OMB: Leave Results Act Alone
The Clinton Administration Thursday announced its opposition to a bill that would require agencies to go back to the drawing board with five-year strategic plans developed under the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act.
Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, G. Edward DeSeve, acting deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said a bill making technical amendments to the Results Act (H.R. 2883) would overload agencies with unnecessary work.
"The net result of having agencies concurrently prepare revised strategic plans, revised plans for fiscal year 1999 and initial plans for fiscal year 2000, would be to diminish substantially the quality of all three products," DeSeve said.
Under the Results Act, agencies submitted five-year strategic plans to Congress last September. Beginning earlier this month, they began submitting their first annual performance plans with their fiscal 1999 budget requests. Agencies and their oversight committees in Congress will spend the next few months deciding on 1999 goals. By March 2000, agencies will have to report to Congress on whether the goals were met.
The proposed bill, introduced by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., would require agencies to redraft their strategic plans by next September. Agencies would also have to add additional elements to their plans, and departments would have to develop new strategic plans for many of their sub-agencies.
House Republicans in the fall issued poor grades to most agencies' strategic plans. OMB's DeSeve conceded that the strategic plans were not perfect, but said the performance planning process now under way would address many of the problems Republicans pointed out in the fall.
"Many agency annual performance plans cover areas such as data sources and collection, management problems and cross-cutting programs in a more specific way than did the strategic plans," DeSeve said. He added that individual agencies can revise their strategic plans at any time, so a governmentwide requirement is unnecessary.
Rep. Steve Horn, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, said OMB's opposition to the bill is fueled by the office's own problems.
"OMB's official position is that it would pose an undue burden on the agencies. It is more likely that they can not handle the burden on their own staff. To my knowledge, there is not one person dedicated full time to the Results Act at OMB," Horn said in a statement.
The General Accounting Office concludes in a new report (GGD-98-44) that agencies are getting better at strategic planning, but planners still need to develop measurable goals.
GAO's review said that agencies should continually revise their plans as managers gain experience in strategic planning and performance measurement.
"The critical planning challenges that we found demonstrate that the effective implementation of performance-based management and accountability, as envisioned by the Results Act, is still, as to be expected, very much a work in progress," GAO said. "Many of the strategic goals contained in the September plans did not focus on results to the extent feasible and were not always expressed in a manner conducive to assessing progress in terms of actual performance."
GAO said agencies have trouble collecting data upon which performance goals can be measured. Agencies often rely on performance data collected outside the federal government, which may not be fully reliable.
In addition, agencies need to work together on addressing cross-cutting issues, GAO said. Republican leaders in Congress have emphasized this problem, saying that waste and duplication can only be eliminated if agencies figure out who else in the federal government is doing similar work.
GAO applauded some agencies, including the Transportation Department, the Small Business Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Education Department, for improving their strategic plans over rough drafts produced last summer.
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