Commerce Department wins praise for improving performance report

The Commerce Department's fiscal 2000 performance report showed significant improvement over the previous year, according to the General Accounting Office. Under the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, federal agencies must develop strategic plans, prepare annual performance plans and issue yearly performance reports. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., asked GAO to assess the largest agencies' fiscal 2000 performance reports and determine how well they had achieved their key goals. According to GAO's report, "Department of Commerce: Status of Achieving Key Outcomes and Addressing Major Management Challenges" (GAO-01-793), the department identified four overall goals:
  • Helping businesses create jobs and remain successful.
  • Making sure weather forecasts and severe weather warnings are accurate and timely.
  • Helping American businesses gain greater access to international markets.
  • Preventing the proliferation of commodities that have both military and civilian applications and keeping the United States secure from chemical weapons.
In fiscal 2000, Commerce made good progress in achieving the first goal and limited progress in meeting the second, GAO found. However, the agency's progress in creating more access to international markets and limiting the spread of chemical weapons use was unclear because of weaknesses in its performance measures, the report said. "Some of the measures are output-oriented, rather than outcome-oriented," GAO concluded. The watchdog agency praised Commerce for markedly improving the quality of its fiscal 2000 performance report over the previous year's report, and in addressing the recommendations GAO made in its evaluation of the 1999 report. "Most notably, Commerce clearly showed whether targets for performance goals were met or not met," the report said. Commerce also included strategies to address governmentwide management problems such as human capital management and information security.
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