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Agencies Reveal New Priority Goals

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As required by the GPRA Modernization Act, the Trump administration earlier this month posted its first set of agency strategic plans and priority goals. But the goals, which were described on the performance.gov website, haven’t received the same attention as the White House’s 2019 budget proposal released the same day.

It doesn’t help that the website isn’t very user-friendly, something the Government Accountability Office noted in a report in 2013 and again in 2016. When Trump took office, the administration suspended quarterly updates on the priority goals it inherited from the Obama administration. Then, led by a team from 18F, the administration began redesigning the site, an effort that won’t be completed for months.

Nevertheless, the documents on the website offer a blueprint of the Trump administration’s priorities. There are links to agencies’ four-year strategic plans and objectives for 2018 through 2022, and two-year agency priority goals for 2018 through 2019. There’s also a summary table of agency strategic plans (of the 23 major agencies, six are missing plans); and a summary table of agency priority goals (minus those of the Energy and Health and Human Services departments).

There are 74 priority goals listed, in comparison to 91 listed during the preceding two-year period under President Obama. Nearly one-third of the Trump administration’s priority goals focus on the same areas as those in the Obama administration, but with different degrees of emphasis. For example:

Commerce  

The Commerce Department’s priority goal for accelerating patent processing is:

By September 30, 2019, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will reduce patent pendency to less than 15 months for first action pendency and less than 24 months for total pendency from end of fiscal year 2017 results of 16.3 months and 24.2 months, respectively.

In comparison, the same goal in the Obama administration was:

By September 30, 2017, the Patent and Trademark Office will reduce patent pendency to less than 14 months for first action and less than 23 months for total pendency from end of fiscal year 2014 results of 18.4 and 27.4 months. This priority goal supports the Department of Commerce’s longer-term goal focused on achieving 10 months for first action pendency and 20 months for total pendency by FY2019.

Housing and Urban Development  

HUD’s priority goal for homelessness is:

Reduce the average length of homelessness in communities by an average of 3 days by the end of FY 2019.

In comparison, the homeless reduction goal during the Obama administration was:

In partnership with other agencies, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will reduce the total number of homeless families, youth and children, and people experiencing chronic homelessness, as well as keep the number of Veterans living on the street at zero (as measured by the 2018 Point-in-Time count).

State Department  

State’s food security priority goal is:

Increase food security and resilience in Feed the Future countries. By September 30, 2019, Feed the Future will exhibit an average reduction in the prevalence of poverty and stunting of 20 percent, across target regions in Feed the Future’s focus countries, since the beginning of the initiative in FY 2010.

In comparison, the food security goal during the Obama administration was:

Increase food security in Feed the Future initiative countries. By September 30, 2017, 10 out of 19 Feed the Future-focus countries will exhibit reductions of 10 percent or greater in the prevalence of poverty or stunting in their zones of influence, compared to the 2011-2012 baseline study results.

Priority Goals in New Areas

The Trump Administration has developed some agency priority goals that were not reflected in the Obama administration’s APGs.  For example, State has added a bold goal:

Achieve control of the HIV epidemic. By September 30, 2019, new infections are fewer than deaths from all causes in HIV-positive patients in up to 13 high-HIV burden countries through leadership by State and implementation by USAID; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the National Institutes of Health; the Departments of Defense, Labor, and Treasury; and the Peace Corps.

Other new priority goals are tied to well-known Trump administration priorities such as reducing regulatory burdens, enhancing southern border security, and improving the processing of drilling applications on public lands.

Agencies have already begun implementing their APGs and will be reporting their progress for the first quarter of 2018 in a few weeks, so be sure to visit performance.gov for updates.  

John M. Kamensky is a Senior Research Fellow for the IBM Center for the Business of Government. He previously served as deputy director of Vice President Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government, a special assistant at the Office of Management and Budget, and as an assistant director at the Government Accountability Office. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and received a Masters in Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

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