GOP Letter on GPRA

Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515

February 25, 1997

Franklin D. Raines, Director
Office of Management and Budget
17th and Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20503

Dear Director Raines:

This year implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act goes government-wide, as agencies are required to submit Strategic Plans to Congress by September 30, 1997. we have reviewed the requirements of this important act and would like to comment on the importance of agency consultations with Congress.

According to the Results Act, "when developing a strategic plan, the agency shall consult with Congress." Because the act does not completely specify what constitutes consultations, we strongly encourage that OMB in issuing further Results Act guidance to agencies, ensure that agencies are clear on what Congress expects during the coming year by way of these consultations.

In a November 12, 1996 OMB memo to the agencies on Results Act consultations, you stated: "To make consultations as useful as possible . . . all substantive documents related to strategic plans should be provided to OMB beforehand, and OMB comments ensuring consistency with national program and budget policies should be incorporated before the documents are given to Congress."

We hope that you will make it clear to agencies that OMB does not intend to establish a strict "clearance" process for any draft strategic plans meant to be used for discussions with Congress. Such a requirement would not only make the consultation process cumbersome, but does not reflect the iterative nature of government planning as envisioned by the Results Act.

As a result, agencies--and in many cases bureaus within each agency--should begin consultations with Congress as soon as possible and should try to complete the process before Congress' August recess. We believe such a time line will allow Congress sufficient time to have productive discussions with the agencies and give your office time to ensure final versions of the Strategic Plans are consistent wtih national program and budget policies.

While each committee has the full discretion to handle consultations in a manner with which it is most comfortable, we believe the following guidelines will make the consultation process most productive:

Once they have their mission, long-term goals and strategies roughed out, agencies should submit a draft plan to the Chairman and Ranking Member of all major authorizing, appropriating, oversight and budget committees in the House and Senate with jurisdiction over their programs in advance of any consultations , allowing the draft document to serve as the starting point for discussions. The draft Strategic Plans should contain:

  • A clear and concise mission statement based on statute;
  • Tangible outcome goals for attaining the agency's mission;
  • A coherent presentation and justification of the various strategies the agency plans to pursue to achieve each goal:
  • An outline of various outcome-related performance measures that will be used to track goal and mission attainment;
  • A description of how the activities of the agency relate to the activities of other agencies with similar programs, including specific plans for how such programs will be coordinated; and
  • Indications of how the mission, goals, strategies and performance measures will be represented in the agency's annual performance plans and reports.

Along with the submission of the draft Strategic Plans, agencies should request a meeting for consultation at a time convenient for each committee. To the maximum extent possible, we will atempt to coordinate all relevant committees with jurisdiction over each Department or agency so as to assist in the implementation of the Results Act and reduce the duplication and overlap that congressional committees can add to the process. However, at any time, agencies should be prepared to be called upon by a congressional committee to begin consultations.

Among other issues that may be raised during consultations, agencies should be prepared to:

  • Discuss agency consultations with other committees, and the nature of comments received on the plan;
  • Identify what stakeholders were consulted and what views they had on the Strategic Plan;
  • Detail how the agency will coordinate its activities (especially for cross-cutting programs) with other federal agencies working in similar activities;
  • Provide an overview of key strategic issues/challenges facing their programs and to what extent the strategic plan addresses them;
  • State the priorities of the agency and identify where they are reflected in the Strategic Plan and to what extent they reflect the priorities of Congress;
  • State what their "value" is to the American people and where and how it is articulated in the plan;
  • Discuss how their use of regulations or their reliance on tax expenditures will be used to achieve certain goals in the Strategic Plan;
  • Come to a reasonable degree of agreement with the committees as to what performance measures will be used to gauge program success-especially outcome measures (In addition to a discussion of performance measures, agencies should recognize that outcome goals should be stated in a manner that allows for determinations to be made whether the goal was achieved or not.);
  • Identify to what extent the recognized end-outcomes of the agency can be attributed to agency activities and how external factors could impact performance;
  • Explain how what the agency does is unique from activities of other federal agencies, state, and/or local governments, and private or social-sector entities working in the same areas;
  • Clearly outline the logic and thinking behind the goals and strategies laid out in the plan;
  • Discuss areas where the agency is asking for increased flexibility to "break the mold" and pursue "outside the box" strategy to meet a goal or execute a strategy;
  • Discuss what type of formats for Strategic Plans, Performance Plans, and Performance Reports best meet the information needs of Congress, federal line managers, and the general public;
  • Explain how plans and reports prepared under the Results Act will be used in the day-to-day management of the agency; and
  • Detail how the goals, strategies, and performance measures will be linked to the annual budget request of the agency.

Agencies should modify their strategic plans throughout the consultation process, taking into account the comments received from the various congressional committees. As a result, agencies should continually work with relevant congressional committees on updated versions of the draft strategic plans.

Finally, as previously specified in OMB guidance, agencies should send final versions of their Strategic Plans to both the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate, in addition to the others specified in the Act, on or before September 30, 1997. In the transmittal letter, it would be helpful if agencies would note which committees were consulted. In addition, in an addendum, the agency should note what views or modifications suggested were not included in the final version of the plan, along with the rationale for not including them.

It is our hope that we have been able to provide additional clarity to the issue of Results Act "consultations" with Congress. we appreciate the work OMB has been doing to see that the implementation of the Results Act goes smoothly. For our part, we plan to encourage all House and Senate Committees to take an active role in consultations on agency Strategic Plans and continue to use general oversight hearings throughout the year to monitor progress on the Results Act within the agencies.

Thank you again for your work on implementation of the Results Act.

Sincerely,

Newt Gingrich
Speaker of the House

Richard Armey
House Majority Leader

Dan Burton
Chairman, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee

John Kasich
Chairman, House Budget Committee

Bob Livingston
Chairman, House Appropriations Committee

Trent Lott
Senate Majority Leader

Larry Craig
Chairman, Senate Republican Policy Committee

Fred Thompson
Chairman, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee

Pete Domenici
Chairman, Senate Budget Committee

Ted Stevens
Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee

cc:
President and Vice President

House Democrat and Republican Leadership, all House Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members

Senate Democrat and Republican Leadership, all Senate Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members

Cabinet Secretaries and Department heads

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