The Heat is On

Federal agencies failing to develop acceptable strategic plans required under the Government Performance and Results Act may have their appropriations put on hold until they comply, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said Tuesday.

"This calls for some kind of hammer," said Stevens during a joint Appropriations/Governmental Affairs hearing. "We expect to get some results from this act."

GPRA, also known as the Results Act, is designed to focus agencies' funding on results, rather than just the intentions of programs. It requires agencies to set outcome goals, measure their performance and report on their accomplishments.

By Sept. 30, 1997 all major agencies must submit strategic plans to the Office of Management and Budget and Congress that include mission statements, outcome-based goals and an explanation of how the goals will be achieved. Before the plans are officially submitted, agencies must consult with congressional committees about them.

Some agencies are submitting draft plans that do not meet the standards set forth in the law, congressional leaders said on Tuesday. Still others haven't even submitted draft plans yet.

So far, NASA is the only agency to have submitted what Congress deems an acceptable plan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, General Services Administration and Department of the Interior have submitted "minimally acceptable" plans. The plans of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Personnel Management, the Small Business Administration, and the Agriculture Department are characterized as "poor," while the plans of the Agency for International Development, the Commerce Department and the Justice Department are still being reviewed.

OMB Director Franklin Raines told Senators at the joint hearing that he shared Stevens' concerns, but remained confident that agencies would eventually meet their commitments under the act.

"Our efforts and those of the agencies to meet successfully the requirements of the act are intensifying," Raines said. "I have growing confidence that the initial products of the act will be of significant value."

The hard part for agencies, said Raines, "is pulling a series of statutory mandates into one mission statement. It takes a little bit longer than one would expect."

Stevens is planning a September meeting to discuss agency compliance issues with congressional leaders and OMB.

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