Vice President Al Gore, key congressmen and several top executive branch officials appeared yesterday in a special satellite broadcast to urge federal managers and employees to help their agencies develop strategic plans and performance measures.
But while they were able to explain the broad requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), which requires agencies to submit strategic plans to Congress this year, the officials were unable to specify if the act will change how managers are held accountable for their programs and how day-to-day operations will be affected.
NASA Deputy Administrator Gen. John Dailey, whose agency has already completed the third draft of its strategic plan, said NASA's accountability program has not been satisfactory.
NASA identified accountability "as a major deficiency," Dailey said.
GPRA will tie performance measures to appropriations by requiring agencies to begin submitting performance plans and evaluations during the budget process each year, beginning in fiscal 1999. The act requires agencies to submit their first strategic plans to Congress with their budget plans by Sept. 30.
Vice President Al Gore appeared in the broadcast yesterday in an effort to show the administration's commitment to implementing GPRA.
"Let there be no mistake," Gore said. "This is not about complying for compliance's sake. This is about complying for better management."
House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas, and Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, also appeared in taped addresses to federal employees. Both praised the work civil servants do and said they recognized that requiring every agency to develop strategic plans and performance measures would place additional burdens on an already taxed federal workforce.
In addition to the taped addresses of Gore, Glenn and Armey, the broadcast included a video on how NASA developed and implemented its strategic plan, followed by a question and answer session with NASA's Dailey, John Koskinen, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, and representatives of the National Park Service, the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Federal workers phoned and faxed in questions, citing concerns that many of their functions, like policy and research, create results that are difficult to quantify and measure.
When questions turned to how managers would be rewarded or punished for the results of their departments, the panelists were unable to provide a clear response. They were also unable to say how the act would affect workers far down agencies' chains of command.
The satellite broadcast was watched by federal managers and employees in offices and special gatherings around the world. The Office of Personnel Management, which organized the broadcast, said people watched or taped the program at locations throughout the United States and as far away as Australia and the Panama Canal Zone. The broadcast was even downlinked on ships of the Atlantic Fleet.
A tape of the broadcast can be ordered for $15.00 by calling (703) 620-6000.