Sizing Up Strategic Plans

By law, agencies' five-year strategic plans must include:
  • A mission statement covering major functions and operations.
  • General and outcome-based goals and objectives for all major functions and operations.
  • A description of how goals and objectives will be achieved, including the processes, skills, technology, human capital, information and other resources required.
  • An explanation of how performance goals relate to general goals in the strategic plan.
  • Key external factors that could significantly affect achievement of goals and objectives.
  • A description of program evaluations used in setting goals and a schedule for future evaluations.

The law also calls for agencies working on plans to consult Congress and others likely to be affected by agency performance. Legislators have come up with their own list of expectations for GPRA strategic plans. They include:

  • A description of how agency activities relate to the activities of other agencies with similar programs, including specific plans for how such programs will be coordinated.
  • Indications of how the mission, goals strategies and performance measures will be presented in the annual performance plans and results.

Beyond that, the House and Senate Republican leadership advised in a Feb. 25 letter that agencies should prepare to handle a range of other issues during congressional consultations. Among them:

  • Discuss consultations with other committees and their comments on the plan.
  • Identify which agency stakeholders were consulted and their views.
  • State the priorities of the agency, where they are reflected in the strategic plan and how they reflect the priorities of Congress.
  • State the agency's value to the American people and where and how it is articulated in the plan.
  • Discuss how the agency will use regulations and tax expenditures to achieve goals in the plan.
  • Come to agreement with the committees on which performance measures to use, especially outcome measures, and state outcome goals in a way that permits a determination of whether or not they were achieved.
  • Explain how the agency's work is unique from that of other agencies, state and local governments and private and social sector groups.
  • Explain how GPRA plans and reports will be used in day-to-day management.
  • Discuss areas where the agency seeks flexibility to "break the mold and pursue "outside the box" strategies.

Republicans expect to receive draft strategic plans before Congress recesses in August. The drafts will be starting points in discussions between agencies and their authorizing, appropriating, oversight and budget committees in both houses of Congress. To ensure consistency with the administration's budget and program priorities, OMB wants to see, in advance, the substantive documents agencies plan to share with legislators.

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