In transmitting the formally issued strategic plan to Congress and
OMB, VA also provided detailed responses to comments on its draft
plans from the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, GAO, OMB,
veterans service organizations, and VA employee organizations.  These
comments addressed the observations in both our July 11 letter and
September 18 testimony.  In general, VA agreed with our observations
and indicated areas where it has revised its plan since the June 1997
draft.  Also, we sent a draft of this appendix to VA officials, who
had no additional substantive comments. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Cynthia M.  Fagnoni, Associate Director, Veterans' Affairs and
Military Health Care Issues; Health, Education, and Human Services
Division, (202) 512-7202. 


--------------------
\1 The Results Act:  Observations on VA's August 1997 Draft Strategic
Plan (GAO/T-HEHS-97-215, Sept.  18, 1997). 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL
PROTECTION AGENCY'S STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================= Appendix XVI

On July 30, 1997, we issued a report on the Environmental Protection
Agency's (EPA) draft strategic plan (Results Act:  Observations on
EPA's Draft Strategic Plan, GAO/RCED-97-209R).  EPA made revisions to
the draft plan and formally submitted it to OMB and Congress on
September 30, 1997.  As requested, we have reviewed the September
1997 plan and compared the changes with the observations we made in
our July 30 report.  On October 15, 1997, we briefed your staffs on
our further observations on the strategic plan.  The key points from
that briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

EPA's draft strategic plan contained four of the six elements
required by the Results Act:  (1) a mission statement, (2) general
goals and objectives, (3) approaches or strategies to achieve the
goals and objectives, and (4) an identification of key external
factors.  For these four elements, we noted that the draft plan did
not contain all of the details suggested by OMB Circular A-11 and/or
that other improvements could be made to increase the plan's
usefulness.  The two elements not included in the draft plan were (1)
the relationship between the general goals and objectives and the
annual performance goals and (2) the program evaluations used in
developing the plan and a schedule for future evaluations.  Although
the draft plan contained a section on program evaluation, the
discussion focused on the role of evaluation in assessing future
results and provided general criteria for deciding which evaluations
to perform in the future. 

The draft strategic plan did not discuss interagency coordination for
crosscutting programs, activities, or functions that are similar to
those of other federal agencies.  It is important that the plan do so
because EPA and other agencies carry out a number of mission-related
activities that are crosscutting or similar.  Our July 30, 1997,
report noted that EPA had begun taking steps to coordinate its plan
with other agencies, such as the Department of Energy and the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, to address
crosscutting programs and activities. 

The draft plan included actions to address major management
challenges that we had previously identified.  However, it provided
limited details on how these long-standing problems are to be
resolved. 

IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN EPA'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

EPA made changes in its strategic plan to make it more responsive to
the specific requirements of the Results Act, improve its clarity,
and provide information on the coordination of the plan with other
federal agencies.  In addition, the agency strengthened the plan's
treatment of management problems by setting out several additional
actions to resolve them. 

In the September 30, 1997, version of its strategic plan, EPA added
the two elements required by the Results Act that were missing from
the draft plan:  (1) the relationship of the general goals in the
strategic plan to the performance goals to be included in the annual
performance plan and (2) the program evaluations used in developing
its general goals and objectives.  The issued plan also incorporates
improvements in other elements required by the Results Act.  For
example, the section identifying key external factors was expanded to
include other factors, such as producer and consumer behavior, that
could directly affect the achievement of the plan's goals and
objectives.  The mission statement was also revised to more closely
coincide with the language of the agency's statutes. 

EPA improved the clarity of its strategic plan in several ways.  It
added information that explains how the agency's responsibilities for
human health and the environment intersect with or support the work
of other federal departments or agencies, such as the Departments of
the Interior and Health and Human Services.  It also added
information that better describes the important role of the states as
having primary responsibility for implementing many day-to-day
environmental program activities, such as issuing permits and
monitoring environmental conditions.  In addition, EPA added
statements to clarify the relationship among certain components of
its plan, that is, the goals and objectives, guiding principles, and
planned cross-agency program activities.  Furthermore, an addendum
listing the agency's potential authorities was revised to identify
the actual authorities by goal and objective. 

The information that EPA added on interagency coordination of the
plan included the major steps it took to coordinate with other
agencies.  The plan also identifies a total of 25 federal agencies
whose activities relate to EPA's efforts under one or more of its
goals.  According to the plan, the actions taken to coordinate with
other agencies on the plan will help to establish long-term efforts
to address any inconsistencies, conflicts, or redundancies among
federal programs, as identified in any future strategic and annual
performance plans. 

To better address management problems, EPA made changes to the plan
in the areas of its working relationship with the states, the quality
and completeness of its science, and financial management.  The
National Environmental Performance Partnership System was developed
by EPA and the states in 1995 as a more collaborative approach to
implementing environmental programs.  The plan now sets out the
objectives of the partnership system and identifies how they will be
accomplished.  In addition, the plan now makes conducting peer
reviews and providing guidance on the science underlying the agency's
decisions an objective under the "sound science" goal.  As noted in
our July 1997 report, the use of peer review is an important means of
ensuring the credibility of the scientific and technical documents
that the agency uses in its work.  Furthermore, EPA added a
performance measure to the "effective management" goal dealing with
the need to achieve success in implementing the Chief Financial
Officers Act and the Government Management Reform Act.  This
performance measure will help ensure that EPA addresses financial
management issues that resulted in the agency's receiving a qualified
opinion on its fiscal year 1996 financial statements. 

STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE FURTHER
IMPROVED

Several revisions that we suggested in our previous report have not
been made.  Some of these relate to improvements in aspects of the
six elements required by the Results Act, while others deal with
further improvement in the treatment of management and data problems
and the effectiveness of the plan in conveying the agency's
priorities. 

Although the plan provides a general methodology for selecting future
program evaluations and describes how they are to be used, it does
not identify the general scope and time frames of the evaluations, as
encouraged by OMB's guidance.  In addition, as in the draft plan, (1)
some of the goals and objectives, such as those for effective
management, are not stated in quantifiable or measurable terms; (2)
staffing skills and resources are generally not discussed in
describing how the plan's goals and objectives are to be achieved;
and (3) because strategies are generally organized by goal rather
than objective, it is not always clear how specific strategies relate
to specific objectives.  Moreover, future revisions or updates of the
plan could further benefit from a more detailed discussion of how
other federal agencies and the states are to contribute to individual
goals and objectives. 

In future revisions or updates of the plan, EPA may also want to more
explicitly identify and discuss actions to resolve the management and
data problems identified by the agency and others because of their
importance to the agency's operations and the achievement of its
goals and objectives.  This more explicit treatment would improve the
credibility of the plan by demonstrating that the agency recognizes
the significance of these problems and is committed to resolving
them. 

As the strategic plan evolves over time, EPA could improve its
effectiveness in conveying the agency's priorities.  The large number
of goals and objectives, coupled with the guiding principles and
planned cross-agency program actions, continues to make it difficult
to discern EPA's priorities.  To better convey its priorities, EPA
could directly relate the cross-agency programs to specific goals and
objectives or further consolidate its goals or objectives. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

We provided a draft of our observations on EPA's strategic plan for
its review and comment.  EPA officials, including the Director of the
Office of Planning, Analysis, and Accountability, told us that the
strategic plan was a product of a broader reform of the agency's
planning, budgeting, analysis, and accountability functions and that
the consolidation and harmonization of these functions will, over
time, bring about many of the improvements that we have suggested. 
EPA noted that as EPA refines its approaches to analysis and
accountability, the agency will be better able to outline the
prospective uses of program evaluation and consequent refinements to
its goals, objectives, and performance measures.  In addition, EPA
said that the agency has taken the "unprecedented" step of submitting
its first annual performance plan under the Results Act and its
fiscal year 1999 budget request to OMB as a single document. 
According to EPA, this action has had the effect of transforming
budgetary decisions into the structure of strategic goals and
objectives, which makes the kind of direct budget and performance
linkages that we have suggested.  While we recognize that EPA's
annual performance plan will provide detailed information on
resources, strategies, goals, and objectives, we believe that the
strategic plan would be more complete and useful to congressional and
other stakeholders if it provides an overview of resource needs and
links the agency's major strategies to individual goals and
objectives. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Peter F.  Guerrero, Director, Environmental Protection Issues;
Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, (202)
512-6111. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE FEDERAL
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY'S
STRATEGIC PLAN
======================================================== Appendix XVII

On July 22, 1997, we issued a report on the Federal Emergency
Management Agency's (FEMA) draft strategic plan (Results Act: 
Observations on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Draft
Strategic Plan, GAO/RCED-97-204R).  FEMA's strategic plan was
submitted to OMB and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested,
we have reviewed the September 30 strategic plan and compared it with
the observations in our July 22 report.  On October 16, 1997, we
briefed your staffs on our further observations on the strategic
plan.  The key points from that briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

As we reported in July, FEMA's draft plan indicated that the agency
had made good progress toward fulfilling the requirements of the
Results Act but needed improvements to fully meet those requirements. 
For instance, we observed that the draft plan lacked two of the six
elements required by the Results Act:  (1) the relationship between
strategic goals and annual performance goals and (2) the role of
program evaluations.  The required elements contained in the plan
could have better conformed to the Act's requirements and OMB's
guidance.  For example, the plan did not explicitly address the major
legislation or executive orders that serve as a basis for FEMA's
mission statement, goals, and strategies or sufficiently deal with
financial and information management issues that we and others have
previously identified.  We also noted that clarifying the linkage
between FEMA's strategic objectives and the strategies intended to
achieve them would make the plan more useful to FEMA and to Congress. 
Furthermore, the draft plan did not address the roles of external
stakeholders and how FEMA coordinated with them in developing the
plan. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN FEMA'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

FEMA's September 30 plan incorporates many improvements that make it
more responsive to the requirements of the Results Act.  First, it
contains explicit language describing the role of program
evaluations, a key element missing from the earlier version.  For
instance, the plan includes for each of FEMA's three strategic goals
a discussion of the type(s) of program evaluation that have been
completed and are planned to help assess the accomplishment of those
goals. 

The September 30 plan explicitly references the major legislation or
executive orders that serve as a basis for the agency's mission
statement, goals, and strategies.  Furthermore, it links the key
statutory authorities to the agency's strategic goals.  This addition
should be helpful to Congress and the agency in ensuring that FEMA's
stated goals respond to the entire spectrum of its key statutory
authorities. 

Following suggestions in our July report, FEMA's September 30 plan
elaborates on certain aspects of two issues that we felt were not
fully discussed in the draft plan:  (1) management issues that we and
others have previously identified and (2) the agency's capacity to
provide reliable information assessing the achievement of its goals
and objectives.  For example, the plan now reflects consideration of
containing disaster program costs and remedying financial management
problems.  It also now more fully addresses how FEMA intends to
address the Year 2000 problem, which is an issue that we have
identified as high risk across the government. 

Unlike the earlier version, the September 30 plan discusses external
stakeholders involved in the development of the plan.  Identifying
external stakeholders is important given the many and varied
stakeholders that have critical roles in determining the extent to
which FEMA's goals are met.  For example, the U.S.  Army Corps of
Engineers provides assistance for constructing flood control
facilities and clearing debris from disaster-ravaged areas.  FEMA
could further enhance its strategic plan by clearly identifying
federal agencies, or programs within those agencies, with related
missions or potentially crosscutting program activities, and how
coordination with them shaped FEMA's plan. 

FEMA'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

Some of the elements of FEMA's strategic plan could be further
improved to more fully meet the purposes of the Results Act.  For
example, while the revised plan incorporates language on the
relationship between annual goals and the strategic goals and
objectives, the plan would benefit from elaboration on this issue. 
OMB's guidance suggests that strategic plans include a discussion of
the type, the nature, and the scope of the performance goals to be
included in the annual performance plans.  While FEMA's September 30
plan states that the agency's annual performance plans will
illustrate how annual performance goals will support the strategic
goals and objectives, it lacks an explicit discussion of the type,
the nature, and the scope of the performance goals to be included in
the plans and their linkages to the strategic goals and objectives. 

In July, we observed that FEMA's plan, in order to be consistent with
OMB's guidance, should link external factors, which could affect the
accomplishment of strategic goals and objectives, to particular goals
and also describe how achieving the goals could be influenced by the
factors.  While the plan contains a section on external factors, it
does not link the factors to specific goals or objectives or
articulate strategies for mitigating the factors' effects. 

Also, in our July report, we suggested that FEMA's plan could be
strengthened if the strategies were more integrally linked to FEMA's
strategic objectives.  The September 30 plan does more clearly link
strategies with overall goals, although not with specific objectives. 
Because of this structure, the plan is not as useful as it could be
in assigning accountability for achieving specific objectives. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

The Results Act requires that strategic plans contain goals and
objectives that are expressed in a manner allowing a future
assessment of whether they are being achieved.  While the goals in
FEMA's September 30 plan are not substantially different from those
in the earlier version, the proposed assessment approaches are.  The
revised approaches raise questions as to their feasibility.  For
example, the first goal--"protect lives and prevent the loss of
property from all hazards"--includes an approach that relies on
incomplete modelling and data collection efforts and an implied but
unquantified relationship between an increase in readiness and a
decrease in risk.  Because of the potential assessment difficulties,
it is less clear that FEMA's goals and objectives are expressed in a
manner that allows a future assessment of whether they are being
achieved. 

The plan's usefulness could be enhanced if it were easier to read and
follow.  More explanatory language and/or a visual "road map" might
help show how the major elements of the plan relate to one another. 
For example, a few sentences explaining that the operational
objectives link to the strategic goals rather than the strategic
objectives would be helpful.  Finally, providing clarifying and
simplified language would enhance the plan's usefulness to audiences
external to FEMA. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

We provided FEMA with a draft of our observations on its strategic
plan for its review and comment.  On October 14, 1997, we obtained
comments from officials from the Office of Policy and Regional
Operations and from the Mitigation Directorate.  Overall, FEMA agreed
with our observations and facts, indicating that the thrust of the
product was appropriate.  FEMA also clarified efforts under way at
the agency to assist officials in assessing the achievement of goals
and objectives.  We incorporated their suggested changes where
appropriate. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Judy A.  England-Joseph, Director, Housing and Community Development
Issues; Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division,
(202) 512-7631. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE GENERAL
SERVICES ADMINISTRATION'S
STRATEGIC PLAN
======================================================= Appendix XVIII

On July 7, 1997, we issued a report on the General Services
Administration's draft strategic plan (The Results Act:  Observations
on GSA's April 1997 Draft Strategic Plan, GAO/GGD-97-147R).  GSA has
since revised its strategic plan and formally submitted it to OMB and
Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested, we have reviewed the
September 30 strategic plan and compared it with the observations in
our July 7 report.  On October 16, 1997, we briefed your offices on
our further observations on the strategic plan.  The key points from
that briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

We reported in July that the April 28 draft plan included the six
components required by the Results Act and that the general goals and
objectives in the plan reflected GSA's major statutory
responsibilities.  However, our analysis showed that the plan could
have better met the purposes of the Act and related OMB guidance. 
Two of the required components--how goals and objectives were to be
achieved and program evaluations--needed more descriptive information
on how goals and objectives were to be achieved, how program
evaluations were used in setting goals, and what the schedule would
be for future evaluations to better achieve the purposes of the Act. 
The four other required components--mission statement, general goals
and objectives, key external factors, and relating performance goals
to general goals and objectives--were more responsive to the Act but
needed greater clarity and context.  We also noted that the general
goals and objectives and the mission statement in the draft plan did
not emphasize economy and efficiency, as a reflection of taxpayers'
interests.  Also, the general goals and objectives seem to have been
expressed in terms that may be challenging to translate into
quantitative or measurable analysis, and there could have been better
linkages between the various components of the plan. 

We also reported that the draft plan could have been made more useful
to GSA, Congress, and other stakeholders by providing a fuller
description of statutory authorities and an explicit discussion of
crosscutting functions, major management problems, and the adequacy
of data and systems.  Although the plan reflected the major pieces of
legislation that establish GSA's mission and explained how GSA's
mission is linked to key statutes, we reported that GSA could provide
other useful information, such as listing laws that broaden its
responsibilities as a central management agency and that are
reflected in the goals and objectives. 

Relatedly, the draft plan did not discuss the potential for
crosscutting issues to arise or how these issues might affect
successful accomplishment of goals and objectives.  It also made no
mention of whether GSA coordinated the plan with its stakeholders. 
The plan was also silent on the formidable management problems we
have identified over the years--issues that are important because
they could have a serious impact on whether GSA can achieve its
strategic goals.  Finally, the plan made no mention of how data
limitations would affect GSA's ability to measure performance and
ultimately manage its programs.  We reported that consideration of
these areas would give GSA a better framework for developing and
achieving its goals and help stakeholders better understand GSA's
operating constraints and environment. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN THE STRATEGIC
PLAN

The September 30 plan reflects a number of the improvements that we
suggested in our July 1997 report.  The clarity of the September 30
plan is improved, and it provides more context, descriptive
information, and linkages within and among the six components that
are required by the Act.  Compared to the April 28 draft, the
September 30 plan generally should provide stakeholders with a better
understanding of GSA's overall mission and strategic outlook.  Our
analysis of the September 30 plan also showed that, in line with our
suggestion, GSA placed more emphasis on economy and efficiency in the
comprehensive mission statement and general goals and objectives
components.  The September 30 plan also generally described the
operational processes, staff skills, and technology required, as well
as the human, information, and other resources needed, to meet the
goals and objectives.  The plan now contains a listing of program
evaluations that GSA used to prepare the plan and a more
comprehensive discussion of the major pieces of legislation that
serve as a basis for its mission, reflecting additional suggestions
we made in our July 1997 report. 

Furthermore, the September 30 plan's overall improvement in clarity
and context should help decisionmakers and other stakeholders better
understand the crosscutting, governmentwide nature of GSA's
operations as a central management agency.  The September 30 plan
makes some reference to major management problems in the program
evaluations component and also addresses the importance of data
reliability in the general goals and objectives component.  The
improvements that GSA has made are a step in the right direction, and
the six components better achieve the purposes of the Act.  However,
we believe that additional improvements, which are described in the
following section, would strengthen the strategic plan as it evolves
over time. 

STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE FURTHER
IMPROVED

As we discussed in our July 7, 1997, report on the draft plan, the
September 30 plan continues to have general goals and objectives that
seem to be expressed in terms that may be challenging to translate
into quantitative or measurable analysis.  This could make it
difficult to determine whether they are actually being achieved.  For
example, the goal to "compete effectively for the federal market" has
such objectives as "provide quality products and services at
competitive prices and achieve significant savings" and "open GSA to
marketplace competition where appropriate to reduce costs to the
government and improve customer service." However, this goal, its
related objectives, and the related narrative do not state
specifically how progress will be measured, such as the amount of
savings GSA intends to achieve or the timetable for opening the GSA
marketplace for competition.  OMB Circular A-11 specifies that
general goals and objectives should be stated in a manner that allows
a future assessment to be made of whether the goals are being met. 
The OMB guidance states that general goals that are quantitative
facilitate this determination, but it also recognizes that the goals
need not be quantitative and that related performance goals can be
used as a basis for future assessments.  However, we observed that
many of the performance goals that GSA included in the plan also were
not expressed in terms that could easily enable quantitative
analysis, which could make gauging progress difficult in future
assessments. 

The strategies component--how the goals and objectives will be
achieved--described the operational processes, human resources and
skills, and information and technology needed to meet the general
goals and objectives.  This component is an improvement over the
prior version we reviewed, and applicable performance goals are
listed with each of these factors.  Although GSA chose to discuss
generally the factors that will affect its ability to achieve its
performance goals, we believe that a more detailed discussion of how
each goal will actually be accomplished would be more useful to
decisionmakers.  To illustrate with a specific example, the plan
could discuss the approaches that GSA will use to meet the
performance goals related to its general goal of promoting
responsible asset management using operational processes, human
resources and skills, information and technology, and capital/other
resources. 

The September 30 plan does discuss, in the general goals and
objectives component, an operational/human resource change involving
the appointment of a new Chief Measurement Officer in the Public
Buildings Service.  More discussion of this type of change in the
strategies component would help stakeholders better understand GSA's
specific strategies to ensure that it is achieving its goals and
objectives.  We also noted that the strategies component does not
discuss priorities among the goals and objectives.  Such a discussion
would be helpful to decisionmakers in determining where to focus
priorities in the event of a sudden change in funding or staffing. 
Finally, GSA deferred to the President's budget its discussion about
capital and other resources.  We believe it seems reasonable to
include in this component at least some general discussion of how
capital and other resources will be used to meet each general goal. 

Although the external factors component in the September 30 plan is
much clearer and provides more context than the draft plan we
reviewed, the factors are not clearly linked to the general goals and
objectives.  OMB Circular A-11 states that the plan should include
this link, as well as describe how achieving the goals could be
affected by the factors.  This improvement would allow decisionmakers
to better understand how the factors potentially will affect
achievement of each general goal and objective.  The program
evaluations component in the September 30 plan provides a listing of
the various program evaluations that GSA indicates were used in
developing the plan.  However, it still does not include a schedule
of future evaluations.  Instead, the plan states that the schedule
for future program evaluations is under development and that GSA
intends to use the remainder of the consultation process to obtain
input from Congress and stakeholders concerning the issues that
should be studied on a priority basis.  However, OMB Circular A-11
indicates that the schedule should have been completed and included
in the September 30 plan, together with an outline of the general
methodology to be used and a discussion of the particular issues to
be addressed. 

Although the September 30 plan does a much better job of setting
forth GSA's statutory authorities in the attachment, this description
could be further improved if the different statutory authorities
discussed therein were linked with either the general goals and
objectives or the performance goals included in the plan.  Further,
the plan only makes limited reference to the other important areas we
identified in our July 1997 report--crosscutting issues, major
management problems, and data reliability.  The plan's improved
clarity and context should help decisionmakers understand the
crosscutting issues that affect GSA as a central management agency. 
However, explicit discussion of these issues is limited, and the
September 30 plan makes no reference to the extent to which GSA
coordinated with stakeholders. 

The September 30 plan references major management problems in the
program evaluations component, but it does not explicitly discuss
these problems or identify which problems could have an adverse
impact on meeting the general goals and objectives.  Our work has
shown over the years that these types of problems have significantly
hampered GSA's and its stakeholder agencies' abilities to accomplish
their missions.  For example, the plan could address how GSA will
attempt to ensure that its information systems meet computer security
requirements or how GSA plans to address the Year 2000 problem in its
computer hardware and software systems.  The plan does reference data
reliability in the general goals and objectives component.  However,
the discussion of data reliability, which is so critical for
measuring progress and results, is limited and not as useful as it
could be in attempting to assess the impact that data problems could
have on meeting the general goals and objectives.  We continue to
believe that greater emphasis on how GSA plans to resolve management
problems and on the importance of data reliability could improve the
plan. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

On October 9, 1997, we obtained oral comments from GSA's Director of
Performance Management on a draft of our analysis of GSA's September
30 plan.  She said that GSA generally agreed with our observations
about the September 30 plan and said that many of the observations
will be addressed in future versions of the plan and in the various
performance plans that GSA has drafted.  However, she added that GSA
is concerned that many of our observations could lengthen the plan,
thereby making it less usable or readable to GSA's broad
constituency, including Congress, OMB, GSA employees, and GSA's
various business partners. 

We understand GSA's concern but believe that the plan, at a minimum,
would benefit from better linkages between and among its elements and
more discussion of related factors, such as crosscutting issues,
management problems, and data reliability.  In fact, we believe that
the plan would be more usable to GSA's broad constituency if GSA made
the improvements we suggested.  It would then provide a clearer
roadmap on how GSA plans to achieve its strategic goals and measure
progress and results.  Furthermore, it seems that GSA should be able
to address our concerns in a succinct fashion that is both usable and
reader-friendly while, at the same time, better achieving the
purposes of the Act and related OMB guidance. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Bernard L.  Ungar, Director, Government Business Operations Issues;
General Government Division, (202) 512-4232. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE OFFICE OF
PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT'S STRATEGIC
PLAN
========================================================= Appendix XIX

On July 11, 1997, we issued a report on the Office of Personnel
Management's (OPM) draft strategic plan (The Results Act: 
Observations on OPM's May 1997 Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/GGD-97-150R).  OPM's formally issued strategic plan was submitted
to OMB and Congress on September 29, 1997.  As requested, we have
reviewed the publicly issued strategic plan and compared it with the
observations in our July 11 report.  On October 17, 1997, we briefed
your staffs on our further observations on the strategic plan.  The
key points from that briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

Of the six components required by the Results Act, two--how the goals
and objectives will be achieved and relating performance goals to
general goals/objectives--were not specifically identified in the
draft plan.  The remaining four components--mission statement, goals
and objectives, external factors, and program evaluations--were
discussed in the draft plan.  However, each of these components had
weaknesses, some of more significance than others.  Specifically, the
mission statement was too broad, lacking explicit reference to
certain key responsibilities; the goals and objectives suggested some
results to be achieved but provided little basis for judging how OPM
would know whether those goals were being achieved or what OPM's
contribution toward achieving those results might be; some external
factors were identified, but others were not included in the plan,
which also did not meet the Act's requirement to link each factor to
a particular goal or to identify how it might affect OPM's success in
meeting its goals; and, finally, the program evaluation component
discussed customer satisfaction with OPM services but did not
indicate how evaluations were used in developing strategic goals or
provide a schedule for future evaluations as the Act requires and OMB
guidance reiterated. 

In addition, while the draft plan did identify a number of OPM's
crosscutting program activities, it did not discuss coordination or
indicate that OPM, in developing the plan, coordinated with the
entities involved in these crosscutting activities.  Including a
fuller discussion of OPM's interrelationship with other agencies in
the plan would be consistent with the purposes of the Act.  Such a
discussion likely would also provide more information for Congress
and other stakeholders to use in judging whether OPM's crosscutting
responsibilities should be modified in any way. 

Further, OPM's draft strategic plan did not address some major
management challenges.  Some of the major management challenges OPM
faces include (1) ensuring that the federal government is adequately
competitive in obtaining future workers; (2) determining whether
federal employee compensation (e.g., pay and benefits) is
appropriate; and (3) ensuring that decisions for information
technology projects are based on assessments of mission benefits,
risks, and costs.  Discussion of these challenges as well as of
management problem areas where OPM has taken successful corrective
actions would be informative and useful to both OPM and Congress. 

IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN OPM'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

OPM's publicly issued strategic plan incorporated several
improvements that make it more responsive to the requirements of the
Results Act than was the draft plan.  In particular, OPM revised its
mission statement to recognize its key responsibilities.  OPM's
revised mission statement is more results oriented and outlines OPM's
functions and activities as the government's central personnel
agency.  OPM has added specific sections to its plan describing OPM
and what it does, OPM's history, and its statutory responsibilities. 
These sections augment the mission statement by linking it to
relevant statutory authorities. 

Two of the components required by the Results Act that were missing
when we reviewed the draft plan in July--how the goals and objectives
will be achieved and relating annual performance goals to general
goals/objectives--have been added to the issued strategic plan.  OPM
has a section under each goal entitled "Strategies for Achieving
Objectives" that lists general action items OPM has identified for
achieving its goals and objectives.  Also, under each strategic goal,
OPM has proposed measures to assess progress toward its overall
goals.  In several cases, OPM has established measurable targets that
can be used to gauge the agency's progress.  OPM's issued plan
includes a section on the relationship between its strategic goals
and objectives and its forthcoming annual performance plans.  This
section generally states that strategic goals will be linked to
specific performance goals and performance improvements in the annual
performance plan and that the plan's program evaluation section
further links the strategic plan to the annual performance plans. 

We observed in July that the draft plan identified external factors
but did not discuss how OPM would address them operationally.  The
issued strategic plan elaborates on several of its identified
external factors, links them to specific goals, as called for by OMB
Circular A-11, and includes some mitigating actions.  In addition,
the issued plan provides more information on OPM's evaluation
efforts.  This additional information sets OPM's evaluation agenda
and schedule and also describes the evaluations used to provide
baseline data for some of OPM' s performance measures. 

We observed in July that the draft plan did not assess the potential
for overlap and duplication or, conversely, cooperation and
coordination with agencies and others on crosscutting issues.  The
issued plan includes a strategy to identify and solve common problems
and avoid duplication of effort by working cooperately with
consortia, agencies, and interagency groups such as the Interagency
Advisory Group of Federal Human Resources Directors. 

OPM's issued plan includes specific sections on its information
technology and financial management systems strategies.  For example,
the financial management strategies section addresses goals in
improving OPM's financial information.  This is a positive step since
data reliability is extremely important for obtaining reliable
performance measures to evaluate management performance and measure
progress and results.  Although the plan does not have specific
sections that address other challenges, such as attracting and
retaining well-qualified employees and determining appropriate
compensation, as we had suggested, we note that OPM has included
under its strategic goals certain objectives and strategies regarding
staffing and examining and federal compensation. 

OPM'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

Although OPM made several improvements that we suggested in our
previous report, some elements of its issued plan could be further
improved.  OPM's five strategic goals, which we previously
characterized as process oriented as opposed to results oriented,
have not been revised from OPM's May 1997 draft.  However, for each
of the five goals, OPM has provided a number of corresponding
results-oriented objectives.  Several of these objectives are time
specific and allow future assessments to be made of whether they were
or are being achieved.  We acknowledge that not all objectives may
lend themselves to quantification; however, this element of the plan
could be more helpful to decisionmakers if more of the objectives had
specified time frames, quantifiable targets, or identified base
points against which progress could be measured.  For example,
neither OPM's objective for fostering movement by senior executives
nor its associated measures of success provide a sense of how much
more movement may be desirable or how OPM or others will know when
movements of executives have reached a more appropriate level. 

As previously mentioned, OPM has added specific strategies for
achieving its objectives.  However, these strategies generally do not
include a description of the processes and the human, capital, and
information resources required to achieve the goals and objectives as
called for by the Results Act.  OPM officials point to the fifth goal
and its accompanying strategies as providing this information. 
However, although one strategy states in part that OPM will "acquire
the necessary resources," thus implying that additional resources
will be needed, none of the strategies under this goal specify the
necessary resources, costs, or information technology OPM will need
to achieve its goals. 

One of the elements required by the Results Act that was missing when
we reviewed the draft plan in July--the relationship between
long-term goals and objectives and annual performance plans--is
addressed in the issued strategic plan as previously described.  By
explicitly recognizing that future annual performance goals will be
needed to assess progress toward the targets set in the strategic
plan and by adding additional measurable targets to its issued plan,
OPM has provided a greater assurance that combined information in the
strategic and annual plans will be useful to OPM and stakeholders in
tracking OPM's progress.  However, particularly because a significant
number of OPM's goals and objectives are not expressed in a manner
readily susceptible to progress assessments, additional discussion of
how OPM will assess progress over the 5-year period covered by the
plan would have been useful. 

OPM's discussion of external factors also could be further improved. 
Specifically, OPM could provide more information on how the external
factors may affect goals and also identify additional actions by OPM
to reduce potential impact.  For example, the issued plan notes that
the accelerated loss of experienced managers and personnelists
throughout the federal government may affect strategic goals II, III,
and IV.  However, the plan does not indicate how OPM believes this
external factor will affect each goal, nor does it indicate the
actions that OPM plans to take to reduce the potential impact of the
factor on OPM's efforts to achieve its goals. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

On October 17, 1997, the Acting Director of OPM provided written
comments on a draft analysis of the issued strategic plan.  OPM
expressed appreciation for our recognition that improvements had been
made in its plan and said that it would give consideration to our
comments as it further revises and updates the strategic plan and
also as it develops the annual performance plan. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Michael Brostek, Associate Director, Federal Management and Workforce
Issues; General Government Division, (202) 512-8676. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE NATIONAL
AERONAUTICS AND SPACE
ADMINISTRATION'S STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================== Appendix XX

On July 22, 1997, we issued a report on the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration's (NASA) draft strategic plan (Results Act: 
Observations on NASA's May 1997 Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/NSIAD-97-205R).  NASA formally transmitted its strategic plan to
OMB and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested, we reviewed
this plan and compared it with the observations in our July report. 
On October 17, 1997, we briefed your staffs on our further
observations on the plan.  The key points from that briefing are
summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

NASA's draft strategic plan included four of the six elements
required by the Results Act.  Those four elements were a mission
statement, goals and objectives, strategies for achieving the goals
and objectives, and a discussion of external factors.  Two of the
four elements had weaknesses.  The other elements--relating annual
performance goals to general goals and objectives, and providing a
description of program evaluations used to establish general goals
and objectives and a schedule of future program evaluations--were not
explained in enough detail in the draft plan. 

Although many of NASA's objectives are shared with or involve other
agencies, the draft plan did not discuss whether interagency
coordination occurred to address duplication or overlap of
activities.  Also, the draft plan did not address the importance of
working with other agencies to achieve its objectives.  Although NASA
officials said that activities are coordinated at the program level,
such efforts were not discussed in the plan. 

Major management problems that could affect NASA's ability to achieve
its mission were not explicitly discussed in the draft plan.  For
example, NASA did not discuss its long-standing problems with
managing contracts, managing information technology, and developing a
fully integrated accounting system, even though the agency has
recognized them as problems and has initiated some steps designed to
address them.  This information could be beneficial to NASA and its
stakeholders because major management problems could impede the
agency's efforts to achieve its goals and objectives. 

IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN NASA'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

NASA incorporated improvements to its publicly issued strategic plan,
which now addresses in more detail the six required elements of the
Results Act.  In particular, NASA added discussions on the two
elements of the Act that were not adequately addressed in the draft
plan:  (1) relating performance goals to general goals and objectives
and (2) describing how program evaluations were used to establish
general goals and objectives and a schedule for future program
evaluations.  In addition, the relationship between questions and
missions has been clarified. 

NASA's plan now includes a more detailed discussion of the element
relating performance goals to general goals and objectives.  A new
chart (characterized by NASA as the "Strategic Management System
Roadmap") illustrates the relationship between agency-level goals and
the goals and objectives of the four Enterprises.\1 Also, in the
crosscutting processes section of the plan, NASA provides examples of
how agency goals relate to performance goals.  In our July report, we
observed that the draft plan did not clearly indicate whether
near-term, mid-term, or long-term goals would be used for performance
measurement, or whether performance would be measured against the
strategic outcomes, agencywide goals, or Enterprise goals.  The plan
now includes provisions for reviewing performance goals against the
near-term objectives of the Enterprises and the four crosscutting
processes that support all agency activities. 

Responding to our concern that the draft plan did not provide a
description of program evaluations used to establish general goals
and objectives and a schedule of future program evaluations, NASA has
included a description of its strategic plan provisions for
semiannual reviews by NASA's Senior Management Council.  These
reviews are to take place in March and September of each year.  The
plan also provides a more detailed explanation of NASA's planning
process.  According to the plan, NASA's Strategic Management System
will provide the information and results to fulfill the planning and
management requirements of the Results Act.  Furthermore, a series of
documents, such as the Headquarters Functional/Staff Office
Implementation Plans, will explain how NASA plans to implement
activities to accomplish its goals. 

The draft plan included "fundamental questions" posed by the NASA
Administrator.  In our July report, we noted that these questions
were not discussed in the context of the stated missions of the
agency.  The plan addresses this concern by including the questions
in the Strategic Management System Roadmap chart and linking them to
the mission, Enterprises, and crosscutting processes. 

NASA'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

The Results Act anticipated that it may take several planning cycles
to perfect the process and that the strategic plan would be
continually refined as various planning cycles occur.  NASA officials
also recognize that developing a strategic plan is a dynamic process
and that NASA's plan will evolve further over time as improvements
are identified.  We discussed the following opportunities for
improvement with NASA officials: 

  -- Although the plan provides more information on budgetary and
     human resource needs, this quantification is at the agency
     level.  In discussing the plan with NASA officials, they told us
     that budgetary and human resource needs at the Enterprise and
     program levels are identified in annual budget requests to
     preserve the strategic character of the plan.  The plan could be
     improved by identifying this source for cross-reference
     purposes. 

  -- The plan now lists "key assumptions" under the section heading
     of "Key External Factors" and describes consequences of such
     assumptions not being met.  These descriptions would be more
     complete with the addition of mitigation steps NASA might take
     in the event these assumptions do not materialize. 

  -- While the plan provides greater explanation of NASA's planning
     process--including the contributions of internal and external
     reviews--the plan can be improved by explicitly describing the
     role program evaluations played in establishing or revising
     goals and objectives. 

  -- An appendix has been added to the plan that summarizes how the
     long-term goals of the Enterprises relate to the goals and
     mission of the agency.  Though this information is helpful to
     understanding the relationships between agency-level and
     Enterprise goals in the long-term years (from 2010 to 2023), the
     plan would have been even more effective had this information on
     near-term goals (from 1998 to 2002), which form the foundation
     of NASA's plan, also been included. 

  -- The plan describes instances in which coordination and
     cooperation with other agencies have occurred at both agency and
     program levels.  For example, the plan discusses NASA's
     participation in the National Science and Technology Council. 
     The plan could be improved by explaining more clearly how NASA
     coordinated with other agencies to ensure that NASA's and these
     agencies' priorities were in agreement. 

  -- The plan recognizes the importance of developing and
     implementing an integrated financial management system and its
     integration with full cost accounting.  Similarly, the plan now
     presents as objectives the improvement in the effectiveness and
     efficiency of managing contracts and the contribution of
     information technology to mission success.  As we pointed out in
     our July report, it would be beneficial to present the
     implementation of an integrated financial management system,
     contract management reform, and information technology
     management in the context of their having been long-standing
     management challenges. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

On October 15, 1997, NASA's Senior Advisor for Strategic Planning and
Management provided us with the agency's comments on our observations
about its strategic plan.  The Senior Advisor made three points. 
First, he said that NASA strongly believes that the agency has
addressed all six required elements of the Results Act.  Second, he
stated that NASA is pleased that we recognize that many improvements
have been made.  He added that NASA has gone to great lengths and
effort to ensure that concerns about the draft strategic plan
expressed by Congress, OMB, and GAO were addressed.  In particular,
he said that numerous examples have been added to illustrate the fact
that NASA is committed to leveraging other agency programs and
resources.  Third, NASA agrees with our view that developing a
strategic plan is a dynamic process and that NASA will consider our
suggested improvements when the agency moves forward in future
updates to the plan. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Allen Li, Associate Director, Defense Acquisitions Issues; National
Security and International Affairs Division, (202) 512-4841. 


--------------------
\1 NASA's strategic plan separates the agency's programs into four
Enterprises:  Space Science, Mission to Planet Earth, Human
Exploration and Development of Space, and Aeronautics and Space
Transportation Technology. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE NATIONAL
SCIENCE FOUNDATION'S STRATEGIC
PLAN
========================================================= Appendix XXI

On July 11, 1997, we issued a report on the National Science
Foundation's (NSF) draft strategic plan (Results Act:  Observations
on the National Science Foundation's Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/RCED-97-203R).  NSF's formally issued strategic plan was
submitted to OMB and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested,
we have reviewed the publicly issued strategic plan and compared it
with the observations in our July 11 report.  On October 15, 1997, we
briefed your staffs on our further observations on the strategic
plan.  The key points from that briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

Of the six elements required by the Act, one--external factors that
could affect the achievement of the plans' goals--was not
specifically identified in the draft plan.  Of the remaining five
elements, three--goals and objectives, strategies for achieving
goals, and how program evaluation was used--were discussed but were
not complete.  Specifically, some of the goals were not expressed in
a measurable form, the strategies to achieve NSF's goals lacked
precision, and the description of program evaluations was not fully
developed. 

In addition, we observed that the draft plan could be more useful to
NSF, Congress, and other stakeholders if it provided a more explicit
discussion of crosscutting activities, statutory authorities, and
NSF's capacity to provide reliable information to manage its programs
or determine if it is achieving its strategic goals.  Recognizing
crosscutting issues and the coordination required to address them is
particularly important for NSF because in the science and technology
area, for which the federal government spent $60 billion in fiscal
year 1996, the potential for unnecessary overlap is particularly
high.  While NSF's draft plan reflected its key statutory authority,
other statutes broaden the scope of its responsibilities and are
embedded in NSF's goals and objectives.  Explicit consideration of
NSF's capacity to produce reliable information for management
decisionmaking is important because it could affect NSF's ability to
develop and meet its goals. 

IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN NSF'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

NSF's publicly issued strategic plan incorporated many improvements
consistent with our suggestions that make it more responsive to the
requirements of the Results Act than was the draft plan.  In
particular, NSF added appendixes addressing (1) the external factors
that could influence its ability to meet its goals, (2) the
measurability of outcome goals and additional details on strategies
for meeting those goals, (3) current and future program evaluation
efforts, (4) interagency crosscutting activities, and (5) how NSF
plans to use information technology. 

External factors are now addressed in appendix 1 of NSF's plan.  In
it, NSF describes the challenges that science and engineering faculty
and students face in the current research environment and identifies
how the achievement of four of its five goals could be affected by
external factors.  Consistent with OMB Circular No.  A-11, Part 2,
NSF briefly describes external factors, their link with a particular
goal, and how the achievement of the goal could be affected by the
factor.  For example, for goal 1--"discoveries at and across the
frontier of science and engineering," NSF raises concern about the
quality of research facilities and their influence on the pace of
discovery.  In particular, NSF relies on the academic research
facilities available at colleges and universities to provide a base
from which grantees can build their research programs.  To the extent
that moves toward cost efficiency in academic institutions affect
this base, allowing it to deteriorate or failing to maintain it at
the state of the art, NSF's costs for the support of research will
increase, which could slow the pace of discovery or change the types
of discoveries open to researchers.  NSF states that it would need to
balance the number of researchers whose work could be supported with
the added cost of conducting the research. 

NSF's outcome goals are addressed more fully in appendix 2 and in the
body of the report.  In our earlier report on the draft plan,
however, we had several reservations about NSF's goals, some of which
remain.  In particular, we noted in our earlier report that while
NSF's draft plan provided some general dates for achieving its goals,
it did not provide underlying assumptions, projections, or a schedule
for initiating or completing significant actions.  It also lacked a
process for communicating goals and objectives throughout the agency
and for assigning accountability to managers and staff for the
achievement of goals.  While the goals are still not expressed in a
measurable fashion, the plan now describes examples of performance
goals for NSF management and programs and includes both investment
strategies and action plans for achieving each goal.  According to
OMB Circular A-11, when the goals are defined in a way that precludes
a direct, future determination of achievement, the performance goals
and indicators in the performance plan should be used to provide the
basis for assessment.  According to NSF, the action plans are
provided to operationalize each strategy; to provide guidance to
program officers; and through quantitative indicators, to link the
goals to the development of annual budgets and performance plans. 

Current and future program evaluation efforts are now addressed in
appendix 3.  NSF discusses how the agency used specific formal and
informal evaluations to develop key investment strategies, action
plans for the strategic plan, and aspects of performance plans.  Also
included are details on future evaluations, a rough schedule for
their implementation, and how the findings could be useful (1) in
assessing NSF's progress toward outcome goals and (2) for strategic
planning discussions.  For example, a Results Act pilot project on
the physical sciences facilities gave NSF experience with setting
performance goals and performance baselines for NSF's oversight of
the construction and operation of large facilities.  This effort
facilitated NSF's development of appropriate performance goals for
facilities management that are applicable across NSF for its
performance plans.  In addition, in connection with future
evaluations and beginning in fiscal year 1998, NSF is planning to
develop a formal process of assessment that includes periodic
external assessment of progress toward outcome goals. 

Interagency crosscutting activities are now addressed in appendix 4. 
NSF describes the integration of its plan with the plans of other
agencies and acknowledges that decisionmaking for science and
engineering is distributed among many agencies.  NSF describes its
focus on promoting the progress of science and engineering by taking
into account the activities of other agencies, partnering where there
are shared interests, and taking complementary approaches where
appropriate.  Its plan states that NSF empowers those closest to the
field to determine through interaction with peers in other agencies
how they will proceed to manage their programs so that the federal
investment is synergistic.  For example, at the K-12 level of
education, the most significant national programs are at the
Department of Education and NSF, although the programs of the two
agencies have different approaches and strengths.  According to the
strategic plan, the Education Department generally provides
large-scale, flexible support directly to education agencies and
couples this support with technical assistance.  NSF's portfolio is
much smaller in scale and is targeted at improving mathematics,
science, and technology education and is established through
competitive processes.  According to the plan, staff at the two
agencies regularly interact and are developing an action strategy to
increase the impact of federal resources by creating synergy among
these programs.  Another avenue of coordination described by NSF is
the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), which leads
interagency efforts by the Committees on Fundamental Science and
Education and Training for discussions on science, mathematics,
engineering, and technology education.  According to NSF, the most
visible interagency NSTC programs are the U.S.  Global Change
Research Program and the High Performance Computing and
Communications Program, both of which NSF participates in. 

Information technology in support of NSF's mission is now discussed
in appendix 5, and strategies for addressing information technology
needs are identified in the section on "Critical Factors For
Success." In connection with its attention to Year 2000 issues, NSF
states that it sent a notification to all grantees describing this
potential problem and making clear that grantees bear the
responsibility of addressing any difficulties it might create for the
conduct of the research and education awards they hold.  NSF refers
to the fiscal year 1996 Annual Financial Report in its strategic
plan; in that report, the Chief Financial Officer noted that NSF
continues to meet or exceed virtually every federal goal for
financial management performance.  In addition, NSF has noted its
commitment to manage its systems in support of the Results Act and
the Chief Financial Officers Act as a key strategy in its plan. 

NSF'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

We observed in July that the draft plan could be enhanced by further
discussion of statutory authorities and additional detail on NSF's
use of information.  While our earlier report indicated that NSF's
statutory responsibilities were generally reflected in NSF's draft
strategic plan, we also stated that NSF is subject to other statutes
related to its core functions.  We suggested that providing a
description of its responsibilities under its various statutory
authorities could be useful, as a supplement to its plan, since the
plan includes goals and objectives based on them.  We also noted that
it might be helpful to link the stated outcome goal to the relevant
statutory objective.  In this regard, NSF's mission statement briefly
touches on additional charges to the agency beyond the initial
authorizing legislation, but the plan does not attempt to link NSF's
goals and strategies to the relevant statutory objective. 

As previously stated, information technology in support of NSF's
mission is now discussed in appendix 5, and strategies for addressing
information technology needs are identified in the section on
Critical Factors For Success.  However, with respect to the high-risk
issue of information security, the plan is still silent.  Also, the
revised plan does not discuss how NSF intends to improve its
accounting for property, plant, and equipment in the possession of
contractors and grantees in order to attain an unqualified audit
opinion--which would seem to be a key goal for the financial
management area. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

NSF's performance goals for the results of its investments will
appear as descriptive standards developed under the Results Act
option to set performance goals in alternative formats.  Since the
timing of outcomes from NSF's activities is unpredictable and annual
change in the outputs does not provide an accurate indicator of
progress toward outcome goals, performance goals for results are not
specific to a fiscal year.  NSF plans to use data and information on
the products of NSF's investments combined with the expert judgment
of external panels to assess NSF's performance over time and to
provide a management tool for initiating changes in direction, when
needed.  As we stated in our earlier report, quantitative and
qualitative indicators are widely used as proxies to assess research
and development results because of the difficulties in identifying
the impacts of research.  Yet, while implying a degree of precision,
these indicators were not originally intended to measure long-term
research and development results.  It remains to be seen whether
NSF's use of descriptive standards to evaluate results will become
valuable sources of information for tracking progress and measuring
outcomes. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

On October 10, 1997, we spoke with NSF's Assistant to the Director
for Science Policy and Planning to obtain the agency's comments on
our observations about its strategic plan.  NSF generally supported
our observations and agreed that some stakeholders may find useful
the addition of an appendix explicitly identifying the links between
the goals and strategies to the relevant statutory objective.  In
addition, NSF pointed out that attention to information security is
addressed in another strategic plan in accord with the Information
Technology Management Reform Act.  Finally, with respect to NSF's
accounting for property, plant, and equipment, the agency indicated
that NSF is taking necessary preliminary steps while awaiting
guidance from the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board and OMB
and expects to address this topic in a forthcoming performance plan. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Victor S.  Rezendes, Director, Energy, Resources, and Science Issues;
Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, (202)
512-3841. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE NUCLEAR
REGULATORY COMMISSION'S STRATEGIC
PLAN
======================================================== Appendix XXII

On July 31, 1997, we issued a report on the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission's (NRC) draft strategic plan (The Results Act: 
Observations on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Draft Strategic
Plan, GAO/RCED-97-206R).  NRC's formally issued strategic plan was
submitted to OMB and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested,
we have reviewed the publicly issued strategic plan and compared it
with the observations in our July 31 report.  On October 15, 1997, we
briefed your staffs on our further observations on the September 1997
plan.  The key points from the briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

The draft strategic plan contained two of the six required components
of the Results Act--the mission and the goals and objectives.  While
NRC's draft strategic plan met some of the requirements for three
other components, it did not describe (1) the resources, such as
staff skills and experiences, capital, and information, that will be
needed to execute the plan's strategies; (2) how key external factors
could affect the achievement of its goals; and (3) its schedule for
future program evaluations.  Finally, NRC had not included in its
draft plan the relationship between its long-term goals and
objectives and its annual performance goals. 

Although NRC shared its draft and consulted with other agencies, the
draft strategic plan did not fully discuss some programs and
activities that were crosscutting or similar to those of other
federal agencies.  For example, NRC and the Department of Energy
(DOE) share the responsibility for the federal government's
high-level waste disposal program; DOE builds such facilities, which
NRC must license.  Consequently, NRC is affected by changes in DOE's
strategies and program funding.  The draft plan would have benefited
by a more thorough discussion of these issues. 

Our previous work has highlighted major management challenges that
NRC needs to address more completely in its draft plan.  For example,
weaknesses in how NRC oversees nuclear power plants have led to
questions about the quality of the information that NRC uses to
inform the public about the safety conditions of the plants it is
required to regulate.  The draft strategic plan did not provide a
thorough discussion of these issues.  Similarly, the draft strategic
plan did not discuss in sufficient detail the consequences of
competition and economic uncertainties in the electric utility
industry in connection with decommissioning issues.  We have reported
that NRC's cost estimates for decommissioning are not realistic,
which could mean future problems for those licensees not having
sufficient funds to properly close their facilities. 

IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN NRC'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

NRC's September 1997 plan incorporated several improvements that make
it more responsive to the requirements of the Results Act than was
the draft strategic plan.  In response to our concern that resource
needs to execute strategies were not discussed, NRC added a statement
to the September 1997 plan explaining that it did not anticipate any
major, unique resource requirements and that its budget will identify
the specific resources needed to implement the plan.  NRC noted in
its September 1997 plan that performance indicators have been
established for human, capital, information, and funding resources in
its performance plan.  NRC explained that in the event legislation is
enacted to have NRC oversee DOE's facilities, changes to NRC's
strategies and resource needs could be required. 

NRC also added key external factors, which it called "major factors
or assumptions," affecting the achievement of its goals for the two
strategic arenas that had none-- "Protecting the Environment" and
"Excellence."

NRC also expanded its goals section to provide a clearer link between
the long-term (general) goals in its September 1997 strategic plan
and those to be included in the annual performance plan.  NRC added
intermediate performance goals from the annual performance plan to
the general goals to show the relationship between the final
September 1997 plan and the annual performance plan; it also provided
additional measures of results. 

In July, we observed that NRC did not fully address crosscutting
program activities.  The September 1997 plan was extensively revised
to include a section in the appendix, entitled "Cross-Cutting
Functions," that identifies major crosscutting functions and
interagency programs and discusses NRC's coordination with other
agencies, such as DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

We also observed in July that while NRC's draft strategic plan
addressed previously identified management problems, the draft
strategic plan could be more helpful if the measures to address the
challenges were clearer.  Consequently, NRC added a section to the
appendix of its September 1997 plan, entitled "Responsiveness to
Audit Reports and Investigative Findings," in which it discusses
initiatives to improve its capability to measure plant performance
and changes to the rules and processes governing licensing bases
information.  NRC also modified its draft strategic plan to discuss
its actions to provide reliable performance information .  Most of
the data that NRC plans to use to measure performance will come from
existing reports to Congress; and, in fiscal year 1998, it plans to
identify any primary data systems that require improvement to provide
any other information needed. 

NRC also addressed our concern that it had not discussed legislative
needs that it may have had.  NRC added a statement to its September
1997 plan to indicate its conclusion that it had not identified a
need for any significant legislative changes to achieve its goals and
strategies.  NRC noted, for certain substrategies related to reactor
and nonreactor decommissioning, that it is seeking legislation that
would eliminate the overlap in the standard-setting authority of NRC
and EPA in connection with Atomic Energy Act sites and materials by
recognizing NRC's and Agreement States' standards in these areas. 

NRC'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

While NRC described in its September 1997 plan its program evaluation
process, NRC still needs to include schedules for future program
evaluations as required by the Results Act.  Moreover, the September
1997 plan does not describe the general methodology to be used and
the scope and issues to be addressed in such evaluations. 

The NRC plan indicates that no unique resources are anticipated, but
it does not explicitly describe the resources and processes required
to achieve its goals--in particular, its goal for nuclear waste
safety.  The Act states that the strategic plan is to contain a
description of how the goals and objectives are to be achieved,
including a description of the operational processes, skills and
technology, and other resources required to meet the goals and
objectives.  To the extent that the achievement of a goal (i.e., the
nuclear waste safety goal) relies on the resources or activities of
others, NRC should describe those resources and activities in
describing how its goals are to be achieved.  Discussions of major
management challenges and how NRC will meet them should appear in
NRC's plan, either under its "Excellence" goal or as strategies for
achieving programmatic goals.  While NRC's 1997 strategic plan
provides a set of strategies that are linked to specific goals, these
strategies could be more complete. 

The annual performance goals for NRC's strategic goals for "Public
Confidence" and "Excellence" could be improved in that the annual
goals generally focus on measuring progress by implementing actions
already planned or directly under way and will not provide the
information needed to assess the achievement of the strategic goals. 
Also, the precise meaning of some of its goals--in particular, its
"Common Defense and Security and International Involvement" goal
relating to international involvement--could be further clarified. 

We observed in July that NRC's draft strategic plan did not discuss
how NRC intended to plan for and use information technology to
support the agency's missions and improve its program performance. 
NRC modified its draft strategic plan to explain that annual
performance plans that will delineate objective, quantifiable, and
measurable goals to be achieved in a given fiscal year will be
developed to further the general goals in the strategic plan.  NRC's
September 1997 plan does not indicate how it intends to address such
key information technology issues as the Year 2000 problem and the
information security problem, or how it intends to plan for and use
information technology to support the agency's mission.  Instead, the
strategic plan says that these key issues are included in NRC's
fiscal year 1999 performance plan. 

NRC recognizes that assuming the regulation of the nuclear activities
of DOE may be required in the future, but it has not yet begun
projecting plans for that purpose.  NRC has, however, agreed to
pursue a pilot program of simulated regulation of DOE, in which
regulatory concepts may be tested.  NRC and DOE believe that
information from the pilot program should be available before
legislation to transfer regulatory responsibility is enacted. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

We had suggested that NRC link all of its goals and strategies to its
major statutory authorities to facilitate a better understanding of
the diversity and complexity of its overall mission, goals, and
strategies.  NRC responded to this suggestion by listing the
statutory authorities for its general goals under five of its seven
strategic arenas, but it did not include specific statutory
references for its "Public Confidence" and "Excellence" arenas. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

On October 8, 1997, we met with NRC officials, including NRC's Chief
Financial Officer, to obtain NRC's comments on our observations about
the September 1997 plan.  NRC said that the Commission is committed
to implementing the Results Act and will continue to make
improvements to its first strategic plan, including addressing our
observations for future improvements, and take the other actions
necessary to make managing for results a reality at NRC. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Victor S.  Rezendes, Director, Energy, Resources, and Science Issues;
Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, (202)
512-3841. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE SMALL BUSINESS
ADMINISTRATION'S STRATEGIC PLAN
======================================================= Appendix XXIII

On July 11, 1997, we issued a report on the Small Business
Administration's (SBA) draft strategic plan (Results Act: 
Observations on the Small Business Administration's Draft Strategic
Plan, GAO/RCED-97-205R).  SBA's formally issued strategic plan was
submitted to OMB and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested,
we have reviewed the publicly issued strategic plan and compared it
with the observations in our July 11 report.  On October 16, 1997, we
briefed your staffs on our further observations on the strategic
plan.  The key points from that briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

SBA's draft strategic plan, as discussed in our July report, lacked
two required elements:  (1) a discussion of the relationship between
the long-term goals and objectives and the annual performance goals
and (2) a description of how program evaluations were used to
establish or revise strategic goals and a schedule for future program
evaluations.  The four required elements contained in the plan could
have better conformed to the Results Act's requirements and OMB's
guidance.  For example, (1) the mission statement did not encompass
SBA's significant disaster loan program for individuals, (2) many of
the goals and objectives appeared less outcome oriented than process
oriented, (3) the strategies consisted entirely of one-line
statements and were not detailed enough to enable an assessment of
how they would help achieve the plan's goals and objectives, and (4)
the plan did not discuss how identified external factors would be
taken into account when assessing progress toward goals.  Also,
because of the way in which the information was presented, the
linkages among specific performance measures, strategies, and
objectives were not clear. 

SBA's draft strategic plan also did not explicitly address the
relationship of SBA's activities to similar activities in other
agencies and provided no evidence that SBA coordinated with other
agencies in developing its plan.  In addition, the plan could have
benefited from an explicit acknowledgment of the extent to which SBA
must rely on other federal agencies in carrying out its federal
procurement-related responsibilities. 

Because the draft plan's strategies were vaguely stated, the extent
to which the plan addressed management problems that we have
previously identified was unclear.  For example, we have identified
problems with SBA's liquidation of guaranteed loans and of small
business investment companies; SBA's draft plan proposed improvements
in its liquidation processes but did not describe the specific
strategies to achieve the objectives. 

IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN SBA'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

SBA's September 30, 1997, strategic plan includes several
improvements that make it more responsive to the requirements of the
Results Act than the earlier version.  At the same time, SBA's
September plan differs significantly from the earlier draft in that
it includes, as appendixes, separate strategic plans for SBA's Office
of Inspector General and Office of Advocacy.  As discussed further
on, SBA has not made clear the relationship between the goals and
objectives in the plans included in the appendixes and those in the
main text of the plan. 

With a discussion of (1) the relationship between the long-term goals
and objectives and the annual performance goals and (2) how program
evaluations were used to establish or revise strategic goals, SBA's
September plan addresses all six required elements.  The plan's five
new strategic goals, as a group, are more clearly linked to SBA's
statutory mission than were the previous plan's seven goals.  In
addition, the inclusion of date-specific performance objectives that
incorporate performance measures make the strategic goals more
amenable to a future assessment of SBA's progress.  For example,
under the goal to "increase opportunities for small business
success," one of SBA's performance objectives is as follows:  "By the
year 2000, SBA will help increase the share of federal procurement
dollars awarded to small firms to at least 23 percent." Also, SBA
significantly improved its plan by more clearly and explicitly
linking the strategies to the specific objectives that they are
intended to accomplish. 

Other improvements include a mission statement that includes the
disaster loan program for individuals and more accurately reflects
SBA's statutory authorities, a better recognition that SBA's success
in achieving certain goals and objectives in the plan is dependent on
the actions of other agencies, and the addition of a section that
discusses how SBA's programs and activities interact with other
federal agencies' programs and activities.  While the latter section
states that SBA will coordinate with other agencies in the future, it
does not provide evidence that SBA coordinated with the other
agencies in the plan's development.  Also, the section that discusses
SBA's goal to improve internal controls implicitly addresses
management problems that we and others have identified.  However,
specific strategies to address the identified management problems are
not described. 

STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE FURTHER
IMPROVED

While SBA's goals are more clearly linked to SBA's statutory mission,
the relationship of one goal--leading small business participation in
the welfare-to-work effort--to SBA's mission is unclear.  While the
plan's performance objective places an emphasis on helping small
businesses meet their workforce needs, the subsequent discussion
implies a focus on helping welfare recipients find employment; for
example, the plan states that "SBA's goal is to help 200,000
work-ready individuals make the transition from welfare to work .  . 
.  ." It is not clear why SBA is focusing on welfare recipients only
and not on other categories of potential employees to help meet small
businesses' workforce needs. 

SBA's plan mentions certain program evaluations that SBA plans for
future fiscal years, as well as the continuation of its goal of
monitoring field and headquarters offices.  However, the plan does
not contain schedules of future comprehensive program evaluations for
SBA's major programs, including its 7(a) loan program and 8(a)
business development program.  (The Inspector General's plan
references future audits and evaluations that the Inspector General
plans to conduct to improve SBA management.) In addition, the plan
acknowledges that SBA needs a more systematic approach for using
program evaluations for measuring progress toward achieving its goals
and objectives, but it does not outline how SBA will develop and
implement such an approach.  Also, the strategy sections in the plan
do not describe the human, capital, and information resources that
are needed to achieve the goals and objectives. 

The September plan identifies various external factors, such as the
economy and congressional support, that could affect the achievement
of the plan's goals.  However, with the exception of "interagency
coordination," the plan does not link these factors to particular
goals or consistently describe how the factor(s) could affect
achievement of the goals and objectives.  Furthermore, the plan also
does not articulate strategies for mitigating the factors' effects. 
Also, while recognizing the need for reliable information to measure
progress toward the plan's goals and objectives, the plan notes that
SBA currently does not collect or report many of the measures that it
will require to assess performance.  The plan would benefit from
brief descriptions of how SBA plans to collect the data to measure
progress toward its goals and objectives. 

<head1xOTHER OBSERVATIONS

The earlier version of SBA's plan presented a section on the
Inspector General as a means of improving SBA's management--one of
the plan's seven goals.  However, the September 30 plan presents the
Inspector General's plan as an appendix, without cross-reference to
any specific SBA goal or objective.  Also, the September plan
includes an appendix containing a plan for the Office of Advocacy;
this material did not appear in SBA's earlier plan.  Generally, the
goals and objectives in the Inspector General and Advocacy plans
appear consistent with, and may contribute to the achievement of, the
goals and objectives in SBA's plan, but the relationship is not
explicit.  SBA's plan makes little mention of the Inspector General
and Advocacy plans and does not indicate at all how, or if, the
Inspector General and Advocacy activities are intended to help SBA
achieve the agency's goals and objectives.  Similarly, the Inspector
General and Advocacy plans do not make reference to the goals and
objectives in the SBA plan.  These plans could be more useful to
decisionmakers if their relationships were clearer. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

We provided copies of a draft of these observations to SBA for review
and comment.  We received comments from the SBA Administrator.  SBA
commented that our analysis of the plan provided useful suggestions
that will be used in its next draft of the plan.  SBA also provided
additional information concerning two of our observations.  First,
SBA stated that the emphasis of the fourth goal--to lead small
business participation in the welfare-to-work initiative--is focused
on helping small businesses rather than former welfare recipients. 
Second, SBA commented that the agency works with the Inspector
General and Advocacy offices to carry out SBA's mission, and the
Inspector General and Advocacy plans were included as appendixes to
its strategic plan to highlight the offices' statutory independence. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Judy A.  England-Joseph, Director, Housing and Community Development
Issues; Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division,
(202) 512-7632. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE SOCIAL
SECURITY ADMINISTRATION'S
STRATEGIC PLAN
======================================================== Appendix XXIV

On July 22, 1997, we issued a report on the Social Security
Administration's (SSA) draft strategic plan (The Results Act: 
Observations on the Social Security Administration's June 1997 Draft
Strategic Plan, GAO/HEHS-97-179R).  SSA's formally issued strategic
plan was submitted to OMB and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As
requested, we reviewed the September 30 plan and compared it with the
observations in our July 22 report.  On October 14, 1997, we briefed
your staffs on our further observations on the strategic plan.  The
key points from that briefing are summarized herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

SSA's draft strategic plan contained all six of the elements required
by the Results Act and reflected its status as an independent agency. 
To the agency's credit, the draft plan was forward-looking and
provided a solid foundation for SSA's consultation with Congress and
other stakeholders.  Also, the goals in the draft plan were more
balanced than those of prior SSA plans because they emphasized sound
program management in addition to customer service.  However, some of
the required elements in the plan could have been strengthened in
important ways.  For example, for some goals, it was not clear what
SSA hoped to achieve and how it planned to measure its achievement,
and some goals seemed to overlap.  In addition, the plan cited many
initiatives that SSA intends to begin or continue without additional
agencywide resources and without setting priorities or delineating
time frames and schedules.  As a result, it was difficult to see how
SSA could accomplish all of its planned initiatives.  SSA went beyond
minimum requirements by providing numerous performance measures. 
However, we noted that it was sometimes difficult to link the
performance measures with specific objectives.  The draft plan
included a description of the external factors that SSA considered in
developing the plan, but this discussion could have been improved had
SSA more explicitly linked the effects of certain external factors,
such as changes in available technology, with goal attainment and had
it more clearly explained how it has used and plans to use program
evaluations. 

The draft plan could have been more useful if it had reflected how
SSA coordinates with other agencies and if it had provided adequate
assurance that the agency would focus sustained attention on its
greatest management challenges.  SSA's draft plan was structured to
capture and monitor progress in meeting agencywide priorities and, as
such, did not focus on specific programs or beneficiary groups.  As a
result, SSA's draft plan did not address the Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) program's long-standing management weaknesses.  In
addition, the plan did not disclose the challenges SSA has faced in
redesigning its disability process and did not fully integrate a
return-to-work strategy for its disabled beneficiaries throughout the
agency's operations. 

SSA's draft plan accurately conveyed the agency's strong reliance on
improved information technology to provide world-class service and to
better manage its programs with its existing resources.  However, we
observed that the plan would be strengthened by adding information on
how SSA will use information technology to achieve the agency's goals
and objectives.  Finally, the draft could have discussed in more
detail SSA's plans to cope with two technology-related high-risk
areas--the Year 2000 computer problem and the need to adequately
protect the sensitive data in its computer systems. 

IMPROVEMENTS MADE IN SSA'S
STRATEGIC PLAN

SSA incorporated several of the changes we suggested in its formally
issued plan, but the extent of the revisions and the attendant
improvements vary from element to element.  Throughout the plan, SSA
added pieces of information on processes and technologies it will use
to achieve its goals.  However, this information, along with the
needed staff skills and timetables, is not discussed uniformly for
each goal.  In response to the need to better link performance
measures with specific objectives, SSA added a matrix that presents
the goals, objectives, and related performance indicators.  In most
cases, the goals, objectives, and measures are clearly stated in the
body of the plan, and the matrix provides a useful summary of how SSA
will assess its performance.  In other cases, however, it is
difficult to relate the discussion of performance measures in the
body of the plan with the indicators in the matrix.  SSA
appropriately included its program evaluation activities in its first
goal; it also added more information about the types of program
evaluations used or planned for the future and the timetables for
some of the planned evaluations. 

Consistent with our suggestion that SSA include a discussion of how
it has coordinated with other agencies, SSA provided a listing of
crosscutting activities with its "federal business partners." It was
helpful to see the many and varied relationships that SSA has with
other federal agencies; however, the list gives equal weight to
routine activities, such as providing IRS forms to Social Security
beneficiaries, and complex relationships requiring ongoing policy
coordination, such as between SSA and the Department of Education
regarding vocational rehabilitation services for the disabled.  We
found even more helpful those instances where SSA incorporated a
description of its relationship with other agencies in its discussion
of goals and strategies.  For example, SSA describes its need to
cooperate with law enforcement agencies in its discussion on ways to
combat fraud. 

SSA also acknowledged that some of its management challenges were not
adequately addressed in its draft plan.  SSA recognized SSI as a
high-risk area and noted that the agency intends to develop a
separate plan to improve the program.  For its disability process
redesign, SSA added a short explanation of the complexity of the
redesign process and recent attempts to narrow its focus.  SSA also
expanded its discussion of its return-to-work efforts and included
information on the studies it plans to undertake.  Finally, SSA has
improved its plan by including discussions of the Year 2000 problem,
the importance of resolving it, and the need to mitigate any future
problems with other agencies with whom SSA shares information. 

SSA'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

Several improvements that we suggested in our previous report were
not made, or, in some cases, changes were minimal and did not
noticeably improve the plan.  For some goals, there seems to be
overlap, and it is still not clear what SSA hopes to achieve or how
it will do so.  For example, SSA added some discussion on planned
strategies to implement its first goal--"[t]o promote valued, strong,
and responsive social security programs and conduct effective policy
development, research, and program evaluation"--and measure
performance.  However, the meaning of the goal itself and some of the
objectives could be further clarified and stated in more measurable
terms to enable a more certain future assessment of whether they are
achieved.  In addition, SSA offers a general discussion of
implementation strategies by goal, rather than describing how each
individual objective will be achieved.  Because SSA cites a large
number of initiatives that it will begin or continue over the next 5
years and does not delineate priorities or time frames, it is still
difficult to be confident that SSA will accomplish its planned
initiatives.  Adding to this concern is the lack of information on
how managers and staff will be held accountable for achieving
objectives.  Future revisions or updates of the plan would benefit
from a more focused, organized, and simplified presentation of these
issues.  SSA's final plan describes several external factors that may
affect its programs, such as the aging of the baby boom generation
and advances in information technology.  SSA also added a discussion
of public concern about future program financing.  However, its
discussion of the financing issue does not focus on the fact that
decisions about the structure and financing of the program will be
made by policymakers outside of SSA.  Overall, the plan would be
stronger in the future if SSA linked the discussion of these external
factors with goal attainment and consistently included any mitigation
strategies. 

As previously stated, the success of several goals is dependent on
technological improvements or changes in agency operational
processes, but we found that SSA has encountered difficulty
implementing some of these changes.  SSA has not acknowledged these
difficulties, such as the challenges it faces in developing new
software to complement the redesigned disability determination
process, and the plan could be improved by providing additional
information on how information technology strategies will be used to
achieve the agency's goals and objectives.  Relative to changes in
technology, SSA has not incorporated any plans to begin the difficult
task of assessing its current service delivery structure and how it
should change in the future. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

We provided SSA with a draft of our observations on its strategic
plan.  In its written reply, SSA said that it appreciated that we
recognized the improvements made to the draft plan.  SSA also stated
that it believes that the strategic plan contains as much detail as
is possible and appropriate at this point in its planning cycle.  It
is refining and refocusing its current key initiatives, as necessary,
and developing plans for new initiatives to ensure that the agency
reaches its objectives. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Jane L.  Ross, Director, Income Security Issues; Health, Education,
and Human Services Division, (202) 512-7215. 


OBSERVATIONS ON THE U.S.  AGENCY
FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT'S
STRATEGIC PLAN
========================================================= Appendix XXV

On July 11, 1997, we issued a report on the U.S.  Agency for
International Development's (USAID) draft strategic plan (The Results
Act:  Observations on USAID's November 1996 Draft Strategic Plan,
GAO/NSIAD-97-197R).  USAID submitted its formally issued strategic
plan to OMB and Congress on September 30, 1997.  As requested, we
have reviewed the publicly issued strategic plan and compared it with
the observations in our July 11 report.  On October 24, 1997, we
briefed your staffs on our further observations on USAID's strategic
plan.  We summarize the key points from that briefing herein. 

SUMMARY OF KEY OBSERVATIONS FROM
OUR JULY REPORT

USAID's November 1996 draft strategic plan included the six elements
required by the Results Act.  However, two components of the
plan--sections on (1) relating performance goals to general goals and
objectives and (2) program evaluations--did not contain sufficient
information to fully achieve the purposes of the Results Act and
related OMB guidance.  More specifically, these sections did not
include a discussion of performance goals, relevant evaluation
findings USAID used to develop its plan, or USAID's plan for
conducting future evaluations. 

Many agencies are involved in activities directly related to USAID's
mission, goals, and objectives, and there is potential for
crosscutting issues.  Nevertheless, the draft strategic plan did not
address areas of possible duplication and USAID's efforts to minimize
them or the extent to which USAID relies on other agencies to meet
its goals and objectives. 

We also observed that the draft plan did not address key management
challenges that the agency faces.  The plan provided a general
description of recent management initiatives but did not discuss how
effective these initiatives have been in resolving critical
management problems USAID has acknowledged in nearly all areas of its
operations.  In particular, the plan did not describe difficulties
USAID has encountered in developing a performance measurement system,
in reforming its personnel systems, in implementing the Chief
Financial Officers Act of 1990 (P.L.  101-576), and in deploying a
new information management system that is intended to correct several
material weaknesses in its financial management processes. 

IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE IN USAID'S
SEPTEMBER STRATEGIC PLAN

USAID's publicly issued strategic plan incorporated some improvements
that make it more responsive to the requirements of the Results Act. 
In particular, USAID has developed performance goals related to the
agency's overall goals and objectives.  These goals generally appear
to be objective, quantifiable, and measurable.  The rationale and
data sources for the indicators are described in detail in an
appendix to the plan.  Although the performance goals presented are
generally long-term ones, it appears that USAID will be able to
derive required annual performance goals from many of them in the
future.  We did not evaluate the appropriateness of these indicators
or the reliability of the data sources cited. 

USAID's plan is clearer and more explicit about its long-term goals
and objectives.  The seven goals are clearly identified in narrative
form, and both the goals and related objectives are presented
graphically in an appendix.  USAID has also improved this element of
its plan by omitting other implicit goals, included in the November
1996 draft plan, that made it unclear what USAID intended to achieve. 
However, USAID's goals and objectives are targeted at results over
which USAID does not have a reasonable degree of influence.  As we
previously reported,\1 USAID officials have acknowledged that in only
a few cases have USAID's programs been directly linked to the types
of country-level development results described in the plan. 

With regard to strategies to achieve these goals, USAID's plan now
includes the goal of improving its management efficiency and
effectiveness, including the steps that it is taking in that regard,
and indicators for measuring progress.  Consistent with suggestions
in our July report, the plan now also includes an explicit discussion
of the program, support, and workforce resources USAID believes are
necessary to achieve its performance goals.  The plan presents
resource needs at an aggregate level and does not specify the level
of resources needed to achieve each of USAID's strategic objectives. 

USAID's strategic plan also addresses other key issues, as we
suggested in our July report, to improve the description of external
factors affecting USAID's achievement of its strategic goals.  The
plan now discusses conditions, such as political unrest, natural
disasters, and impacts of a shifting international economy, that are
beyond USAID's control.  The plan indicates that the impact of these
factors can be offset by USAID field missions, which can monitor
these conditions and modify USAID's approach accordingly.  In
addition, USAID's strategic plan more fully addresses the
contribution that USAID's development partners make toward
achievement of the agency's goals and objectives.  In particular, the
plan identifies the commitment of other donor countries and
multilateral agencies as the major external factor affecting USAID's
performance. 

USAID's plan now includes a discussion of crosscutting functions
across the U.S.  government.  It recognizes that other agencies
provide technical assistance to developing and transitional countries
and that achievement of USAID's goals is affected by the actions of
these agencies.  The plan states that mechanisms are in place to
reduce or minimize duplication at the field level, and for each goal
it identifies those agencies with which it coordinates on related
activities.  However, it does not indicate what these coordination
mechanisms are and lacks the information to demonstrate that they are
adequate.  The plan implies that only limited coordination with these
other agencies on strategic planning has taken place and indicates
that USAID anticipates expanded and ongoing interagency dialogue. 

The plan more fully addresses key principles of the Foreign
Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L.  87-195), as we suggested in our July
report.  For example, it more extensively discusses the principles of
coordination of foreign assistance with other donors and supporting
development goals chosen by the recipient country.  However, it does
not specifically address the principle of encouraging regional
cooperation by developing countries. 

USAID'S STRATEGIC PLAN CAN BE
FURTHER IMPROVED

We suggested in our previous report that several elements of the
USAID plan could be further improved to better meet the purposes of
the Results Act.  The plan still does not contain sufficient
information on program evaluations.  It does not show how program
evaluations by USAID or external organizations were used to establish
strategic goals and does not outline the scope, methodology, key
issues, or schedule for future evaluations.  Although the plan refers
to other documents and means by which USAID communicates evaluation
schedules and findings, a summary of that information would be
appropriate in this section to demonstrate the role that program
evaluation plays in USAID's strategic planning and results
assessment. 

Also, the plan still does not fully acknowledge the major management
challenges USAID faces.  Program and financial management issues are
presented in terms of goals and strategies for improvement, without
outlining what problems spur the need for greater improvement or what
difficulties USAID has encountered in its efforts to improve.  For
example, the plan indicates that USAID hopes to improve the
availability of financial and program results information.  However,
it does not convey the significant problems USAID has had to date
generating complete, timely, and reliable financial and performance
data--problems that hamper USAID's ability to identify costs and
measure performance.  Nor does the plan establish a time frame for
achieving substantial and verifiable improvement in this area.  Frank
acknowledgement of specific management challenges in the area of
information technology is also absent from the strategic plan.  The
plan describes progress USAID has made in implementing a new
management system but is silent on the major setbacks it is having
with this implementation, even though this system will be critical to
the success of financial and program management reforms.  Similarly,
the plan does not address information security and the Year 2000
problem, which we have identified as high-risk areas governmentwide. 
Instead of dealing with these issues directly, the plan refers to a
Strategic Information Resource Management Plan that is said to set
the direction for USAID to meet its information needs through 2002. 
A summary of the plan would be helpful, inasmuch as it acknowledges
the hurdles USAID must overcome in achieving its goals. 

While USAID recognizes its dependence on other donors and its
susceptibility to factors beyond its control, as we had suggested, we
believe that USAID has not adequately emphasized the importance of
these issues.  The plan could articulate the relative magnitude of
USAID's assistance within the donor community to more clearly convey
the extent of USAID's dependence on the contributions of other donors
to meet the performance goals it has established.  In addition, the
plan could articulate the extent of USAID's ability to offset country
and international conditions that hamper development to more
realistically convey the magnitude of the risk and uncertainty that
USAID faces in trying to achieve its goals. 

Further, USAID's strategic plan does not specifically discuss its
Economic Support Fund programs and its programs in the East European
and Baltic states and newly independent states of the former Soviet
Union.  We noted in our July report and continue to believe that the
plan could benefit from greater discussion of these activities, which
directly serve U.S.  foreign policy interests and represent about 60
percent of USAID's budget. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

Concerning other possibilities for improvement, the plan could be
clearer about the time frames needed for achieving performance goals
and whether the goals apply to each recipient country individually or
to all collectively.  In some, but not all, cases this is clarified
within the text of the appendix containing the rationale for the
indicators used. 

USAID substantially reorganized the strategic plan from the November
1996 version.  Many key elements of the plan have been consolidated
into one section with no indication of where one element ends and
another begins.  Separate sections or increased use of subheadings
would significantly improve the presentation and the ease of using
this plan. 

AGENCY COMMENTS

On October 10, 1997, we briefed USAID officials on our observations
about the issued strategic plan.  On November 3, 1997, USAID
officials provided us with comments on a draft of this appendix. 
They generally believe that we have fairly recorded the progress made
to date, but they provided additional comments and clarification of
several points, which we have incorporated as appropriate.  They
acknowledged that in some cases, for the sake of brevity, the plan
did not reflect the level of specificity that is called for by the
OMB and our guidance, particularly with regard to program
evaluations, crosscutting functions, and information resource
management issues.  They noted that such detail is readily available
from other USAID sources and believe that including it in the plan
would add little value and would unduly increase the plan's size.  We
continue to believe that the clarity and credibility of USAID's
strategic plan could be improved with the inclusion of the type of
detail we have outlined. 

USAID officials also contended that the plan acknowledges USAID's
management challenges by outlining management improvement strategies
that would resolve the types of problems we raised.  However, we
believe that an explicit description of management challenges would
provide the reader a better sense of the nature and gravity of the
problems USAID must overcome and the implications for USAID's
performance if it is not successful in overcoming these problems. 

USAID officials also provided comments regarding the development of
the strategic plan and the degree of USAID's influence on agency
goals.  The officials pointed out that their strategic plan was not
formed from specific evaluations only, but also from the agency's
long experience with the goal areas, public discussions, and
consultations, as well as from evaluations conducted by USAID and
others.  In addition, USAID officials said that they believe that the
goals in the strategic plan lie within the agency's sphere of
influence, despite USAID's inability to directly link its programs to
country-level results.  They stated that USAID has been able to
influence the use of the resources of other donors, which affects the
development goals USAID seeks to achieve. 

ISSUE AREA CONTACT

Benjamin F.  Nelson, Director, International Relations and Trade
Issues; National Security and International Affairs Division, (202)
512-4128. 


--------------------
\1 Foreign Assistance:  USAID's Reengineering at Overseas Missions
(GAO/NSIAD-97-194, Sept.  12, 1997). 


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