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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government 
Information, Federal Services, and International Security, Committee on 
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
GAO: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 10:30 a.m. EDT:
Thursday, September 24, 2009: 

Government Performance: 

Strategies for Building a Results-Oriented and Collaborative Culture in 
the Federal Government: 

Statement of Bernice Steinhardt, Director: 
Strategic Issues: 

GAO-09-1011T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-09-1011T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, 
and International Security, Committee on Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

Since 1997, periodic GAO surveys indicate that overall, federal 
managers have more performance information available, but have not made 
greater use of this information for decision making. To understand the 
barriers and opportunities for more widespread use, GAO was asked to 
(1) examine key management practices in an agency in which managers’ 
reported use of performance information has improved; (2) look at 
agencies with relatively low use of performance information and the 
factors that contribute to this condition; and (3) review the role the 
President and Congress can play in promoting a results-oriented and 
collaborative culture in the federal government. This testimony is 
primarily based on GAO’s report, Results-Oriented Management: 
Strengthening Key Practices at FEMA and Interior Could Promote Greater 
Use of Performance Information, which is being released today. In this 
report, GAO made recommendations to the Departments of Homeland 
Security (DHS) and the Interior for improvements to key management 
practices to promote greater use of performance information at FEMA, 
the National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, as well as at 
Interior. Both DHS and Interior generally agreed with these 
recommendations. 

The testimony also draws from GAO’s extensive prior work on the use of 
performance information and results-oriented management. 

What GAO Found: 

GAO’s prior work identified key management practices that can promote 
the use of performance information for decision making to improve 
results, including: demonstrating leadership commitment; aligning 
agency, program, and individual performance goals; improving the 
usefulness of performance information; building analytic capacity; and 
communicating performance information frequently and effectively. The 
experience of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) 
illustrates how strengthening these practices can help an agency 
increase its use of performance information. According to GAO’s most 
recent 2007 survey of federal managers, the percentage of CMS managers 
reporting use of performance information for various management 
decisions increased by nearly 21 percentage points since 2000—one of 
the largest improvements among the agencies surveyed. CMS officials 
attributed this positive change to a number of the key practices, such 
as the agency’s leaders communicating their commitment to using 
performance information to drive decision making. 

Conversely, the experiences of the Department of the Interior 
(Interior) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within 
the Department of Homeland Security indicated that the absence of such 
commitment can discourage managers and their staff from using 
performance information. According to GAO’s 2007 survey, Interior and 
FEMA ranked 27 and 28, respectively, out of 29 agencies in their 
reported use of performance information for various management 
functions. Based on further survey data analysis, reviews of planning, 
policy, and performance documents, and management interviews, GAO found 
that inconsistent application of key practices at FEMA and Interior—
such as routine communication of how performance information influences 
decision making—contributed to their relatively low survey scores. 
While both FEMA and Interior have taken some promising steps to make 
their performance information both useful and used, these initiatives 
have thus far been limited. 

The President and Congress also have unique and critical roles to play 
by driving improved federal agency performance. By focusing attention 
on certain high-level goals and tracking agency performance, the 
President and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) can send a 
message that using performance information is critical for achieving 
results and maximizing the return on federal funds invested. Through 
its oversight, Congress can also signal to agencies that results matter 
by articulating performance expectations for areas of concern and 
following up to ensure that performance goals are achieved. The 
President and Congress can also play a role in improving government 
performance in areas that require the concerted efforts of multiple 
agencies and programs to address, such as preparing for and responding 
to a pandemic influenza. A governmentwide strategic plan could support 
collaborative efforts by identifying long-term goals and the strategies 
needed to address crosscutting issues. 

View [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-1011T] or key 
components. For more information, contact Bernice Steinhardt at (202) 
512-6543 or steinhardtb@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here to discuss our work on strategies that can help 
foster a more results-oriented and collaborative culture across the 
federal government. How the federal government performs and the results 
it achieves have a significant effect on many of the American public's 
most pressing concerns--whether it be preparations for and response to 
pandemic influenza, reduction in pollutants that contribute to climate 
change, or rigorous oversight of financial markets. Given increasing 
public demands for a more effective and accountable federal government, 
it is more important than ever that federal agencies establish 
meaningful goals for improving performance, monitor progress in 
achieving their goals, and use information about performance to make 
decisions that can improve results. 

It has been more than 16 years since Congress passed the Government 
Performance and Results Act (GPRA) in an effort to ensure that federal 
agencies have the infrastructure and tools they need to improve 
results.[Footnote 1] Across the federal government, agencies have 
developed strategic plans and are routinely generating performance 
information to measure and report progress toward their strategic 
goals. However, as we testified before this subcommittee in July 2008, 
[Footnote 2] our periodic surveys of federal managers on their use of 
performance information show that while significantly more federal 
managers reported having performance measures for their programs than 
they did 10 years ago, their reported use of performance information to 
make management decisions has not changed significantly.[Footnote 3] 

To better understand the barriers to and opportunities for more 
widespread use, we drew from our extensive body of work assessing the 
progress federal agencies have made in managing for results,[Footnote 
4] including our work on key management practices that can contribute 
to the use of performance information in management decision making. 
[Footnote 5] These practices are: demonstrating leadership commitment, 
communicating the importance of using performance information 
frequently and effectively, creating a clear "line of sight" linking 
individual performance with organizational results, improving the 
usefulness of performance information, and developing the capacity to 
collect and use performance information (see fig. 1). 

Figure 1: Practices That Can Promote the Use of Performance Information 
for Decision Making: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

Practices: 
* Demonstrating management commitment; 
* Aligning agencywide goals, objectives, and measures; 
* Improving the usefulness of performance information; 
* Developing capacity to use performance information; 
* Communicating performance information frequently and effectively. 

Practices lead to Uses: 

Uses: 
* Identify problems and take corrective action; 
* Develop strategy and allocate resources; 
* Recognize and reward performance; 
* Identify and share effective approaches. 

Uses lead to Improved results. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

We also conducted further analysis of our surveys of federal managers 
on their use of performance information. Using this analysis as a 
starting point, we looked in depth at the management practices at the 
Department of the Interior (Interior) and the Federal Emergency 
Management Agency (FEMA), where a smaller percentage of managers 
reported making extensive use of performance information compared to 
their counterparts across the federal government.[Footnote 6] According 
to our 2007 survey, Interior and FEMA ranked 27 and 28 respectively out 
of 29 agencies in their reported use of performance information for 
various management functions (see appendix 1 for ranking of all 29 
agencies).[Footnote 7] We also examined the management practices at the 
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) within the Department of 
Health and Human Services (HHS), where managers' reported use of 
performance information increased significantly over a seven-year 
period. To obtain the different perspectives of bureau, program, and 
field managers on challenges they faced in using performance 
information, we interviewed officials from selected component 
organizations that covered significant and diverse aspects of each 
agency's mission. At Interior, we selected the National Park Service 
(NPS) and Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation); at FEMA, we selected the 
Disaster Assistance and Mitigation Directorates; and at CMS, we 
selected officials and managers in Regions IV and IX, and in two lines 
of business--the Consortium for Quality Improvement and Survey & 
Certification Operations (CQISCO) and the Consortium for Financial 
Management and Fee for Service Operations.[Footnote 8] 

In our report that is being released today, Results-Oriented 
Management: Strengthening Key Practices at FEMA and Interior Could 
Promote Greater Use of Performance Information, we described the 
factors that contributed to differences among managers' reported use of 
performance information at CMS, FEMA, and Interior.[Footnote 9] In my 
testimony today, I will highlight the main findings from this report 
focusing on (1) the practices that helped CMS promote results-oriented 
management and (2) actions FEMA and Interior can take to improve their 
use of performance information for decision making. In addition, 
drawing from earlier work, my testimony will highlight opportunities 
for the President and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to 
strengthen agency efforts to use performance information to manage for 
results and the role that Congress can play to support governmentwide 
initiatives to improve performance. 

Adoption of Key Management Practices Promoted Greater Use of 
Performance Information at CMS: 

In 2000, significantly fewer managers at CMS--then known as the Health 
Care Financing Administration--reported using performance information 
for various management decisions, as compared to their counterparts in 
the rest of government. Between our 2000 and 2007 surveys, however, CMS 
showed one of the largest average increases in the percentage of 
managers who reported using performance information for certain 
decisions. This increase placed CMS in about the middle of our agency 
rankings, which were based on an index of 2007 survey results designed 
to reflect the extent to which managers at each agency reported using 
performance information.[Footnote 10] Our analysis of CMS survey 
results, management interviews, and agency policies, performance 
reports, and other relevant documents indicated that the adoption of 
key management practices contributed to this improvement. 

Demonstrating Leadership Commitment to Using Performance Information: 

Our 2007 survey results showed that significantly more CMS managers 
agreed that their leadership is committed to achieving results, than 
they did in 2000 (see figure 2). 

Figure 2: Percentage of CMS Managers Who Reported Top Leadership 
Demonstrated Commitment to Achieving Results: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Survey question: My agency's top leadership demonstrates a strong
commitment to achieving results; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2000: 46%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2007: 69%. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Nearly all of the CMS officials we interviewed credited the commitment 
of one or more agency leaders--such as the CMS Administrator or the 
Chief Operating Officer--for their increased use of performance 
information to achieve results. One way in which leaders can 
demonstrate their commitment is through frequent communication of 
established goals and progress made toward those goals. As an example, 
in an effort to reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers among nursing 
home residents, a Region IV manager described to us how regional 
leadership began to routinely share performance information about the 
pressure-ulcer problem with the many stakeholders involved with patient 
care including hospital and nursing-home personnel, patient advocates, 
emergency medical technicians, and others. CMS contracts with states to 
assess the quality of care provided by Medicare and Medicaid- 
participating facilities, such as nursing homes, and is therefore 
several steps removed from the delivery of health-care services to 
patients and the resulting health outcomes. According to CMS Region IV 
managers we interviewed, this indirect influence had been considered a 
limiting factor in CMS' ability to affect outcomes among nursing-home 
patients. However, these same managers said that leadership commitment 
to getting stakeholders to the table and sharing performance 
information with them were critical factors in bringing about a 
reduction in the incidence of pressure ulcers. In that region, between 
fiscal years 2006 and 2008, this improvement translated into nearly 
2,500 fewer long-stay nursing-home residents with pressure ulcers. 

Strengthening Alignment among Agency, Program, and Individual 
Performance Goals: 

Our survey results also indicated that between 2000 and 2007, a 
significantly greater percentage of CMS managers reported that they 
were held accountable for program results (see figure 3). 

Figure 3: Percentage of CMS Managers Who Reported That Agency Managers 
at Their Level Are Held Accountable for the Results of Their Programs: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Survey question: Agency managers/supervisors at my level are held 
accountable for the results of the program(s) they are responsible for; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2000: 42%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2007: 77%. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

In 2006, as part of a change throughout HHS, the agency adopted a new 
performance-management system that links organizational and program 
goals with individual accountability for program results. Top CMS 
headquarters officials said that the new system had made individual 
accountability for program results more explicit. They described how 
agency goals and objectives were embedded in the Administrator's 
performance agreement and cascaded down through the management 
hierarchy, so that each level of management understood their 
accountability for achieving the broad department and agency-level 
goals. 

To illustrate, broad goals for preventive healthcare cascade from HHS 
through a CMS director responsible for increasing early detection of 
breast cancer among Medicare beneficiaries, to a CMS Health Insurance 
Specialist responsible for communications to raise awareness of the 
importance of mammograms and other preventive measures. 

Improving the Usefulness of Performance Information: 

Our survey results show that between 2000 and 2007, there was a 
significant decline in the percentage of CMS managers who reported that 
difficulty developing meaningful measures was a hindrance to using 
performance information (see figure 4). 

Figure 4: Percentage of CMS Managers Who Reported Difficulty 
Determining Meaningful Measures Hinders Using Performance Information: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Survey question: Difficulty determining meaningful measures hinders 
measuring performance or using the performance information; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2000: 65%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2007: 48%. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

According to CMS officials, to ensure that performance information was 
useful to managers, they limited the number of measures for GPRA 
reporting purposes to the 31 that represented the agency's priorities. 
This official noted that it would be unmanageable to measure and report 
on every aspect of their programs and processes. They ultimately 
settled on a set of performance goals that helped managers and staff 
identify performance gaps and opportunities to improve performance to 
close the gaps. 

Developing Analytic Capacity to Use Performance Information: 

Our survey results and interviews with several CMS officials indicate 
that the agency also took steps to develop their staff's capacity to 
use performance information, such as investing in improved data systems 
and offering increased training opportunities on a range of topics 
related to performance planning and management. Between 2000 and 2007, 
there was a significant positive increase on all six survey questions 
related to managers' access to training over the past three years on 
the use of performance information for various activities (see figure 
5). 

Figure 5: Percentage of CMS Managers Who Reported That Training Was 
Provided to Help Accomplish Key Management Tasks: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Survey item: My agency provided training to help me link the 
performance of program(s)/operation(s)/project(s) to the achievement of 
agency strategic goals; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2000: 22%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2007: 54%. 

Survey item: My agency provided training to help me see program 
performance information to make decisions; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2000: 17%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2007: 34%. 

Survey item: My agency provided training to help me assess the quality 
of
performance data; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2000: 9%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2007: 24%. 

Survey item: My agency provided training to help me develop program
performance measures; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2000: 15%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2007: 49%. 

Survey item: My agency provided training to help me set program 
performance goals; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2000: 29%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2007: 58%. 

Survey item: My agency provided training to help me conduct strategic 
planning; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2000: 38%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, 2007: 57%. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

According to one official we spoke with, increasing her staff's skills 
in conducting analyses of performance information and presenting 
findings was a gradual process that required training, coaching, and 
guidance. 

FEMA and Interior Were Hindered in Using Performance Information for 
Decision Making by Weak or Inconsistent Application of Key Management 
Practices: 

Just as the adoption of key management practices can facilitate greater 
use of information and a greater focus on results, the absence of these 
practices can hinder widespread use. Fewer managers at FEMA and 
Interior reported making extensive use of performance information for 
decision making compared to managers at other agencies. Survey results, 
interviews with senior level-officials and regional and program 
managers, and a review of policies and other documents related to 
performance planning and management at both agencies showed that 
inconsistent use of these practices contributed to this condition. 

Our 2007 survey results indicated that, compared to the rest of 
government, a smaller percentage of FEMA managers agreed their top 
leadership demonstrated a strong commitment to using performance 
information to guide decision making (see fig. 6). 

Figure 6: Percentage of Federal Managers Who Reported That Agency's Top 
Leadership Demonstrated a Strong Commitment to Using Performance 
Information to Guide Decision Making: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Survey question: My agency’s top leadership demonstrates a strong 
commitment to using performance information to guide decision making; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, rest of 
government: 50%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, FEMA: 32%. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Our interviews with officials at FEMA were consistent with these survey 
results, indicating that management commitment was demonstrated 
inconsistently across the program directorates and regions we reviewed. 
Leaders and managers we spoke to throughout the management hierarchy 
were clearly committed to carrying out FEMA's mission. The level of 
commitment to using performance information for decision making, 
however, appeared to vary among those we interviewed. For example, in 
the Disaster Assistance Directorate, one headquarters official told us 
that he does not need performance targets to help him determine whether 
his directorate is accomplishing its mission, relying instead on verbal 
communications with the leadership and with FEMA's regions, joint field 
offices, and members of Congress to identify issues to be addressed and 
areas that are running well. 

Another headquarters official within the Disaster Assistance 
Directorate's Public Assistance program said he does not receive formal 
performance reports from regional program managers, nor are any 
performance reports required of him by his supervisors; rather, he said 
that he spoke to the regions on an ad hoc basis as performance problems 
arose. These officials expressed reluctance toward holding their staff 
accountable for meeting performance goals due to external factors, such 
as the unpredictability of disasters beyond their control. Further, 
they expressed uncertainty as to how they could use performance 
information in the face of uncontrollable external factors. As noted 
below, however, other managers in FEMA have found ways to take 
unpredictable occurrences into account as they monitor their progress 
in achieving performance goals. 

FEMA faces other hurdles, including the lack of a performance- 
management system requiring managers to align agency goals with 
individual performance objectives, which makes it challenging for 
managers to hold individuals accountable for achieving results. The 
agency also lacks adequate information systems for ensuring that 
performance information can be easily collected, communicated, and 
analyzed. For example, in order to gather performance information 
across directorates, one official reported that it was necessary to 
write programs to generate specific reports for each of the systems and 
then manually integrate the information, making it difficult to produce 
repeatable and verifiable reports. Further, according to several 
officials we interviewed, there was a limited number of staff with the 
analytic skills necessary to work with performance metrics. 

As with FEMA, at Interior we observed that leaders and managers at all 
levels conveyed a strong commitment to accomplishing the agency's 
mission. Interior's survey results were similar to FEMA's results on 
items related to managers' perceptions of their leadership's commitment 
to using performance information. Interior's 2007 results were also 
lower than those in the rest of government (see figure 7). 

Figure 7: Percentage of Federal Managers Who Reported That Agency’s Top
Leadership Demonstrated a Strong Commitment to Using Performance 
Information to Guide Decision Making: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Survey question: My agency’s top leadership demonstrates a strong 
commitment to using performance information to guide decision making; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, rest of 
government: 50%; 
Percentage responding to a “great” or “very great” extent, Interior: 
37%. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

According to officials we interviewed, leaders at Interior and NPS did 
not effectively communicate to their staff how, if at all, they used 
performance information to identify performance gaps and develop 
strategies to better achieve results. Several NPS managers referred to 
the performance reporting process as "feeding the beast," because they 
receive little or no communication from either Interior or NPS 
headquarters in response to the information they are required to 
report, leading them to assume that no one with authority reviews or 
acts on this information. 

Furthermore, some bureau-level managers at NPS and Reclamation said the 
performance measures they are required to report on were not always 
useful for their decision making, either because there were too many or 
because they were not credible. We have previously reported that to be 
useful and meaningful to managers and staff across an agency, 
performance measures should be limited at each organizational level to 
the vital few that provide critical insight into the agency's core 
mission and operations. However, in the seven years since the inception 
of the former administration's Performance Assessment Rating Tool 
(PART) initiative,[Footnote 11] Interior has expanded its performance 
reporting to include 440 PART program measures, in addition to the 
approximately 200 strategic performance measures used to track progress 
against its strategic and annual plans, as required by GRPA. A senior 
headquarters official at Interior said that the number of measures 
makes it difficult for senior leaders and managers to focus on 
priorities and easily identify performance gaps among the different 
program areas. At NPS alone, managers were required to report on 122 
performance measures related to GPRA and PART. 

Managers at both NPS and Reclamation also described performance 
information that lacked credibility because the measures either did not 
accurately define comparable elements or did not take into account 
different standards across bureaus or units. For example, several NPS 
managers noted that one of the measures on which they report, "percent 
of historic structures in good condition," does not differentiate 
between a large, culturally significant structure such as the 
Washington Monument and a smaller, less significant structure such as a 
group of headstones. Consequently, a manager could achieve a higher 
percentage by concentrating on improving the conditions of numerous 
less significant properties. 

Poorly integrated performance and management information systems 
further hindered NPS and Reclamation managers' efforts to use 
performance information to inform their decision making. For example, 
according to some Reclamation managers we interviewed, there is no one 
centralized database to which a Reclamation executive can go to find 
out how the bureau is doing on all of Reclamation's required 
performance goals. The lack of linkage among the different Reclamation 
systems required managers to enter the same data multiple times, which 
some managers said is a burden. 

Despite the challenges facing FEMA and Interior, we also observed 
various initiatives and program areas within the agencies where leaders 
were committed to increasing the use of performance information; and 
were demonstrating that commitment by communicating the importance of 
using data to identify and solve problems, involving their managers in 
efforts to develop useful measures, and connecting individual 
performance with organizational results. Within FEMA, Mitigation 
Directorate officials we interviewed reported that they had begun to 
use performance information to plan for and respond to factors outside 
of their control, a change that they attributed in large part to the 
former Mitigation Administrator's commitment to performance and 
accountability. For example, storms and other natural events can 
disrupt the Mitigation Directorate's production work related to 
floodplain maps modernization, which is a key step in ensuring that 
flood-prone communities have the most reliable and current flood data 
available. To plan for possible disruptions, Mitigation Directorate 
officials said they reviewed performance information on progress toward 
map modernization goals on a monthly basis with their external 
stakeholders, including state and local governments and insurance 
companies and FEMA's regional management, which sent a clear signal 
that Mitigation's leadership was paying attention to outcomes. 
According to these officials, this review helped them to determine in 
advance if they were at risk of missing performance targets and to 
identify corrective actions or contingency plans in order to get back 
on track toward achieving their goals. Moreover, they said, they were 
able to meet or exceed their performance target of 93 percent of 
communities adopting new floodplain maps, in part, as a result of their 
frequent communication and review of performance information. 

Mitigation Directorate officials said that developing measures and 
holding staff and contractors accountable for their performance was not 
an easy transformation. They said that one key to this culture change 
was for the leadership to strike an appropriate balance between holding 
managers accountable for agency goals and building trust among managers 
and staff that performance information would be used as an improvement 
tool, rather than as a punitive mechanism. Finally, Mitigation 
Directorate officials said that managers and staff became more 
supportive of their leadership's efforts to use performance information 
in their decision making once they began to see that measuring 
performance could help them to improve results. 

At Interior and NPS, officials were aware that managers continue to 
struggle with the high volume of performance information they are 
required to collect, and have initiated various strategies designed to 
improve the usefulness of performance information without adding to the 
existing data-collection and reporting process. For example, NPS' Core 
Operations Analysis is a park-level funding and staffing planning 
process, recently adopted by several regions, that is intended to 
improve the efficiency of park operations and ensure that a park's 
resource-allocation decisions are linked to its core mission goals. 
Regional-level managers who engaged in the Core Operations Analysis 
said it was useful in establishing goals based on the park's 
priorities, monitoring progress toward achieving those goals, and 
holding park superintendents accountable for meeting established goals. 

Our report contains recommendations to the Secretary of the Department 
of Homeland Security (DHS) for FEMA and the Secretary of the Interior, 
designed to build upon the positive practices we identified within 
these agencies. We recommended that FEMA augment its analytic capacity 
to collect and analyze performance information and strengthen linkages 
among agency, program, and individual performance. We also recommended 
that Interior, NPS, and Reclamation review the usefulness of their 
performance measures in conjunction with OMB and refine or discontinue 
performance measures that are not useful for decision making. Finally, 
to FEMA, Interior, and NPS, we made recommendations intended to improve 
the visibility of agency leadership's commitment to using performance 
information in decision making. Both DHS and Interior generally agreed 
with these recommendations. 

Building an Enduring Results-Oriented and Collaborative Culture 
Requires Demonstrated Leadership Commitment from the President and 
Congress: 

As we have noted in the past, the President and Congress both have 
unique and critical roles to play in demonstrating their commitment to 
improving federal agency performance results. Both OMB and Congress can 
send strong messages to agencies that results matter by articulating 
expectations for individual agency performance and following up to 
ensure that performance goals are achieved. At the same time, they also 
need to address performance problems in the areas of government that 
require the concerted efforts of multiple agencies and programs. 
Increasingly, many of the outcomes we look for--such as prevention of 
terrorist attacks, reduction in incidence of infectious diseases, or 
improved response to natural disasters--go beyond the scope of any one 
single agency. In these cases, agencies must work closely together to 
achieve desired results. 

The President and OMB Can Promote Greater Use of Performance 
Information Governmentwide: 

The President can send a signal to federal managers that using 
performance information is critical for achieving results and 
maximizing the return on federal funds invested by selecting and 
focusing his attention on achieving certain critical goals, such as 
creating or retaining jobs through investments under the American 
Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[Footnote 12] As a first step, 
OMB has begun to issue guidance to agencies on identifying a limited 
number of high-priority performance goals, with the explicit message 
that performance planning is a key element of the President's agenda to 
build a high-performing government.[Footnote 13] With this recent 
guidance, OMB has also put agencies on notice that the executive-branch 
leadership is paying attention to their performance, by establishing 
regular reviews of the progress agencies are making to improve results 
in these high-priority areas. 

As the primary focal point for overall management in the federal 
government, OMB can support agency efforts to use performance 
information by encouraging agencies to invest in training, identifying 
and disseminating leading practices among agency managers, and 
assisting agencies in adopting these practices where appropriate. As we 
previously reported, our survey results showed a positive relationship 
between managers who reported receiving training and development on 
setting program performance goals and those who report using 
performance information when setting or revising performance goals. 
[Footnote 14] However, as we testified in July 2008, while our survey 
found a significant increase in training since 1997, only about half of 
our survey respondents in 2007 reported receiving any training that 
would assist in analyzing and making use of performance information. 
[Footnote 15] We previously recommended that OMB ensure that agencies 
are making adequate investments in training on performance planning and 
measurement, with a particular emphasis on how to use performance 
information to improve program performance.[Footnote 16] Although the 
agency has not yet implemented this recommendation, an official who 
oversees OMB's management initiatives said that OMB has recently 
launched a collaborative Wiki page for federal agencies. According to 
this official, the Wiki is intended to provide an on-line forum for 
federal managers to share lessons learned and leading practices for 
using performance information to drive decision making. 

In addition to providing support to help improve agency-level 
performance, OMB is uniquely positioned to facilitate collaborative, 
governmentwide performance toward crosscutting goals. As noted above, 
there are numerous performance challenges, ranging from combating 
terrorism to preventing the spread of infectious diseases, which 
transcend organization lines and require the concerted efforts of 
multiple agencies and programs. We have previously reported that GPRA 
could provide OMB, agencies, and Congress with a structured framework 
for addressing crosscutting program efforts.[Footnote 17] OMB, for 
example, could use the provision of GPRA that calls for OMB to develop 
an annual governmentwide performance plan to integrate expected agency- 
level performance. Such a plan could help the executive branch and 
Congress address critical federal performance and management issues 
such as conflicting agency missions, jurisdiction issues, and 
incompatible procedures, data, and processes. As we pointed out in our 
July 2008 testimony, this provision has not been implemented fully. 

In addition to the annual performance plan, a governmentwide strategic 
plan could identify long-term goals and strategies to address issues 
that cut across federal agencies. To that end, we have also recommended 
that Congress consider amending GPRA to require the President to 
develop a governmentwide strategic plan.[Footnote 18] Such a plan-- 
supported by a set of key national outcome-based indicators of where 
the nation stands on a range of economic, environmental, safety and 
security, social, and cultural issues--could offer a cohesive 
perspective on the long-term goals of the federal government and 
provide a much-needed basis for fully integrating, rather than merely 
coordinating, a wide array of federal activities. 

Ensuring Performance Information Is Useful to and Used by Congress Is 
Key to Success of Governmentwide Performance Initiatives: 

By routinely incorporating agency performance issues into its 
deliberations and oversight, Congress can send an unmistakable message 
to agencies that they are expected to manage for results. As we have 
noted in our earlier work, however, Congress needs to be actively 
involved in early conversations about what to measure and how to 
present this information.[Footnote 19] We previously reported that the 
PART process used by the prior administration did not systematically 
incorporate a congressional perspective and promote a dialogue between 
Congress and the President.[Footnote 20] As a result, most 
congressional committee staff we spoke to did not use the PART results 
to inform their deliberations. Although the Obama Administration 
intends to adopt a new performance improvement and analysis framework, 
any new framework should include a mechanism to consult with members of 
Congress and their staffs about what they consider to be the most 
important performance issues and program areas warranting review. 
Engaging Congress early in the process could help target performance 
improvement efforts toward those areas most likely to be on the agenda 
of Congress, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will use 
performance information in their oversight and deliberations. 

Additionally, as we noted in our July 2008 testimony, Congress could 
consider whether a more structured oversight mechanism would be helpful 
in bringing about a more coordinated congressional perspective on 
governmentwide performance issues. Just as the executive branch needs 
to better address programs and challenges that span multiple 
departments and agencies, Congress might find it useful to develop 
structures and processes that provide a coordinated approach to 
overseeing agencies where jurisdiction crosses congressional 
committees. We have previously suggested that one possible approach 
could involve developing a congressional performance resolution 
identifying the key oversight and performance goals that Congress 
wishes to set for its own committees and for the government as a whole. 
Such a resolution could be developed by modifying the annual 
congressional budget resolution, which is already organized by budget 
function.[Footnote 21] This may involve collecting the input of 
authorizing and appropriations committees on priority performance 
issues for programs under their jurisdiction and working with 
crosscutting committees such as the Senate Committee on Homeland 
Security and Governmental Affairs, the House Committee on Oversight and 
Government Reform, and the House Committee on Rules. 

In conclusion, while federal agencies have become better positioned to 
manage for results, there is still much to be done to shift the focus 
of federal managers from merely measuring agency performance to 
actively managing performance to improve results. Our work indicates 
that widespread adoption of the key management practices we have 
identified is a critical first step. At the same time, the President 
and Congress each have unique and critical roles to play in building a 
high-performing, results-oriented, and collaborative culture across the 
government. Beyond this, the creation of a long-term governmentwide 
strategic plan, informed by a set of key national indicators, and an 
annual governmentwide performance plan could provide important tools 
for integrating efforts across agencies to achieve results on the 
challenging issues that increasingly face our nation in the 21st 
century. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to 
respond to any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may 
have at this time. 

GAO Contacts and Acknowledgments: 

For further information about this testimony, please contact me at 
(202) 512-6543 or steinhardtb@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices 
of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this testimony. Individuals who made key contributions to this 
testimony were Elizabeth Curda (Assistant Director), Jessica 
Nierenberg, Laura Miller Craig, Kate Hudson Walker, Karin Fangman, 
Melanie Papasian, A.J. Stephens, and William Trancucci. 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Agency Ranking Based on 2007 Survey Results on Use of 
Performance Information: 

Rank: 1; 
Agency/Component: National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 

Rank: 2; 
Agency/Component: Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Rank: 3; 
Agency/Component: Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Rank: 4; 
Agency/Component: Social Security Administration. 

Rank: 5; 
Agency/Component: National Science Foundation. 

Rank: 6; 
Agency/Component: General Services Administration. 

Rank: 7; 
Agency/Component: Department of Energy. 

Rank: 8; 
Agency/Component: Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Rank: 9; 
Agency/Component: Department of Education. 

Rank: 10; 
Agency/Component: Department of the Treasury (excluding Internal 
Revenue Service). 

Rank: 11; 
Agency/Component: Internal Revenue Service. 

Rank: 12; 
Agency/Component: Environmental Protection Agency. 

Rank: 13; 
Agency/Component: Small Business Administration. 

Rank: 14; 
Agency/Component: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

Rank: 15; 
Agency/Component: Department of Commerce. 

Rank: 16; 
Agency/Component: Office of Personnel Management. 

Rank: 17; 
Agency/Component: Federal Aviation Administration. 

Rank: 18; 
Agency/Component: United States Agency for International Development. 

Rank: 19; 
Agency/Component: Department of Labor. 

Rank: 20; 
Agency/Component: Department of Agriculture (excluding Forest Service). 

Rank: 21; 
Agency/Component: Department of Homeland Security (excluding Federal 
Emergency Management Agency). 

Rank: 22; 
Agency/Component: Department of Defense. 

Rank: 23; 
Agency/Component: Department of State. 

Rank: 24; 
Agency/Component: Department of Transportation (excluding Federal 
Aviation Administration). 

Rank: 25; 
Agency/Component: Department of Justice. 

Rank: 26; 
Agency/Component: Department of Health and Human Services (excluding 
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services). 

Rank: 27; 
Agency/Component: Department of the Interior. 

Rank: 28; 
Agency/Component: Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

Rank: 29; 
Agency/Component: Forest Service. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] Congress enacted the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 
(GPRA) to address several broad purposes including improving federal 
program effectiveness, accountability, and service delivery, and 
enhancing congressional decision making by providing more objective 
information on program performance. GPRA requires executive agencies to 
complete strategic plans in which they define their missions, establish 
results-oriented goals, and identify the strategies that will be needed 
to achieve those goals. GPRA also requires executive agencies to 
prepare annual performance plans that articulate goals for the upcoming 
fiscal year that are aligned with their long-term strategic goals. 
Finally, GPRA requires executive agencies to measure performance toward 
the achievement of the goals in the annual performance plan and report 
annually on their progress in program performance reports. Pub. L. No. 
103-62,107 Stat. 285 (Aug. 3, 1993). 

[2] GAO, Government Performance: Lessons Learned for the Next 
Administration on Using Performance Information to Achieve Results, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-1026T] (Washington, 
D.C.: July 24, 2008). In addition to our testimony, our survey results 
are also available: GAO, Government Performance: 2007 Federal Managers 
Survey on Performance and Management Issues, an E-supplement to GAO-08-
1026T, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-1036SP] 
(Washington, D.C.: July 24, 2008). 

[3] Our surveys were completed in 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2007 and were 
designed to obtain the observations and perceptions of respondents on 
various aspects of results-oriented management topics such as the 
presence and use of performance measures, hindrances to measuring 
performance and using performance information, and agency climate. Most 
of the items on our surveys asked respondents to rate the strength of 
their perception on a 5-point extent scale ranging from "to no extent" 
at the low end of the scale to "to a very great extent" at the high 
end. 

[4] See Related GAO Products listed in GAO, Results-Oriented 
Management: Strengthening Key Practices at FEMA and Interior Could 
Promote Greater Use of Performance Information, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-676] (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 17, 
2009). 

[5] GAO, Managing for Results: Enhancing Agency Use of Performance 
Information for Management Decision Making, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-927] (Washington, D.C.: Sept.9, 
2005). 

[6] As part of our analyses of the 2007 survey data, we identified a 
set of nine items from the questionnaire that inquired about key uses 
of performance information. Using those items, we developed an index 
that reflected the extent to which managers' perceived their own use of 
performance information for various managerial functions and decisions 
as well as that of other managers in the agency. To obtain an index 
score of reported use of performance information, we computed an 
average score for each respondent across the nine items we identified. 
We then averaged the respondent scores from each agency to produce an 
overall index score for each agency. By using this average index score, 
which yields values in the same range as the 5-point extent scale used 
on each item, we were able to qualitatively characterize index score 
values using the same response categories used for the items 
constituting the index. 

[7] Although the Forest Service had the lowest ranking among all 
federal agencies, our recent work at this agency had already resulted 
in recommendations to address key management issues that we will 
continue to monitor. 

[8] We performed our audit work in accordance with generally accepted 
government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and 
perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide 
a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable 
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 

[9] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-676]. 

[10] See [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-676] for a more 
detailed explanation of how we ranked agencies. 

[11] The PART was a diagnostic tool created by OMB that was intended to 
provide a consistent approach for evaluating federal programs as part 
of the executive budget formulation process during the 2004-2008 budget 
cycles. The tool applied 25 questions to all federal programs under 
four broad topics: (1) program purpose and design, (2) strategic 
planning, (3) program management, and (4) program results (i.e., 
whether a program is meeting its long-term and annual goals). Within 
the second topic, the first question was "Does the program have a 
limited number of specific, ambitious long term performance goals that 
focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the program?" 
If OMB determined that a program did not have such long term goals or 
existing goals were not sufficient, the program would receive a lower 
rating and OMB could require the development of new or revised goals. 
In our review of OMB's 2004 PART process, we found that, according to 
OMB, 115 out of 234 programs (49 percent) lacked "specific, ambitious, 
long-term performance goals that focus on outcomes." See GAO, 
Performance Budgeting: Observations on the Use of OMB's Program 
Assessment Rating Tool for the Fiscal Year 2004 Budget, GAO-04-174 
(Washington, D.C.: Jan. 30, 2004). 

[12] Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 115 (Feb. 17, 2009). The Recovery Act 
requires recipients of Recovery Act funds to report, among other 
information, an estimate of the number of jobs created and number of 
jobs retained by projects and activities. Recovery Act, § 
1512(c)(3)(D), 123 Stat. 288. 

[13] M-09-20, OMB Memorandum for the Heads of Departments and Agencies 
on Planning for the President's Fiscal Year 2011 Budget and Performance 
Plans, June 11, 2009. 

[14] GAO, Results-Oriented Government: GPRA Has Established a Solid 
Foundation for Achieving Greater Results, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-38] (Washington, D.C.: Mar.10, 
2004). 

[15] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-1026T]. 

[16] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-38]. 

[17] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-38]. 

[18] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-38]. 

[19] GAO, Performance Budgeting: OMB's Performance Rating Tool Presents 
Opportunities and Challenges for Evaluating Program Performance, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-550T] (Washington, D.C.: 
Mar. 11, 2004) and [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-1026T]. 

[20] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-550T]. 

[21] GAO, 21st Century Challenges: How Performance Budgeting Can Help, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-1194T] (Washington, 
D.C.: Sept. 20, 2007). 

[End of section] 

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