oversight

Managing for Results: Key Considerations for Implementing Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-09-27.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                 United States Government Accountability Office

GAO              Report to Congressional Requesters




September 2012
                 MANAGING FOR
                 RESULTS
                 Key Considerations
                 for Implementing
                 Interagency
                 Collaborative
                 Mechanisms




GAO-12-1022
                                               September 2012

                                               MANAGING FOR RESULTS
                                               Key Considerations for Implementing Interagency
                                               Collaborative Mechanisms
Highlights of GAO-12-1022, a report to
congressional requesters




Why GAO Did This Study                         What GAO Found
Many of the meaningful results that the        Federal agencies have used a variety of mechanisms to implement
federal government seeks to achieve—           interagency collaborative efforts, such as the President appointing a
such as those related to protecting            coordinator, agencies co-locating within one facility, or establishing
food and agriculture, providing
homeland security, and ensuring a              interagency task forces. These mechanisms can be used to address a
well-trained and educated workforce—           range of purposes including policy development; program
require the coordinated efforts of more        implementation; oversight and monitoring; information sharing and
than one federal agency and often              communication; and building organizational capacity, such as staffing and
more than one sector and level of              training. Frequently, agencies use more than one mechanism to address
government. Both Congress and the              an issue. For example, climate change is a complex, crosscutting issue,
executive branch have recognized the
need for improved collaboration across
                                               which involves many collaborative mechanisms in the Executive Office of
the federal government. The                    the President and interagency groups throughout government.
Government Performance and Results             Although collaborative mechanisms differ in complexity and scope, they
Act of 1993 (GPRA) Modernization Act
of 2010 establishes a new framework
                                               all benefit from certain key features, which raise issues to consider when
aimed at taking a more crosscutting            implementing these mechanisms. For example:
and integrated approach to focusing on
results and improving government                   •   Outcomes and Accountability: Have short-term and long-term
performance. Effective implementation                  outcomes been clearly defined? Is there a way to track and
of the act could play an important role                monitor their progress?
in facilitating future actions to reduce
duplication, overlap, and                          •   Bridging Organizational Cultures: What are the missions and
fragmentation.                                         organizational cultures of the participating agencies? Have
GAO was asked to identify the                          agencies agreed on common terminology and definitions?
mechanisms that the federal
government uses to lead and                        •   Leadership: How will leadership be sustained over the long-term?
implement interagency collaboration,                   If leadership is shared, have roles and responsibilities been clearly
as well as issues to consider when                     identified and agreed upon?
implementing these mechanisms. To
examine these topics, GAO conducted                •   Clarity of Roles and Responsibilities: Have participating
a literature review on interagency                     agencies clarified roles and responsibilities?
collaborative mechanisms, interviewed
13 academic and practitioner experts               •   Participants: Have all relevant participants been included? Do
in the field of collaboration, and                     they have the ability to commit resources for their agency?
reviewed their work. GAO also
conducted a detailed analysis of 45                •   Resources: How will the collaborative mechanism be funded and
GAO reports, published between 2005                    staffed? Have online collaboration tools been developed?
and 2012. GAO selected reports that
contained in-depth discussions of                  •   Written Guidance and Agreements: If appropriate, have
collaborative mechanisms and covered                   participating agencies documented their agreement regarding how
a broad range of issues.                               they will be collaborating? Have they developed ways to
                                                       continually update and monitor these agreements?



View GAO-12-1022. For more information,
contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202)512-6806
or mihmj@gao.gov.

                                                                                    United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                      1
               Background                                                                   3
               Agencies Use Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms to Meet a
                 Range Of Purposes                                                         4
               There are Many Issues to Consider When Collaborating                       11

Appendix I     Scope and Methodology                                                      28



Appendix II    Key Collaboration Practices                                                33



Appendix III   Key Issues to Consider for Implementing Interagency Collaborative
               Mechanisms                                                                 34



Appendix IV    GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments                                     36



Table
               Table 1: Topic Areas Covered in Report Sample                              30


Figures
               Figure 1: Mechanisms for Interagency Collaboration and
                        Definitions                                                         5
               Figure 2: Selected Collaborative Mechanisms for Federal Climate
                        Change Activities, as of May 2011                                 10




               Page i                         GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Abbreviations

DHS               Department of Homeland Security
DOD               Department of Defense
DOI               Department of the Interior
FEB               Federal Executive Board
GPRA              Government Performance and Results Act of 1993
GPRAMA            GPRA Modernization Act of 2010
HHS               Department of Health and Human Services
HUD               Department of Housing and Urban Development
MOU               Memorandum of Understanding
NIST              National Institute for Standards and Technology
OMB               Office of Management and Budget
OPM               Office of Personnel Management
SBA               Small Business Administration
USDA              U.S. Department of Agriculture
VA                Department of Veterans Affairs
VISN              Veterans Health Administration’s Veterans Integrated
                  Service Network




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Page ii                                GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   September 27, 2012

                                   The Honorable Daniel K. Akaka
                                   Chairman
                                   Subcommittee on Oversight of Government
                                     Management, the Federal Workforce,
                                     and the District of Columbia
                                   Committee on Homeland Security
                                     and Governmental Affairs
                                   United States Senate

                                   Dear Mr. Chairman:

                                   Many of the meaningful results that the federal government seeks to
                                   achieve—such as those related to protecting food and agriculture,
                                   providing homeland security, and ensuring a well-trained and educated
                                   workforce—require the coordinated efforts of more than one federal
                                   agency and often more than one sector and level of government. We
                                   have reported about the importance of collaboration between federal
                                   agencies for many years. For example, we have noted that interagency
                                   mechanisms or strategies to coordinate programs that address
                                   crosscutting issues may reduce potentially duplicative, overlapping, and
                                   fragmented efforts. 1

                                   Both Congress and the executive branch have also recognized the need
                                   for improved collaboration across the federal government. Accordingly, in
                                   January 2011 the almost two-decades-old Government Performance and
                                   Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) was updated with the GPRA Modernization
                                   Act of 2010 (GPRAMA). 2 Among other things, GPRAMA establishes a
                                   new framework aimed at taking a more crosscutting and integrated
                                   approach to focusing on results and improving government performance.
                                   Effective implementation of the act could play an important role in
                                   clarifying desired outcomes, addressing program performance that spans



                                   1
                                    GAO, Managing for Results: GPRA Modernization Act Implementation Provides
                                   Important Opportunities to Address Government Challenges, GAO-11-617T (Washington,
                                   D.C.: May 10, 2011).
                                   2
                                    Pub. L. No. 111-352, 124 Stat. 3866 (Jan. 4, 2011). GPRAMA amends the Government
                                   Performance and Results Act of 1993, Pub. L. No. 103-62, 107 Stat. 285 (Aug. 3, 1993).




                                   Page 1                                 GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
multiple organizations, and facilitating future actions to reduce duplication,
overlap, and fragmentation. 3 GPRAMA requires the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) to coordinate with agencies to establish
outcome-oriented federal government priority goals—otherwise referred
to as crosscutting goals—covering a limited number of policy areas as
well as goals to improve management across the federal government. 4 It
also requires that OMB—with the agencies—develop a federal
government performance plan that defines the level of performance to be
achieved toward the crosscutting goals. 5 These new requirements
provide additional opportunities for collaboration across federal
agencies. 6

At your request, in this report we are identifying the range of mechanisms
that the federal government uses to lead and implement interagency
collaboration, as well as issues to consider when implementing these
mechanisms. To examine these topics, we conducted a literature review
on interagency collaborative mechanisms, interviewed 13 academic and
practitioner experts in the field of collaboration, and reviewed their work.
We also conducted a detailed analysis of 45 of our prior reports that we
selected, from more than 300 reports that we published between 2005
and 2012 that examined aspects of collaboration within the federal
government. We selected reports that contained in-depth discussions of
collaborative mechanisms. In addition, we ensured that the reports in our
selection covered a broad range of issues across the federal government,
such as homeland security, agriculture, and health, as well as a range of
collaborative mechanisms. For a more detailed discussion on our scope
and methodology, see Appendix I.




3
 GAO, 2012 Annual Report: Opportunities to Reduce Duplication, Overlap,
Fragmentation, Achieve Savings, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-12-342SP (Washington,
D.C.: Feb. 28, 2012); and Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government
Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-11-318SP (Washington, D.C.:
Mar. 1, 2011).
4
31 U.S.C. § 1120(a)(1).
5
31 U.S.C. § 1115(a).
6
 GAO, Managing for Results: GAO’s Work Related to the Interim Crosscutting Priority
Goals under the GPRA Modernization Act, GAO-12-620R. (Washington, D.C.: May 31,
2012).




Page 2                                GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
             We conducted our work from July 2011 to September 2012 in accordance
             with all sections of GAO’s Quality Assurance Framework that are relevant
             to our objectives. The framework requires that we plan and perform the
             engagement to obtain sufficient and appropriate evidence to meet our
             stated objectives and to discuss any limitations in our work. We believe
             that the information and data obtained, and the analysis conducted,
             provide a reasonable basis for any findings and conclusions in this report.


             In 2005, we reported on key practices to enhance and sustain
Background   interagency collaboration. 7 In our report, we broadly defined collaboration
             as any joint activity that is intended to produce more public value than
             could be produced when the agencies act alone. We also described how
             agencies can enhance and sustain their collaborative efforts by engaging
             in the eight practices identified below:

             •   define and articulate a common outcome;

             •   establish mutually reinforcing or joint strategies;

             •   identify and address needs by leveraging resources;

             •   agree on roles and responsibilities;

             •   establish compatible policies, procedures, and other means to operate
                 across agency boundaries;

             •   develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on results;

             •   reinforce agency accountability for collaborative efforts through
                 agency plans and reports; and

             •   reinforce individual accountability through performance management
                 systems.

             We noted that running throughout these practices are a number of factors
             such as leadership, trust, and organizational culture that are necessary




             7
              GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain
             Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005).




             Page 3                               GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
                       elements for a collaborative working relationship. The highlights page
                       from that report is included in Appendix II.

                       As required by GPRAMA, OMB included a set of 14 interim crosscutting
                       priority goals in the 2013 federal budget. These goals covered a variety of
                       issues such as veteran career readiness, energy efficiency, export
                       promotion, and real property management. OMB also designated relevant
                       agencies and programs that will be responsible for each interim goal. In
                       order to address these goals, OMB is relying on a range of collaborative
                       mechanisms. For example, in order to address the crosscutting goal of
                       improving career readiness of veterans, OMB noted that it will rely, in
                       part, on a Department of Defense-Veterans Affairs Task Force that
                       includes representation from the Departments of Defense, Labor,
                       Education, and Veterans Affairs, OMB, and the Office of Personnel
                       Management (OPM). 8


                       Federal agencies have used a variety of mechanisms to implement
Agencies Use           interagency collaborative efforts, such as the President appointing a
Interagency            coordinator, agencies co-locating within one facility, or establishing
                       interagency task forces. Figure 1 catalogues selected mechanisms that
Collaborative          the federal government uses to facilitate interagency collaboration, which
Mechanisms to Meet a   were identified through interviews with experts and a sample of our prior
Range Of Purposes      reports. Experts have defined an interagency mechanism for collaboration
                       as any arrangement or application that can facilitate collaboration
                       between agencies. This list may not be comprehensive; it reflects the
                       mechanisms that were included in our sample.




                       8
                       GAO-12-620R.




                       Page 4                           GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Figure 1: Mechanisms for Interagency Collaboration and Definitions

1.   Presidential Assistants and Advisors: A Presidential appointee who is solely focused on an issue of great magnitude, or
     policy collaboration in the Executive Office of the President.
2.   Collaboration Structures within the Executive Office of the President: Permanent or temporary groups that are sometimes
     referred to as task forces, councils, commissions, committees, or working groups.
3.   National Strategies and Initiatives: A document or initiative that is national in scope and provides a broad framework for
     addressing issues that cut across federal agencies and often across other levels of government and sectors.
4.   Interagency Groups:
     a. Interagency Group Led by Agency and Department Heads: These groups are sometimes referred to as task forces,
          working groups, councils, and committees.
     b. Interagency Group Led by Component and Program-Level Staff: These groups are sometimes referred to as task
          forces, working groups, councils, and committees.
5.   Designation of Leadership:
     a. Lead Agencies: Designation of one agency or department to be accountable for an initiative, particularly if it requires the
          efforts of several different agencies exercising different statutory authorities.
     b. Shared Leadership: Designation of, or agreement by, more than one agency or department to be accountable for an
          initiative.
6.   Geographic-Based Offices/Co-location: One office maintaining responsibility for collaborating with federal agencies or
     departments that are located in the same geographic region. Also, in some cases, the location of more than one program office
     from different federal agencies into a facility with the intention of personnel from the agencies collaborating with one another.
7.   Positions and Details:
     a. Interagency Collaborator Positions: The designation of an individual within one federal agency or department to
          collaborate within or between agencies or departments.
     b. Liaison Positions: An employee of one organization assigned to work primarily or exclusively with another agency.
     c. Personnel Details: A specialist or professional designated to perform certain tasks for another agency while remaining
          employed by his or her home agency.
8.   Specially Created Interagency Offices: An office with its own authority and resources with responsibility to cover a policy area
     that crosses a number of separate agencies or departments.
9.   Interagency Agreements and Memorandum of Understanding: A written agreement between more than one federal agency
     or department.
10. Joint Program Efforts:
    a. Joint Budgeting and Funding: A set of resources that are administered by more than one federal agency.
    b. Joint Exercising and Training: Exercising or training that involves participants from more than one federal agency.
    c. Joint Development of Policies, Procedures, and Programs: More than one federal agency developing a policy,
        procedure or program.
11. Conferences and Communities of Practice: A meeting that brings together representatives of different agencies or
    departments for the discussion of common problems, the exchange of information, or the development of agreements on issues
    of mutual interest.
12. Collaboration Technologies: Tools that facilitate collaboration, such as shared databases and web portals.
                                             Source: GAO.




                                             Page 5                                  GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Mechanisms Can be Used       Based on our analysis of expert interviews and literature, as well as a
to Serve Multiple Purposes   sample of our prior reports, the mechanisms for interagency collaboration
                             can serve the following general purposes. According to our analysis, and
                             as demonstrated by the examples below, most collaborative mechanisms
                             serve multiple purposes.

                             •     Policy Development: For example, Congress established the Office
                                   of Science and Technology Policy in 1976 to serve as a source of
                                   scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President
                                   with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the federal
                                   government, among other things. 9 The Office of Science and
                                   Technology Policy’s mission includes leading interagency efforts to
                                   develop and coordinate sound science and technology policies across
                                   the federal government.

                             •     Program Implementation: As we reported in 2010, in the case of the
                                   Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Joint Field Offices, co-
                                   locating personnel meets the purpose of program implementation
                                   during an emergency. Specifically, personnel from a range of
                                   agencies temporarily co-locate to provide services to disaster victims
                                   in one location. 10
                                   We reported in 2006 that Congress passed the Federal Lands
                                   Recreation Enhancement Act, 11 in part, to standardize the types of
                                   recreation fees collected at federal lands and waters and to increase
                                   flexibility for fee revenue expenditures. To assist with implementing
                                   this act, Department of the Interior (DOI) and U.S. Department of
                                   Agriculture (USDA) established four working groups, including a Fee
                                   Collection/Expenditure working group to address organizational
                                   concerns, implementation issues, and coordination among the
                                   agencies as they relate to fee collections and expenditures. 12 For
                                   example, the working group assisted with developing an interagency


                             9
                              Presidential Science and Technology Advisory Organization Act of 1976, Pub. L. No. 94-
                             282, title II, 90 Stat. 459. 463-68 (May 11, 1976). 42 U.S.C. § 6614(a).
                             10
                              GAO, Disaster Recovery: FEMA’s Long-term Assistance Was Helpful to State and Local
                             Governments but Had Some Limitations, GAO-10-404 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 30, 2010).
                             11
                                 Pub. L. No. 108-447, Division J, title VIII, 118 Stat. 2809, 3377-3393 (Dec. 8, 2004).
                             12
                               GAO, Recreation Fees: Agencies Can Better Implement the Federal Lands Recreation
                             Enhancement Act and Account for Fee Revenues, GAO-06-1016 (Washington, D.C.:
                             Sept. 22, 2006).




                             Page 6                                     GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
     handbook with common definitions and implementation policy
     guidance.

•    Oversight and Monitoring: For example, as we reported in 2008, the
     Maritime Security Working Group, working on behalf of the Maritime
     Security Policy Coordination Committee, was responsible for
     monitoring and assessing implementation of actions related to the
     National Strategy for Maritime Security. 13

•    Information Sharing and Communication: As we reported in 2008
     and 2010, in the case of the National Intellectual Property Rights
     Coordination Center, co-locating personnel was intended to promote
     information sharing. Specifically, personnel from agencies responsible
     for combating counterfeiting, piracy, and related intellectual property
     rights crimes are co-located for the purpose of sharing information
     across organizational boundaries. 14

     As we reported in 2010, the Department of Justice has established
     several interagency groups to coordinate and share information on
     gangs and gang enforcement efforts across department and agency
     boundaries, including the Gang Unit; the National Gang Targeting,
     Enforcement, and Coordination Center; the National Gang Intelligence
     Center; and others. 15

•    Building Organizational Capacity: Capacity may include areas such
     as staffing, training, and information technology. For example, in 2011
     we identified 225 professional development activities for national
     security personnel which were intended to improve certain agencies’
     abilities to collaborate across organizational lines. These ranged from
     10-month joint professional military education programs and year-long



13
 GAO, Maritime Security: National Strategy and Supporting Plans Were Generally Well-
Developed and Are Being Implemented, GAO-08-672 (Washington, D.C.: June 20, 2008).
14
  GAO, Intellectual Property: Federal Enforcement Has Generally Increased, but
Assessing Performance Could Strengthen Law Enforcement Efforts, GAO-08-157
(Washington, D.C.: Mar.11, 2008); and Intellectual Property: Agencies Progress in
Implementing Legislation, but Enhancements Could Improve Future Plans, GAO-11-39
(Washington, D.C.: Oct. 13, 2010).
15
  GAO, Combating Gangs: Better Coordination and Performance Measurement Would
Help Clarify Roles of Federal Agencies and Strengthen Assessment of Efforts,
GAO-09-708 (Washington, D.C.: July 24, 2009).




Page 7                               GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
    rotations to 30-minute online courses. The developmental activities
    we identified included training courses and programs, training
    exercises, interagency rotational programs, joint professional military
    education, and leadership development programs. 16

    The U.S. Army Command and General Staff College’s Interagency
    Fellowship Program is an example of one of these professional
    development activities. The College places Army officers at other
    federal agencies to learn the culture of the host agency, hone
    collaborative skills such as communication and teamwork, and
    establish networks with civilian counterparts. At the same time,
    participants increase workforce capacity at their host civilian agencies,
    such as the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International
    Development. In turn, the civilian agencies can free up resources to
    send personnel to teach or attend courses at the College. 17




16
  GAO, National Security: An Overview of Professional Development Activities Intended to
Improve Interagency Collaboration, GAO-11-108 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 15, 2010).
17
  GAO, Interagency Collaboration: State and Army Personnel Rotation Programs Can
Build on Positive Results with Additional Preparation and Evaluation, GAO-12-386
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 9, 2012).




Page 8                                GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Mechanisms Are           Additionally, in many cases, agencies use more than one mechanism to
Frequently Used In       address an issue. For example, climate change is a complex, crosscutting
Combination to Address   issue, which involves many collaborative mechanisms. As we reported in
                         2011, these mechanisms include entities within the Executive Office of
Complex Issues           the President and interagency groups throughout government, including
                         task forces and working groups. 18 As shown in figure 2 below, the
                         collaborative mechanisms in place to address climate change vary with
                         regard to membership and purpose. The collaboration structures within
                         the Executive Office of the President provide high-level policy direction for
                         federal climate change programs and activities. 19 Other mechanisms are
                         in place—including specially created interagency offices and interagency
                         groups—to provide coordination of science and technology policy across
                         the federal government. 20 For example, the U.S. Global Change
                         Research Program, which began as a presidential initiative in 1989, was
                         codified by the Global Change Research Act of 1990. 21 This program
                         coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global
                         environment and their implications for society, and is led by an
                         interagency governing body, the Committee on Environment, Natural
                         Resources, and Sustainability Subcommittee on Global Change
                         Research. The subcommittee, facilitated by a national coordination office,
                         provides overall strategic direction and is responsible for developing and
                         implementing an integrated interagency program.




                         18
                           GAO, Climate Change: Improvements Needed to Clarify National Priorities and Better
                         Align Them with Federal Funding Decisions, GAO-11-317 (Washington, D.C.: May 20,
                         2011).
                         19
                           In March 2011, the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy joined the Domestic
                         Policy Council.
                         20
                          GAO-11-317.
                         21
                          Pub. L. No. 101-606 (1990). For more information about the U.S. Global Change
                         Research Program, see http://www.globalchange.gov/. (Accessed September, 2012).




                         Page 9                                GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Figure 2: Selected Collaborative Mechanisms for Federal Climate Change Activities, as of May 2011




                                        Page 10                              GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
                        Although the mechanisms we list in figure 2 differ in complexity and
There are Many Issues   scope, they all benefit from certain key features, which raise issues to
to Consider When        consider when implementing these mechanisms. According to expert
                        views and our prior work, these key features fall into the categories of
Collaborating           outcomes and accountability; bridging organizational cultures; leadership;
                        clarity of roles and responsibilities; participants; resources; and written
                        guidance and agreements. Many of these key features are related to our
                        previously-identified collaboration practices. 22



Outcomes and
Accountability          Issues to Consider:

                        •     Have short-term and long-term outcomes been clearly defined?
                        •     Is there a way to track and monitor progress toward the short-term
                              and long-term outcomes?
                        •     Do participating agencies have collaboration-related competencies or
                              performance standards against which individual performance can be
                              evaluated?
                        •     Do participating agencies have the means to recognize and reward
                              accomplishments related to collaboration?

                        Organizational Outcomes and Accountability: As we reported in 2008,
                        we interviewed experts in collaborative resource management. 23 Based
                        on these interviews, we found that most of the experts emphasized the
                        importance of groups having clear goals. They explained that in a
                        collaborative process, the participants may not have the same overall
                        interests—in fact they may have conflicting interests. However, by
                        establishing a goal based on what the group shares in common, rather
                        than on where there is disagreement among missions or philosophies, a
                        collaborative group can shape its own vision and define its own purpose.
                        When articulated and understood by the members of a group, this shared
                        purpose provides people with a reason to participate in the process. For
                        example, in 2012, we reported that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)


                        22
                            GAO-06-15.
                        23
                          GAO, Natural Resource Management: Opportunities Exist to Enhance Federal
                        Participation in Collaborative Efforts to Reduce Conflicts and Improve Natural Resource
                        Conditions, GAO-08-262 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 12, 2008).




                        Page 11                                GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in
collaboration with other federal agencies, shared a joint commitment to
preventing and ending veteran homelessness by 2015. Representatives
at two veteran and homeless advocacy organizations told us that sharing
a common strategic goal between VA and HUD had been beneficial. 24

Federal agencies can use their strategic and annual performance plans
as tools to drive collaboration with other agencies and other partners and
establish complementary goals and strategies for achieving results. We
have found that agencies that create a means to monitor, evaluate, and
report the results of collaborative efforts can better identify areas for
improvement. 25 Agencies’ priority goals—and agency involvement in
federal government priority goals—provide additional opportunities to
articulate the goals of collaborative efforts. 26 Agencies and OMB are
required under GPRAMA to monitor the federal government and agency
priority goals on at least a quarterly basis, which provides additional
opportunities for collaboration with contributing partners.

Individual Accountability: Agencies link personal accountability to
collaboration by adding a collaboration-related competency or
performance standard against which individual performance can be
evaluated. As we previously reported, the Department of State revised
the competencies used to evaluate the Foreign Service Officers to focus
on collaboration. 27 Specifically, the competencies now identify knowledge
of other agencies and interagency cooperation among the skill sets to be
assessed. 28 Agency officials said that this change, in part, resulted in
increased interest in foreign policy advisor assignments, demonstrated by
the increase in the number of applicants to the program in recent years.




24
 GAO, Veteran Homelessness: VA and HUD Are Working to Improve Data on Supportive
Housing Program, GAO-12-726 (Washington, D.C: June 26, 2012).
25
 GAO-06-15.
26
 GAO-12-620R.
27
 GAO-12-386.
28
  Foreign Service terminology for competencies are “precepts,” which according to
Department of State’s documentation, define “the specific skills to be considered and the
level of accomplishment expected at different grades.”




Page 12                                 GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
                          We reported in October 2000, that the Veterans Health Administration’s
                          Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN), headquartered in Cincinnati,
                          implemented performance agreements that focused on patient services
                          for the entire VISN and were designed to encourage the VISN’s medical
                          centers to work collaboratively. 29 In 2000, the VISN Director had a
                          performance agreement with “care line” directors for patient services,
                          such as primary care, medical and surgical care, and mental health care.
                          In particular, the mental health care line director’s performance
                          agreement included improvement goals related to mental health for the
                          entire VISN. To make progress towards these goals, this care line director
                          had to work across each of the VISN’s four medical centers with the
                          corresponding care line managers at each medical center. As part of this
                          collaboration, the care line director needed to establish consensus among
                          VISN officials and external stakeholders on the strategic direction for the
                          services provided by the mental health care line across the VISN;
                          develop, implement, and revise integrated clinical programs to reflect that
                          strategic direction for the VISN; and allocate resources among the
                          centers for mental health programs to implement these programs.


Bridging Organizational
Cultures                  Issues to Consider:

                          •    What are the missions and organizational cultures of the participating
                               agencies?
                          •    What are the commonalities between the participating agencies’
                               missions and cultures and what are some potential challenges?
                          •    Have participating agencies developed ways for operating across
                               agency boundaries?
                          •    Have participating agencies agreed on common terminology and
                               definitions?

                          Different agencies participating in any collaborative mechanism bring
                          diverse organizational cultures to it. Accordingly, it is important to address
                          these differences to enable a cohesive working relationship and to create
                          the mutual trust required to enhance and sustain the collaborative effort.
                          To address these differences, we have found that it is important to



                          29
                           GAO, Managing for Results: Emerging Benefits From Selected Agencies’ Use of
                          Performance Agreements, GAO-01-115 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 30, 2000).




                          Page 13                              GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
establish ways to operate across agency boundaries. This can involve
measures such as developing common terminology, compatible policies
and procedures, and fostering open lines of communication. We reported
in 2012 that the Interagency Council on Homelessness had taken initial
steps to develop a common vocabulary for discussing homelessness and
related terms, as recommended in our June 2010 report. The Council
held a meeting with participants from stakeholder organizations in
January 2011 and issued a report to Congress in June 2011 that
summarized feedback received during the meeting. The report notes that
a common vocabulary would allow federal agencies to better measure the
scope and dimensions of homelessness and may ease program
implementation and coordination. Additionally, the Council held three
meetings in 2011 to discuss implementation of a common vocabulary with
key federal agencies. 30

Positive working relationships between participants from different
agencies bridge organizational cultures. These relationships build trust
and foster communication, which facilitates collaboration. Experts have
stated that relationship-building is vital in responding to an emergency.
For example, we reported in 2011, that through interagency planning
efforts federal officials built relationships that helped facilitate the federal
response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic. 31 Officials from the
Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Assistant Secretary for
Preparedness and Response and the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the
Department of Education said that these interagency meetings, working
together on existing pandemic and non-pandemic programs, and
exercises conducted prior to the H1N1 pandemic built relationships that
were valuable for the H1N1 pandemic response. Specifically, HHS
officials said that federal coordination during the H1N1 pandemic was
much easier because of these formal networks and informal relationships
built during pandemic planning activities and exercises.




30
  GAO, Homelessness: Fragmentation and Overlap in Programs Highlight the Need to
Identify, Assess, and Reduce Inefficiencies, GAO-12-491 (Washington, D.C.: May 10,
2012).
31
  GAO, Influenza Pandemic: Lessons from the H1N1 Pandemic Should Be Incorporated
into Future Planning, GAO-11-632 (Washington, D.C.: June 27, 2011).




Page 14                               GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
             Frequent communication among collaborating agencies is another way to
             facilitate working across agency boundaries to prevent
             misunderstanding. 32 We reported in 2005 that open communication was
             an important factor in the successful transfer of the Plum Island Animal
             Disease Research Center (Plum Island) from USDA to DHS. 33
             Specifically, several scientists at Plum Island had stated that the Plum
             Island Director’s successful efforts in facilitating open communication
             among staff had fostered a collaborative environment. Moreover, several
             scientists noted that the director—who was based on the island at that
             time—valued the comments and ideas expressed by the scientists. One
             lead scientist concluded that the director’s ability to establish positive
             relationships with staff had brought greater focus to the research and
             diagnostic programs. USDA officials also noted to us that the leadership
             of the director and the entire Senior Leadership Group, working as a
             team, contributed to effective cooperation at Plum Island. 34


Leadership
             Issues to Consider:

             •     Has a lead agency or individual been identified?
             •     If leadership will be shared between one or more agencies, have roles
                   and responsibilities been clearly identified and agreed upon?
             •     How will leadership be sustained over the long-term?

             Leadership Models: As previously discussed, leadership models range
             from identifying one agency or person to lead, to assigning shared
             leadership over a collaborative mechanism. Experts explained that
             designating one leader is often beneficial because it centralizes


             32
                 GAO-06-15.
             33
               The livestock industry, which contributes over $100 billion annually to the national
             economy, is vulnerable to foreign animal diseases that, if introduced in the United States,
             could cause severe economic losses. To protect against such losses, critical research and
             diagnostic activities are conducted at Plum Island in New York. USDA was responsible for
             Plum Island until June 2003, when provisions of the Homeland Security Act of 2002
             transferred the facility to DHS. Under an interagency agreement, USDA continues to work
             on foreign animal diseases at the island.
             34
               GAO, Plum Island Animal Disease Center: DHS and USDA Are Successfully
             Coordinating Current Work, but Long-Term Plans Are Being Assessed, GAO-06-132
             (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 19, 2005).




             Page 15                                 GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
accountability and can speed decision making. For example, as we
reported in 2007, under the National Pandemic Strategy and
Implementation Plan, HHS and DHS share leadership responsibilities for
pandemic response. In a pandemic, HHS is responsible for areas such as
the public health response, while DHS is responsible for areas such as
border security and critical infrastructure protection. 35 In 2007, we
reported that it was unclear from the strategy and plan how this shared
leadership model would be implemented. In that regard, we
recommended that HHS and DHS clarify these roles through tests and
exercises. As we reported in 2011, these tests and exercises had not
occurred at the start of the H1N1 pandemic and we found that HHS and
DHS were not able to effectively coordinate their release of information to
state and local governments. Once it became clear that the H1N1
pandemic required primarily a public health response, HHS had
responsibility for most of the key activities. 36 However, one expert said
that centralized leadership is not always the best model, particularly when
the collaboration needs to have buy-in from more than one agency. By
sharing leadership, agencies can convey their support for the
collaborative effort.

Top-level Commitment: Influence of leadership can be strengthened by
a direct relationship with the President, Congress, and/or other high-level
officials. According to a number of former practitioners we interviewed,
their association with the President, members of Congress, or other high-
level officials enabled them to influence individuals and organizations
within the federal government to collaborate with one another. As we
reported in 2008, Department of Energy officials said to us that the fact
that the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative was a presidential initiative with
congressional backing helped Hydrogen Fuel Initiative managers garner
support from industry and within the federal government. Our subsequent
work found that the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative worked well as an
interagency effort for a number of years and research and development
progressed rapidly. However, as one agency official noted, when
congressional funding and presidential support waned, so did the




35
  GAO, Influenza Pandemic: Further Efforts Are Needed to Ensure Clearer Federal
Leadership Roles and an Effective National Strategy, GAO-07-781 (Washington, D.C.:
Aug. 14, 2007).
36
 GAO-11-632.




Page 16                               GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
                       program. 37 In developing the interim federal government priority goals
                       required under GPRAMA, a majority of the goal leaders designated by
                       OMB are in the Executive Office of the President, which provides a direct
                       connection to the President.

                       Continuity in Leadership: Given the importance of leadership to any
                       collaborative effort, transitions and inconsistent leadership can weaken
                       the effectiveness of any collaborative mechanism. As we illustrate below,
                       lack of continuity is a frequent issue with presidential advisors or
                       mechanisms that are tied to the Executive Office of the President,
                       particularly when administrations change. As we reported in 2011, the
                       future of the presidentially-appointed Food Safety Working Group was
                       uncertain. We explained that this uncertainty was based on the
                       experience of the former President’s Council on Food Safety, the
                       predecessor to the Food Safety Working Group, which was disbanded
                       less than 3 years after it was created. 38 According to the Congressional
                       Research Service, presidential advisors—who are frequently responsible
                       for collaboration around a singular issue—are rarely replaced after they
                       vacate a position, which can leave a void in leadership around an issue.
                       Our prior reports have identified other cases where leadership changed—
                       or was briefly absent—and accordingly, the mechanism either
                       disappeared or became less useful.


Clarity of Roles and
Responsibilities       Issues to Consider:

                       •    Have participating agencies clarified the roles and responsibilities of
                            the participants?
                       •    Have participating agencies articulated and agreed to a process for
                            making and enforcing decisions?




                       37
                         GAO, Hydrogen Fuel Initiative: DOE Has Made Important Progress and Involved
                       Stakeholders but Needs to Update What It Expects to Achieve by Its 2015 Target,
                       GAO-08-305 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 11, 2008).
                       38
                         GAO, Federal Food Safety Oversight: Food Safety Working Group Is a Positive First
                       Step but Governmentwide Planning Is Needed to Address Fragmentation, GAO-11-289
                       (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 18, 2011).




                       Page 17                               GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Clarity can come from agencies working together to define and agree on
their respective roles and responsibilities, as well as steps for decision
making. We reported in 2009, that as part of the Partnership for

Sustainable Communities, HUD and the Department of Transportation
started to define and agree on their respective roles and responsibilities.
As part of this effort, the agencies began to clarify who will do what,
identified how to organize their joint and individual efforts, and articulated
steps for decision making. For example, the Department of Transportation
and HUD planned to give responsibility to HUD to administer the Regional
Integrated Planning Grants program. They also agreed that HUD would
assume this responsibility in consultation with the Department of
Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal
agencies. 39

Clarity about roles and responsibilities can be codified through laws,
policies, memorandum of understanding, or other requirements. For
example, as we reported in 2012, in enacting the Intelligence Reform and
Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Congress included a provision
requiring the Director of National Intelligence to prescribe mechanisms to
facilitate the rotation of intelligence community personnel to other
intelligence community elements during their careers. 40 Amongst other
duties, the law requires the Director to encourage and facilitate
assignments and details of personnel to national intelligence centers, and
to set standards for educating, training, and career development of




39
  GAO, Affordable Housing in Transit-Oriented Development: Key Practices Could
Enhance Recent Collaboration Efforts between DOT-FTA and HUD, GAO-09-871
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 9, 2009).
40
   For purposes of this report, references to the intelligence community elements include
the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, the Defense Security
Service, and other intelligence community components, which are subject to the Joint
Duty Program requirement. Although the Defense Security Service is technically not part
of the intelligence community, it is also included in our scope because Defense Security
Service civilian personnel fall under the Under Secretary for Defense for Intelligence and
are subject to the Joint Duty Program requirement.




Page 18                                 GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
               personnel within the intelligence community. 41 Experts emphasized that it
               is helpful to use existing authorities whenever possible.


Participants
               Issues to Consider:

               •     Have all relevant participants been included?
               •     Do the participants have:
                     •  Full knowledge of the relevant resources in their agency?
                     •  The ability to commit these resources?
                     •  The ability to regularly attend activities of the collaborative
                        mechanism?
                     •  The appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities to contribute?

               It is important to ensure that the relevant participants have been included
               in the collaborative effort. This can include other federal agencies, state
               and local entities, and organizations from the private and nonprofit
               sectors. Experts said that it is helpful when the participants in a
               collaborative mechanism have full knowledge of the relevant resources in
               their agency; the ability to commit these resources and make decisions
               on behalf of the agency; the ability to regularly attend all activities of the
               collaborative mechanism; and the knowledge, skills, and abilities to
               contribute to the outcomes of the collaborative effort.

               For example, we reported in 2010 that even when the Federal Emergency
               Management Agency’s Long-Term Community Recovery Branch did have
               the right agencies at the table, their efforts were limited when they did not
               have the right staff to resolve policy and program challenges. One of the
               reasons for this challenge was that interagency coordination meetings did
               not always include agency officials with a sufficient level of authority to
               resolve the challenges that the group identified. 42 In another example, as
               we reported in 2008, to ensure appropriate authority inside each agency
               for making hydrogen-related budget and policy decisions during


               41
                 Pub. L. No. 108-458, § 1011, 118 Stat. 3638, 3644-55 (Dec. 17, 2004) (amending §
               102A of the National Security Act of 1947, as codified at 50 U.S.C. § 403-1). GAO,
               Intelligence Community Personnel: Strategic Approach and Training Requirements
               Needed to Guide Joint Duty Program, GAO-12-679 (Washington, D.C.: June 20, 2012).
               42
                   GAO-10-404.




               Page 19                              GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
            meetings, the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee
            recommended in October 2006 that the participants of the Interagency
            Working Group be elevated to require participation of an assistant
            secretary or higher. In response, the Department of Energy created the
            Interagency Task Force—a new entity composed of deputy assistant
            secretaries, program directors, and other senior officials. 43

Resources
            Issues to Consider:

            •     How will the collaborative mechanism be funded? If interagency
                  funding is needed, is it permitted?
            •     If interagency funding is needed and permitted, is there a means to
                  track funds in a standardized manner?
            •     How will the collaborative mechanism be staffed?
            •     Are there incentives available to encourage staff or agencies to
                  participate?
            •     If relevant, do agencies have compatible technological systems?
            •     Have participating agencies developed online tools or other resources
                  that facilitate joint interactions?

            Collaborating agencies should identify the human, information
            technology, physical, and financial resources needed to initiate or sustain
            their collaborative effort. 44 Many experts have emphasized that
            collaboration can take time and resources in order to accomplish such
            activities as building trust among the participants, setting up the ground
            rules for the process, attending meetings, conducting project work, and
            monitoring and evaluating the results of work performed. Consequently, it
            is important for groups to ensure that they identify and leverage sufficient
            funding to accomplish the objectives. 45 As noted below, in some
            instances specific congressional authority may be necessary in order to
            provide for the interagency funding of collaborative mechanisms.




            43
                GAO-08-305.
            44
                GAO-06-15.
            45
                GAO-08-262.




            Page 20                           GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Funding   While not all collaborative mechanisms raise funding considerations, our
          work does point to a range of authorities that have been used for funding
          them. The National Defense Authorization Act required VA and the
          Department of Defense (DOD) to establish the Joint Incentive Fund 46
          program to identify and provide incentives for creative coordination and
          sharing initiatives at the facility, regional, and national levels. 47 To
          facilitate the incentive program, Congress established a U.S. Treasury
          account to fund the Joint Incentive Fund activities and required DOD and
          VA each to contribute a minimum of $15 million each year to the account.
          This program is authorized through September 2015. 48 Additionally, as
          we reported in 2011, in the case of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic,
          Congress appropriated more than $6 billion in direct and contingent
          funding into an HHS emergency fund in order to prepare for and respond
          to an influenza pandemic. 49 This appropriation contained authority for the
          Secretary of HHS to transfer funds to other HHS accounts and to other
          federal agencies, which the Secretary used to transfer funds to the
          Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, State, and Agriculture to assist
          with the response. 50

          In another example, as we reported in 2007, Federal Executive Boards
          (FEBs) are supported by a host agency, usually the agency with the
          greatest number of employees in the region. These host agencies provide
          varying levels of staffing, usually one or two full-time positions—an
          executive director and an executive assistant. Some agencies also
          temporarily detail employees to the FEB staff to assist their local boards
          and to provide developmental opportunities for their employees.
          Additionally, the FEBs are supported by member agencies through
          contribution of funds as well as in-kind support, such as office space,


          46
             Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, Pub. L. No. 107-
          314, § 721, 116 Stat. 2458, 2589-95 (Dec. 2, 2002), required VA and DOD to establish a
          joint incentive program, which is administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs-
          Department of Defense Joint Executive Committee, under procedures jointly prescribed by
          the two Secretaries. VA and DOD refer to this as the Joint Incentive Fund program.
          47
           GAO, VA and DOD Health Care: Opportunities to Maximize Resource Sharing Remain,
          GAO-06-315 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 20, 2006).
          48
           See, 38 U.S.C. § 8111(d).
          49
            Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-32, 123 Stat. 1859, 1884-86
          (June 24, 2009).
          50
           GAO-11-632.




          Page 21                               GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
personal computers, telephone lines, and Internet access. 51 We noted in
our report that FEBs had previously been limited in the methods available
to fund operations because of the governmentwide restriction against
interagency financing of boards, commissions, councils, committees, and
similar groups without statutory approval. Under this restriction, it was
permissible for one participant agency with a primary interest in the
success of the interagency venture to pay the entire cost of supporting
the functions and administration of the group, but it was not permissible to
support the group through cash and in-kind support from participating
agencies. 52 FEBs were exempted from this restriction in 1996, which then
permitted the interagency financing through member agency contributions
of funds and in-kind support. 53

In addition, working capital funds have been used to finance the
sharing/leveraging of business-like services between agencies. As we
reported in 2010, the National Institute for Standards and Technology
(NIST) serves as the focal point for conducting scientific research and
developing measurements, standards, and related technologies in the
federal government. 54 In 1950, Congress established NIST’s working
capital fund, giving the agency broad statutory authority to use the fund to
support any activities NIST is authorized to undertake as an agency.
NIST’s working capital fund is a type of intragovernmental revolving fund.
These funds—which include franchise, supply, and working capital
funds—finance business-like operations. An intragovernmental revolving
fund charges for the sale of products or services it provides and uses the
proceeds to finance its operations. In another example, as we reported in
2011, federal customer agencies use the Department of the Census’
nationwide polling structure, expertise, and address lists, which would




51
  GAO, The Federal Workforce: Additional Steps Needed to Take Advantage of Federal
Executive Boards’ Ability to Contribute to Emergency Operations, GAO-07-515
(Washington, D.C.: May 4, 2007).
52
 65 Comp. Gen. 689 (1986) and 67 Comp. Gen. 27 (1987).
53
  Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, Pub. L. No. 104-208, § 613, 110 Stat. 3009,
3009-356 (1996).
54
 GAO, Intergovernmental Revolving Funds: NIST’s Interagency Agreements and
Workload Require Management Attention, GAO-11-41 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 20, 2010).




Page 22                               GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
           otherwise be uneconomical for them to replicate on their own. 55 For
           example, Census supports HUD’s American Housing Survey by gathering
           information on the size and composition of the housing inventory in the
           United States. 56

           Regardless of the funding model used, participating agencies need to find
           compatible methods for tracking funds for accountability. For example,
           the Mérida Initiative is a partnership between the United States and
           Mexico to combat narcotics. As we noted in a December 2009 report,
           tracking funds for the Mérida Initiative was difficult because each of the
           three bureaus in the Department of State managing Mérida funds had a
           different method for tracking the money. Each bureau used different
           budgeting terms as well as separate spreadsheets for the Mérida funds it
           administered, and the State Department had no consolidated database
           for these funds. 57

Staffing   Relying on agencies to participate can present challenges for
           collaborative mechanisms. In cases where staff participation was
           insufficient, collaboration often failed to meet key objectives and achieve
           intended outcomes. According to experts, establishing “win-win”
           arrangements, and aligning incentives to reward participation, makes
           individuals and organizations more likely to participate in collaborative
           arrangements, particularly in cases where participation is voluntary. In a
           March 2012 report, we identified a number of individual incentives that
           can be used to bolster participation in collaborative efforts, such as:




           55
             GAO, Intragovernmental Revolving Funds: Commerce Departmental and Census
           Working Capital Funds Should Better Reflect Key Operating Principles, GAO-12-56
           (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 18, 2011).
           56
             Federal agencies are prohibited by law from transferring funds from one agency to
           another, unless otherwise authorized by law. The Economy Act of 1932 authorizes a
           federal agency to provide goods or services to another federal agency and generally
           provides authority for federal agencies to enter into intragovernmental transactions when
           no other, more specific, authority applies. However, the Economy Act restricts flexibility by
           requiring the client agency to deobligate fiscal year funds at the end of the period of
           availability to the extent that these funds have not been obligated by the performing
           agency.
           57
             GAO, Status of Funds for the Mérida Initiative, GAO-10-253R (Washington, D.C.: Dec.
           3, 2009).




           Page 23                                  GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
             •     Factoring participation into promotion decisions: Personnel may be
                   encouraged to participate in collaborative programs if agencies factor
                   interagency experience into their promotion decisions. 58

             •     Providing public recognition: In addition to providing incentives
                   through performance management systems, agencies can publicly
                   acknowledge or reward participants in other ways. For example,
                   agencies could confer awards to individuals who exhibit exemplary
                   teamwork skills or accomplishments during an interagency rotation. 59


Technology   We identified a number of technological applications that agencies are
             using to enhance and sustain joint activities. Specifically, agencies have
             developed information-sharing websites, integrated electronic reporting
             processes and procedures, and negotiated data-sharing arrangements.
             For example, the Department of Defense’s National Center for Medical
             Intelligence hosts an encrypted information-sharing portal called Wildfire
             that is intended for use by members of the Biosurveillance Indications and
             Warnings Analytic Community, which is a self-governing interagency
             body, composed of federal officials who are responsible for pursuing a
             biosurveillance mission. 60 Second, we reported in 2012, that HHS, the
             Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and the White
             House, established a central federal website
             (http://www.stopbullying.gov), which was launched in March 2011 at the
             White House conference on bullying. The central website sought to
             consolidate the content of different federal sites into one location to
             provide free materials to the public. 61 Third, we reported in 2012, that
             HHS and VA have been working to make their homelessness programs’



             58
               The Interagency Personnel Rotation Act of 2011, pending before the Senate and House,
             would encourage interagency rotations by requiring interagency experience for national
             security and homeland security personnel prior to promotion to certain senior positions.
             The purpose of this act is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the government
             by fostering greater interagency experience among executive branch personnel on
             national security and homeland security matters involving more than one agency. See S.
             1268 and H.R. 2314.
             59
                 GAO-12-386.
             60
               GAO, Biosurveillance: Developing a Collaboration Strategy Is Essential to Fostering
             Interagency Data and Resource Sharing, GAO-10-171 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 18, 2009).
             61
              GAO, School Bullying: Extent of Legal Protections for Vulnerable Groups Needs to Be
             More Fully Assessed, GAO-12-349 (Washington, D.C.: May 29, 2012).




             Page 24                                GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
                       data systems compatible with HUD’s as part of their work with the
                       Interagency Council on Homelessness. 62


Written Guidance and
Agreements             Issues to Consider:

                       •     If appropriate, have the participating agencies documented their
                             agreement regarding how they will be collaborating? A written
                             document can incorporate agreements reached in any or all of the
                             following areas:
                             •    Leadership;
                             •    Accountability;
                             •    Roles and responsibilities; and
                             •    Resources.
                       •     Have participating agencies developed ways to continually update or
                             monitor written agreements?

                       Our prior work found that agencies that articulate their agreements in
                       formal documents can strengthen their commitment to working
                       collaboratively. 63 As we have previously reported, having a clear and
                       compelling rationale to work together—such as that described above—is
                       a key factor in successful collaborations. Agencies can overcome
                       significant differences when such a rationale and commitment exist. 64

                       Not all collaborative arrangements need to be documented through
                       written guidance and agreements, particularly those that are informal.
                       However, we have found that at times it can be helpful to document key
                       agreements related to the collaboration. One expert we interviewed
                       stated that the action of two agencies articulating a common outcome and
                       roles and responsibilities into a written document was a powerful tool in
                       collaboration. Accordingly, we have recommended many times that
                       collaborations would benefit from a formal written agreement, such as a
                       memorandum of understanding (MOU). For example, in 2008, we


                       62
                           GAO-12-491.
                       63
                           GAO-06-15.
                       64
                         GAO, Next Generation Air Transportation: Collaborative Efforts with European Union
                       Generally Mirror Effective Practices, but Near-Term Challenges Could Delay
                       Implementation, GAO-12-48 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 3, 2011).




                       Page 25                               GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
recommended that the Chairman of the Council on Environmental
Quality, working with the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior, direct
an interagency task force to identify goals, actions, responsible work
groups and agencies, and time frames for carrying out the actions needed
to implement the Cooperative Conservation Initiative, including
collaborative resource management, and document these through a
written plan, memorandum of understanding, or other appropriate
means. 65 This recommendation was implemented in January of 2009
when the Council on Environmental Quality, and other departments
involved in cooperative conservation, signed an MOU to create a
framework for collaborative resource management.

We have also reported that written agreements are most effective when
they are regularly updated and monitored. For example, we reported in
2008, that the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Rural
Development offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Rural
Development) entered into an MOU in 2000 that provided an approach to
collaborate on rural lending activities. 66 The MOU expired in 2003 and
SBA and Rural Development did not appear to have implemented the
MOU when it was active. We found that the ineffective implementation of
the MOU had likely contributed to the sporadic and limited amount of
collaboration that was taking place between the two agencies.




65
 GAO-08-262.
66
  GAO, Rural Economic Development: Collaboration between SBA and USDA Could Be
Improved, GAO-08-1123 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 18, 2008).




Page 26                            GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
We are sending copies of this report to the appropriate congressional
committees and other interested parties. In addition, this report is
available at no charge on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff members have any questions about this report, please
contact me at (202) 512-6806 or mihmj@gao.gov. Contact points for our
Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on
the last page of this report. GAO staff who made key contributions to this
report are listed in enclosure IV.

Sincerely yours,




J. Christopher Mihm
Managing Director, Strategic Issues




Page 27                          GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology
             Scope and Methodology




             To identify mechanisms that the federal government uses to lead and
             implement interagency collaboration as well as issues to consider when
             implementing these mechanisms we conducted a literature review of
             academic work, interviewed a number of experts in governmental
             collaboration, and analyzed a sample of our prior work.

             Specifically, we conducted a literature review of scholarly and peer-
             reviewed articles, as well as magazine and journal articles. The review
             relied on Internet search databases to identify literature published or
             issued between January 2006, and August 2011. The search of the
             published research databases produced 75 articles. We reviewed these
             articles to further determine the extent to which they were relevant to our
             engagement, that is, whether they discussed approaches used by the
             federal government to lead and implement interagency collaboration or
             provided definitions of collaborative governance or interagency
             collaboration. We found that 24 (32 percent) of these documents were
             relevant to our objectives. Specifically, 11 articles discussed mechanisms
             used by the federal government to lead and implement interagency
             collaboration, 5 articles provided definitions of collaborative governance
             or interagency collaboration, and 8 articles discussed the benefits and
             challenges of a specific interagency collaborative approach. The
             remainder of the documents did not meet our criteria because they
             discussed public-private partnerships, collaboration between state and
             local government agencies, or collaboration between foreign government
             agencies.

             To identify experts and practitioners in the field of collaboration, we
             reviewed the bibliographies of 11 articles from our sample of 24 articles
             we determined were relevant to our objectives. In addition, we identified a
             number of experts and practitioners who had recently published work on
             governmental collaboration, or who had implemented collaborative
             mechanisms in the federal government. We then judgmentally selected a
             total of 13 experts and practitioners for interviews. Specifically, we
             selected 8 academic experts in the area of collaboration based on
             citations in the research literature, and the recommendations of other
             experts. We selected 5 practitioners based on the range and depth of
             their experience in implementing federal collaboration undertakings, and
             the recommendations of other experts. Our list of experts covered a
             range of academic institutions, think tanks, and professional organizations
             such as the National Academy of Public Administration. Below we list the
             experts and practitioners we interviewed:




             Page 28                          GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
                            Scope and Methodology




Experts and Practitioners   Robert Agranoff – Professor Emeritus, Indiana University
Interviewed
                            Eugene Bardach – Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

                            G. Edward DeSeve – Former Special Advisor to the President for
                            Recovery Implementation

                            Heather Getha-Taylor – Assistant Professor, University of Kansas

                            Dwight Ink – President Emeritus, Institute of Public Administration and
                            Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration

                            Frederick Kaiser – Congressional Research Service (retired)

                            John Koskinen – Former Deputy Director for Management of the Office
                            of Management and Budget and Chair of the President’s Council on Year
                            2000 Conversion

                            Janine O’Flynn – Associate Professor, Australian National University

                            Rosemary O’Leary – Professor, Syracuse University

                            Stephen Page – Associate Professor, University of Washington

                            Barbara Romzek – Professor, University of Kansas

                            Ronald Sanders – Former Chief Human Capital Officer, Office of the
                            Director of National Intelligence

                            Thomas Stanton – Member of the Board of Directors, National Academy
                            of Public Administration, and Fellow of the Center for the Study of
                            American Government at Johns Hopkins University

                            We conducted in-depth interviews with each expert using a standard set
                            of questions. We asked them to comment on a draft list of mechanisms
                            and discussed key issues to consider in implementing collaborative
                            mechanisms. We supplemented the information we received during the
                            interview with information that had been published by the experts. We
                            also met with staff from the Congressional Research Service, who have
                            studied presidential advisors.

                            Additionally, we conducted an analysis of our prior reports that addressed
                            collaborative mechanisms and key implementation issues. To do this we


                            Page 29                         GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Scope and Methodology




first selected a judgmental sample of reports that were published between
January 2005 and August 2011 that contained detailed information
regarding collaborative mechanisms. During this search, we identified
over 200 reports. In order to reduce the size of the sample, we selected
reports that met two or more of the following criteria:

•    discussed collaboration between more than one federal department,

•    included a mechanism for collaboration, and

•    provided an in-depth discussion of the collaborative mechanism.

To make our final selection, we identified reports that we generally agreed
met the criteria and reached agreement over selection of reports when
there was disagreement. To refine the sample and ensure that we
covered collaboration across the federal government, we divided the
reports by topic area, and selected reports to ensure that each area was
covered. The reports fell into the topic areas listed in table 1:

Table 1: Topic Areas Covered in Report Sample

 International Affairs                 Homeland Security
 National Defense                      Government Operations
 Science, Space, and Technology        Justice and Law Enforcement
 Health                                Veterans Affairs
 Natural Resources                     Information Management
 Agriculture and Food                  Financial Management
 Environmental Protection              Transportation
 Energy                                Economic Development
 Housing                               Business, Industry, and Consumers
 Income Security                       Education
 Social Services
Source: GAO.



We assessed the depth of each report’s discussion on collaborative
mechanisms, and constructed a sample to ensure representation of the
range of categories above and mechanism types. In total, we selected 36
reports that met our criteria.

To identify our final list of collaborative mechanisms, we reviewed the 36
reports in our sample to identify all of the mechanisms, and variations of
the mechanisms, that were included. We then organized and grouped the


Page 30                            GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Scope and Methodology




mechanisms according to the main types that we found in our review. For
example, we identified three distinct mechanisms that involved positions
and personnel details, including interagency collaborator positions,
liaisons, and personnel details between agencies. Our goal was to
identify and understand the major mechanisms that have been reported in
academic literature and our prior work that have examined interagency
collaboration. As a result, we did not attempt to identify all possible
collaborative mechanisms. After developing a draft list of mechanisms,
we shared it with our collaboration experts and practitioners to gather
their feedback and identify any additional mechanisms, as discussed
above. Five experts agreed that our list of mechanisms was complete,
and we made a number of technical changes to the list based on the
feedback we received.

This engagement had two phases, which required some updating of the
sample to include more recent reports. As a result, we used the GAO
database to find an additional 100 reports, which were published between
August 2011 and June 2012. This brought the total number of reports in
our sample to 300. Through this process, we selected an additional 9
reports of the 100, which brought the total number of reports we reviewed
to 45. We did not add any mechanisms or key features to the list as a
result of this judgmental sample. We relied on this sample to supplement
the analysis of key issues to consider in implementing the interagency
collaborative mechanisms.

To identify the purposes for which collaborative mechanisms can be
used, we reviewed our sample of academic literature, discussed the
purposes of interagency collaboration in our interviews with experts, and
analyzed our judgmental sample of prior work. We found that academic
experts and practitioners have used a variety of methods to categorize
the purposes of collaborative mechanisms. The purposes we identified in
our analysis are supported by a number of experts and our prior work.

To identify the categories of the issues for consideration, we identified
issues that had been raised in expert interviews and the reports that we
reviewed. We selected and organized the issues into the key features that
we present in this report based on factors such as the number of times
issues were raised, the importance experts attached to issues, and the
evidence of their importance that we found in prior GAO work.
Additionally, where possible, we looked for areas where there was
overlap between the issues that we identified and the practices that we
identified in GAO-06-15. While we have generally found that when
agencies address as many of these issues as possible it leads to more


Page 31                         GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Scope and Methodology




effective implementation of the collaborative mechanisms, we also
recognize that there is a wide range of situations and circumstances in
which agencies work together. Consequently, in some cases, addressing
a few selected issues may be sufficient for effective collaboration.

We conducted our work from July 2011 to September 2012 in accordance
with all sections of GAO’s Quality Assurance Framework that are relevant
to our objectives. The framework requires that we plan and perform the
engagement to obtain sufficient and appropriate evidence to meet our
stated objectives and to discuss any limitations in our work. We believe
that the information and data obtained, and the analysis conducted,
provide a reasonable basis for any findings and conclusions in this report.




Page 32                          GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Appendix II: Key Collaboration Practices
              Scope and Methodology




              Page 33                 GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Appendix III: Key Issues to Consider for
                          Key Issues to Consider for Implementing
                          Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms



Implementing Interagency Collaborative
Mechanisms
Outcomes and              •   Have short-term and long-term outcomes been clearly defined?
Accountability
                          •   Is there a way to track and monitor progress toward the short-term
                              and long-term outcomes?

                          •   Do participating agencies have collaboration-related competencies or
                              performance standards against which individual performance can be
                              evaluated?

                          •   Do participating agencies have the means to recognize and reward
                              accomplishments related to collaboration?

Bridging Organizational   •   What are the missions and organizational cultures of the participating
Cultures                      agencies?

                          •   What are the commonalities between the participating agencies’
                              missions and cultures and what are some potential challenges?

                          •   Have participating agencies developed ways for operating across
                              agency boundaries?

                          •   Have participating agencies agreed on common terminology and
                              definitions?

Leadership                •   Has a lead agency or individual been identified?

                          •   If leadership will be shared between one or more agencies, have roles
                              and responsibilities been clearly identified and agreed upon?

                          •   How will leadership be sustained over the long-term?

Clarity of Roles and      •   Have participating agencies clarified the roles and responsibilities of
Responsibilities              the participants?

                          •   Have participating agencies articulated and agreed to a process for
                              making and enforcing decisions?

Participants              •   Have all relevant participants been included?

                          •   Do the participants have:
                              •     Full knowledge of the relevant resources in their agency?



                          Page 34                                   GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
                       Key Issues to Consider for Implementing
                       Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms




                           •     The ability to commit these resources?

                           •     The ability to regularly attend activities of the collaborative
                                 mechanism?

                           •     The appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities to contribute?

Resources              •   How will the collaborative mechanism be funded? If interagency
                           funding is needed, is it permitted?

                       •   If interagency funding is needed and permitted, is there a means to
                           track funds in a standardized manner?

                       •   How will the collaborative mechanism be staffed?

                       •   Are there incentives available to encourage staff or agencies to
                           participate?

                       •   If relevant, do agencies have compatible technological systems?

                       •   Have participating agencies developed online tools or other resources
                           that facilitate joint interactions?

Written Guidance and   •   If appropriate, have the participating agencies documented their
Agreements                 agreement regarding how they will be collaborating? A written
                           document can incorporate agreements reached in any or all of the
                           following areas:

                           •     Leadership;

                           •     Accountability;

                           •     Roles and responsibilities; and

                           •     Resources.

                       •   Have participating agencies developed ways to continually update or
                           monitor written agreements?




                       Page 35                                   GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
Appendix IV: GAO Contacts and Staff
                  Key Issues to Consider for Implementing
                  Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms



Acknowledgments

                  J. Christopher Mihm, (202) 512-6806 or mihmj@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the contact named above, Sarah Veale, Assistant Director,
Staff             and Mallory Barg Bulman, Analyst-in-Charge, supervised the
Acknowledgments   development of this report. Peter Beck, Martin De Alteriis, Don Kiggins,
                  and Jasmin Paikattu made significant contributions to all aspects of this
                  report. Karin Fangman provided legal counsel.




(450970)
                  Page 36                                   GAO-12-1022 Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms
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