oversight

Managing for Results: A Guide for Using the GPRA Modernization Act to Help Inform Congressional Decision Making

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-06-15.

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

               United States Government Accountability Office

GAO            Report to Congressional Requesters




June 2012
               MANAGING FOR
               RESULTS
               A Guide for Using the
               GPRA Modernization
               Act to Help Inform
               Congressional
               Decision Making




GAO-12-621SP
Contents


Letter                                                                                                   1

Introduction to the Guide                                                                                5
                            How to Use This Guide                                                        5
                            How We Developed This Guide                                                  6

Section I                   Consultations Provide Congress with Opportunities to Influence
                            Development of Executive Branch Performance Information That Is
                            Useful for Decision Making                                                   9
                            Consultations Are Intended to Strengthen Collaboration between
                              the Congress and Federal Agencies                                          9
                            Creating Shared Expectations and Engaging the Right People at the
                              Right Time Can Help Ensure Consultations Are Successful                  10

Section II                  Case Studies Illustrate How Congress Uses Performance Information
                            to Inform Its Decision Making                                               14
                            Performance Information Can Help Congress Identify Issues to
                              Address                                                                  14
                            Performance Information Can Be Used to Measure the Federal
                              Government’s Progress toward Addressing Issues                           19
                            Performance Information Can Help Identify Better Strategies to
                              Address Issues                                                           21

Appendix I                  Illustrative Questions to Assist Congress in Focusing Consultations
                            on Key Issues                                                               26



Appendix II                 GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                       28



Related GAO Products                                                                                    29



Tables
                            Table 1: GAO’s Assessment of USCIS’s 2007 Transformation
                                     Program Strategic Plan’s Conformance with Key Practices           17
                            Table 2: Illustrative Consultation Questions                               27



                            Page i                  GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Figure
         Figure 1: Governmentwide Improper Payment Estimates, Fiscal
                  Years 2002 to 2011                                                               24




         Abbreviations

         2008 Leadership Act          Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States
                                      Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS,
                                      Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of
                                      2008
         DHS                          Department of Homeland Security
         GPRA                         Government Performance and Results Act of
                                      1993
         GPRAMA                       GPRA Modernization Act of 2010
         IPERA                        Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act
                                      of 2010
         IPIA                         Improper Payments Information Act of 2002
         OGAC                         Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator
         OIG                          Office of Inspector General
         OMB                          Office of Management and Budget
         PEPFAR                       President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
         USCIS                        United States Citizenship and Immigration
                                      Services



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         Page ii                      GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   June 15, 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

                                   The Honorable Thomas R. Carper
                                   Chairman
                                   Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government
                                    Information, Federal Services, and International Security
                                   Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
                                   United States Senate

                                   The Honorable Mark R. Warner
                                   Chairman
                                   Task Force on Government Performance
                                   Committee on the Budget
                                   United States Senate

                                   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. As Congress creates, modifies, and funds federal programs and
                                   activities, it needs pertinent and reliable information to adequately assess
                                   agencies’ progress in meeting established performance goals, ensure
                                   accountability for results, and understand how individual programs and
                                   activities fit within a broader portfolio of federal efforts.

                                   However, as our annual reports on duplication, overlap, and
                                   fragmentation in the federal government have recently highlighted, there
                                   are a number of crosscutting areas where performance information is




                                   Page 1                  GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
limited or does not exist. 1 Even in instances where agencies produce a
great deal of performance information, our past work has shown that it
does not always reach the interested parties in Congress, and when it
does, the information may not be timely or presented in a manner that is
useful for congressional decision making. 2

To help ensure that executive branch performance information is useful to
Congress for its decision making, congressional involvement on what to
measure and how to present this information is critical. Recognizing this,
Congress updated the statutory framework for performance management
in the federal government, the Government Performance and Results Act
of 1993 (GPRA), with the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA), 3
which significantly enhances the requirements for agencies to consult
with Congress when establishing or adjusting governmentwide and
agency goals. Specifically, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
is required to consult with relevant committees with broad jurisdiction on
crosscutting priority goals. 4 Agencies are to consult with their relevant
appropriations, authorization, and oversight committees when developing
or making adjustments to their strategic plans and agency priority goals.

This guide, prepared at your request, is intended to assist Members of
Congress and their staffs in (1) ensuring the consultations required under
GPRAMA are useful to the Congress and (2) using performance
information produced by executive branch agencies in carrying out
various congressional decision-making responsibilities, such as



1
 GAO, 2012 Annual Report: Opportunities to Reduce Duplication, Overlap and
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).
2
 GAO, Congressional Oversight: FAA Case Study Shows How Agency Performance,
Budgeting, and Financial Information Could Enhance Oversight, GAO-06-378,
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 8, 2006).
3
 Pub. L. No. 111-352, 124 Stat. 3866 (2011). GPRAMA amends GPRA, Pub. L. No. 103-
62, 107 Stat. 285 (1993).
4
 OMB is required to consult with the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations,
the Senate and House Committees on the Budget, the Senate Committee on Homeland
Security and Governmental Affairs, the House Committee on Oversight and Government
Reform, the Senate Committee on Finance, the House Committee on Ways and Means,
and any other committees as determined appropriate. 31 U.S.C. § 1120(a)(3).




Page 2                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
authorizing programs or provisions in the tax code, making
appropriations, developing budgets, and providing oversight.

To develop the guide, we reviewed consultation requirements specified in
the act, as well as the related intent, and identified general approaches
for successful consultations by reviewing our prior reports, observing a
recent consultation between agency officials and congressional
committee staff, and interviewing officials from several selected agencies
about their past consultation experiences. To illustrate how Congress can
use performance information, we selected three case studies from our
prior work in which Congress played an active role in contributing to and
overseeing agency efforts to improve performance. The case studies
cover federal efforts to

•   transform the processing of immigration benefits;
•   coordinate U.S. efforts to address the global HIV/AIDS pandemic; and
•   identify and address improper payments made by federal programs.
In addition, we recently provided briefings to various congressional staff
on several other case studies. 5 In compiling these examples, we reviewed
legislation, related congressional documents, our related past work, as
well as that conducted by agency inspectors general.

We conducted our work from December 2010 to June 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 product.




5
 See GAO, Managing for Results: Opportunities for Congress to Address Government
Performance Issues, GAO-12-215R (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 9, 2011). The case studies
contained in the briefing covered efforts to consolidate four overlapping bilingual education
programs, reform the personnel security clearance process to reduce backlogs, and shift
from paper to electronic filing of tax returns.




Page 3                       GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
We are sending copies of this guide to interested congressional
committees and the Director of OMB. In addition, the guide is available at
no charge on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff have any questions about this guide, 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 guide
are listed in appendix II.




J. Christopher Mihm
Managing Director, Strategic Issues




Page 4                  GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Introduction to the Guide
                  Introduction to the Guide




                  Performance information can cover a range of related topics, including
                  the results the federal government should seek to achieve, how those
                  results will be achieved, how progress will be measured, and how results
                  will be reported. 1 To ensure that their performance information will be
                  both useful and used by decision makers, agencies need to consider the
                  differing information needs of various users—including those in Congress.
                  As we have previously reported, agency performance information must
                  meet Congress’s needs for completeness, accuracy, validity, timeliness,
                  and ease of use to be useful for congressional decision making. 2 As
                  noted in our past work, several requirements put into place by GPRAMA
                  could help address those needs. 3

                  •   Completeness: Agencies often lack information on the effectiveness
                      of programs; such information could help decision makers prioritize
                      resources among programs. Our work on overlap and duplication has
                      found crosscutting areas where performance information is limited or
                      does not exist. The crosscutting planning and reporting requirements
                      could lead to the development of performance information in areas
                      that are currently incomplete.
                  •   Accuracy and validity: Agencies are required to disclose more
                      information about the accuracy and validity of their performance
                      information in their performance plans and reports, including the
                      sources for their data and actions to address limitations to the data.
                  •   Timeliness and ease of use: Quarterly reporting for cross-agency and
                      agency priority goals, along with posting much of the governmentwide
                      and agency performance information on a central, governmentwide
                      website, will provide more timely, accessible, and easy-to-use
                      information.

                  Section I describes how Members of Congress and their staffs can
How to Use This   influence the development of performance information that meets
Guide             congressional needs through consultations with executive branch



                  1
                   For more information about the performance information required under the federal
                  performance management framework, see GAO-12-215R, 30-51.
                  2
                   GAO, Managing for Results: Enhancing Agency Use of Performance Information for
                  Management Decision Making, GAO-05-927 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 9, 2005).
                  3
                   GAO, Managing for Results: GPRA Modernization Act Implementation Provides
                  Important Opportunities to Address Government Challenges, GAO-11-617T (Washington,
                  D.C.: May 10, 2011).




                  Page 5                      GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
                   Introduction to the Guide




                   agencies. This section identifies the requirements for these consultations,
                   as well as the related congressional intent. In appendix I, the guide
                   presents key questions that Members and congressional staff can ask as
                   part of the consultation to ensure that agency performance information
                   reflects congressional priorities. Finally, this section provides general
                   approaches for ensuring consultations are successful.

                   Section II illustrates how Congress can use performance information in its
                   various legislative and oversight decision making activities to identify
                   issues to address, measure the federal government’s progress towards
                   addressing those issues, and when necessary, identify better strategies
                   to address those issues. In this section, three case studies demonstrate
                   how Congress has used performance information to inform its decision
                   making in these different ways.


                   This guide builds upon a large body of work we have conducted during
How We Developed   the past two decades related to performance management in the federal
This Guide         government. This includes a number of products focused on enhancing
                   the usefulness and use of performance information in congressional
                   decision making, 4 including our recent briefings to congressional staff on
                   opportunities for Congress to address government performance issues. 5

                   To identify how Congress can use the consultations required under
                   GPRAMA, we identified requirements specified in the act, as well as the
                   intent of these requirements as reported by the Senate Committee on
                   Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. 6 Additionally, we identified
                   illustrative questions Congress can ask during consultations and general
                   approaches for successful consultations by reviewing our prior reports.
                   We determined whether the approaches identified in a past report have
                   remained relevant through several means. 7 This included observing—at
                   the invitation of congressional committee staff—a recent consultation with



                   4
                    See “Related GAO Products” at the end of this guide for a list.
                   5
                    GAO-12-215R.
                   6
                    S. Rep. No. 111-372 (2010).
                   7
                    GAO, Managing for Results, Enhancing the Usefulness of GPRA Consultations Between
                   the Executive Branch and Congress, GAO/T-GGD-97-56 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 10,
                   1997).




                   Page 6                       GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Introduction to the Guide




agency officials, and interviewing performance improvement and
legislative affairs officials from several selected agencies about their past
consultation experiences. 8 We also gathered the views of current and
former congressional and agency staff who participated in a forum held
on July 5, 2011, by the National Academy of Public Administration on
structuring collaboration between Congress and the executive branch on
reporting, receiving, and using performance information. 9 Our samples
are nongeneralizeable given the methods used to select the
congressional staff and agency officials involved in the consultation,
interviews, and forum.

To illustrate how Congress can use performance information produced by
agencies to carry out its responsibilities, we selected three case studies
from our prior work in which Congress played an active role in
contributing to and overseeing agency efforts to improve performance.
The case studies cover federal efforts to

•   transform the processing of immigration benefits;
•   coordinate U.S. efforts to address the global HIV/AIDS pandemic; and
•   identify and address improper payments made by federal programs.
In compiling these examples, we reviewed legislation, related
congressional documents, and our related past work as well as that
conducted by agency inspectors general. The case studies are based on
publicly available information and are not intended to represent a
complete list of all legislative and oversight activities conducted by
Congress, but rather illustrate the types of activities that Congress has
engaged in when using performance information. Although they focus on
congressional activities, the progress and results achieved in these



8
 We interviewed officials from the Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury,
Small Business Administration, and Social Security Administration. An OMB official
recommended these agencies and officials to us based on their involvement in
Performance Improvement Council working groups focused on implementing GPRAMA
and the useful past experiences with congressional consultations they shared during
those working group sessions.
9
 Nine current and former congressional staff members participated in the forum. This
bipartisan, bicameral group of staff worked for appropriations, budget, and
governmentwide oversight committees and subcommittees. Current and former executive
branch officials from OMB, the Office of Personnel Management, Department of the
Interior, Department of State, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Social
Security Administration shared their views during the forum.




Page 7                       GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Introduction to the Guide




examples are due in part to the sustained attention and oversight of both
the executive branch and Congress.

We conducted our work from December 2010 to June 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 product.




Page 8                      GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Section I: Consultations Provide Congress
                       Section I: Consultations Provide Congress
                       with Opportunities to Influence Development
                       of Executive Branch Performance Information


with Opportunities to Influence Development
                       That Is Useful for Decision Making




of Executive Branch Performance
Information That Is Useful for Decision
Making
                       GPRAMA requires OMB and agencies to consult with relevant
Consultations Are      committees, obtaining majority and minority views, about proposed goals
Intended to            at least once every 2 years. Specifically, OMB is required to consult with
                       relevant committees with broad jurisdiction on crosscutting priority goals. 1
Strengthen             Agencies are to consult with their relevant appropriations, authorization,
Collaboration          and oversight committees when developing or making adjustments to
between the Congress   their strategic plans and agency priority goals. The act also requires
                       OMB, on a governmentwide website, and agencies, in their strategic
and Federal Agencies   plans, to describe how input provided during consultations was
                       incorporated into the crosscutting priority goals and agency goals,
                       respectively.

                       According to the Senate report accompanying the act, consultations are
                       intended to strengthen collaboration between Congress and federal
                       agencies to improve government performance. 2 Successful strategic
                       planning requires the involvement of key stakeholders, which can help
                       build consensus. We have long noted the importance of the executive
                       branch considering Congress a partner in shaping goals at the outset. As
                       the committee report notes, the consultation process was established so
                       agencies could take congressional views into account as appropriate. If
                       an agency waits to consult with relevant congressional stakeholders until
                       a strategic plan has been substantially drafted and fully vetted within the
                       executive branch, it foregoes important opportunities to learn about and
                       address early on specific concerns that will be critical to successful
                       implementation. The committee, therefore, emphasized that consultations
                       should take place during the development of a strategic plan, not after. In
                       addition, the requirement for consultations at least once every 2 years is
                       intended to ensure that each Congress has input on agency goals,
                       objectives, strategies, and performance measures. Consultations also
                       provide agencies with opportunities to share information on their


                       1
                        OMB is required to consult with the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations,
                       the Senate and House Committees on the Budget, the Senate Committee on Homeland
                       Security and Governmental Affairs, the House Committee on Oversight and Government
                       Reform, the Senate Committee on Finance, the House Committee on Ways and Means,
                       and any other committees as determined appropriate.
                       2
                       S. Rep. No. 111-372, at 4 (2010).




                       Page 9                      GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
                               Section I: Consultations Provide Congress
                               with Opportunities to Influence Development
                               of Executive Branch Performance Information
                               That Is Useful for Decision Making




                               performance and confirm that various committees are getting the types of
                               performance information they need.

                               In appendix I, we provide an illustrative list of questions that Members of
                               Congress and their staffs can use during consultations to help ensure
                               they provide input on key aspects of an agency’s performance
                               information.


                               Consultations provide an important opportunity for Congress and the
Creating Shared                executive branch to work together to ensure that agency missions are
Expectations and               focused, goals are specific and results-oriented, and strategies and
                               funding expectations are appropriate and reasonable. Willingness on the
Engaging the Right             part of Congress and the administration to work together is a likely
People at the Right            precondition to successful consultations. Discussions between the
Time Can Help Ensure           executive and legislative branches about performance are likely to
                               underscore the competing and conflicting goals of many federal
Consultations Are              programs, as well as sometimes differing expectations between the
Successful                     branches. In addition, the historical relationships between an agency and
                               Congress, the strategic issues facing the agency, and the degree of
                               policy agreement or disagreement within Congress and between
                               Congress and the administration on those issues will influence the way
                               consultations are carried out. Although constructive communication
                               across the branches of government can prove difficult, it is essential for
                               sustaining federal performance improvement efforts.


Create Shared
Expectations
Tailor Consultations and       In our prior work as well as the work done for this guide, both committee
Information Provided to Meet   staff and agency officials stressed that agencies should tailor their
Participants’ Needs            consultations based on the experiences and needs of those involved.
                               However, they often presented differing views on the desired level of
                               detail for consultations. Congressional staff, on the whole, wanted a
                               deeper examination of the agency’s strategic plan and overall
                               performance. These views reflect part of Congress’s intent in requiring
                               these consultations—that they provide each Congress with an opportunity
                               to provide input on not only the agency’s goals and objectives, but also its
                               strategies, performance measures, and presentation of performance
                               information. Some agency officials agreed, observing that agencies
                               should be prepared to have broader discussions about their
                               performance—beyond what is in the plans. Other agency officials,


                               Page 10                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
                                Section I: Consultations Provide Congress
                                with Opportunities to Influence Development
                                of Executive Branch Performance Information
                                That Is Useful for Decision Making




                                however, shared a view that consultations were to focus on strategic
                                plans, not issues related to specific programs. As a result, these agency
                                officials said they wanted discussions kept at a higher level—for example,
                                on the agency’s mission and strategic goals. While neither of these views
                                is necessarily right or wrong, these expressed differences highlight the
                                need to create shared expectations about what will be covered during
                                consultation sessions.

                                Committee staff also told us that they encouraged agencies to provide
                                them with relevant documents, including drafts of strategic plans, before
                                the meetings. This enabled them to prepare questions and suggestions in
                                advance. It also helped them focus on presentations and discussions
                                taking place during the meetings by eliminating the need to read and
                                respond to the documents at the same time. Another committee staff
                                member stressed the importance of limiting the materials provided to
                                those most critical, because congressional staff workloads constrain the
                                time available to read such documents. Agency officials we spoke with
                                echoed these views and stated that they provided congressional staff with
                                draft materials in advance. For example, an official from one agency told
                                us that he provided the agency’s strategic plan framework—its mission
                                and goals—in lieu of the entire draft plan, which helped focus the
                                consultation on overarching policy issues and the agency’s long-term
                                goals.

Promote a Mutual                Successful consultations can create a basic understanding among
Understanding of Priorities     stakeholders of the competing demands that confront most agencies and
                                congressional staff, the limited resources available to them, and how
                                those demands and resources require careful and continuous balancing.
                                The requirement under GPRAMA for agencies to consult with Congress
                                on the identification of priority goals presents an opportunity to develop
                                such an understanding, especially given Congress’s constitutional role in
                                setting national priorities and allocating the resources to achieve them.
                                Several agency officials told us that feedback provided by Members and
                                congressional staff on their agencies’ overarching goals and strategies
                                helped them understand congressional priorities.


Engage the Right People at
the Right Time
Be Open to an Iterative         The committee staff and agency officials we spoke with acknowledged
Process, Engaging Congress at   that the consultation process was iterative. All agreed that they should
the Appropriate Times           meet as many times as both sides feel is necessary. Agency officials told


                                Page 11                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
                                   Section I: Consultations Provide Congress
                                   with Opportunities to Influence Development
                                   of Executive Branch Performance Information
                                   That Is Useful for Decision Making




                                   us that consultations were most useful if they began early, during the
                                   drafting of the strategic plan. Congress also emphasized this point in the
                                   report accompanying GPRAMA. One agency official stated that getting
                                   congressional input at the beginning of the process gave the agency time
                                   to reconcile any differences in opinion on the agency’s direction. Agency
                                   officials also cautioned against waiting too long to consult with Congress.
                                   Officials from two agencies shared similar past experiences in which they
                                   provided a full draft strategic plan for congressional review, which was the
                                   extent of their consultation process. In both cases, the agencies received
                                   little or no feedback. As a result, both now consult earlier in the process.
                                   However, officials told us it was still important to share the draft plan for
                                   comment later in the process.

Begin Consultations at the Staff   Congressional staff and agency officials agreed that consultations should
Level                              begin at the staff level—that is, without Members of Congress and agency
                                   top leadership—and involve agency officials with varying responsibilities.
                                   Both congressional committee staff and agency officials stressed the
                                   importance of having agency officials who can answer specific program-
                                   related questions attend, as well as those with authority to revise the
                                   agency’s plans. Examples include the performance improvement officer,
                                   staff from policy and program areas, and representatives from the
                                   legislative affairs office. According to committee staff members, the
                                   involvement of program officials is more likely to ensure that consultations
                                   are informative for both Congress and the agency.

Over Time, Involve Members of      As the consultations proceed, the involvement of Members of Congress
Congress and Agency Top            and agency leadership is important because they are ultimately
Leadership as Appropriate          responsible for making decisions about the agency’s strategic direction
                                   and funding. Officials from one agency told us that they thought the
                                   involvement of their top leaders in consultations with Members of
                                   Congress and their staff has helped their agency receive attention from
                                   Congress. For example, they shared that it has helped raise awareness
                                   and a better understanding in Congress of the challenges the agency
                                   faces. In addition to participating in consultations, congressional staff
                                   suggested several ways in which Members could be involved in agency
                                   performance management efforts. For example, Members could send
                                   letters to agencies posing questions on strategic plans and formally
                                   documenting their views on key issues. Another staff member said that
                                   hearings are important because not only do they result in Member
                                   involvement, but they also require the participation of senior agency
                                   leaders. Holding hearings following consultation sessions can create a
                                   public record of agreements reached during those sessions and provide
                                   oversight on agency performance planning efforts.


                                   Page 12                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
                               Section I: Consultations Provide Congress
                               with Opportunities to Influence Development
                               of Executive Branch Performance Information
                               That Is Useful for Decision Making




To the Extent Practicable,     Congressional staff and agency officials generally agreed that
Conduct Bipartisan             consultations ideally should be bipartisan and bicameral to help ensure
Consultations and Coordinate   involvement from all relevant parties. Although it may not always be
across Committees and          possible, agency officials told us that they attempted to arrange such
Chambers                       sessions, as appropriate. When these agencies were successful in doing
                               so—as was the case with two agencies, according to officials with whom
                               we spoke—it was with majority and minority staff from corresponding
                               committees across the chambers (e.g., appropriations subcommittees).

                               In addition, to the extent feasible, consultations should be held jointly with
                               relevant authorizing, appropriations, budget, and oversight committees.
                               Committee staff recognized that, due to sometimes overlapping
                               jurisdictions, obtaining the involvement of all interested congressional
                               committees in a coordinated approach can be challenging. However, the
                               often overlapping or fragmented nature of federal programs—a problem
                               that has been extensively documented in our work—underscores the
                               importance of a coordinated consultation process. For example, in an
                               attempt to address this issue during initial implementation of GPRA in
                               1997, the House leadership formed teams of congressional staff from
                               different committees to have a direct role in the consultation process.




                               Page 13                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Section II: Case Studies Illustrate How
                       Section II: Case Studies Illustrate How
                       Congress Uses Performance Information to
                       Inform Its Decision Making


Congress Uses Performance Information to
Inform Its Decision Making
                       Performance information can be used to inform congressional decisions
                       about authorizing or reauthorizing federal programs, provisions in the tax
                       code, and other activities; appropriating funds; and developing budget
                       resolutions. In this section, three case studies demonstrate how Congress
                       has used performance information to inform its decision making

                       1. to identify issues that the federal government should address;
                       2. to measure the federal government’s progress toward addressing
                          those issues; and
                       3. when necessary, to identify better strategies to address the issues.

                       The case studies cover efforts to

                       •   transform the processing of immigration benefits;
                       •   coordinate U.S. efforts to address the global HIV/AIDS pandemic; and
                       •   identify and address improper payments made by federal programs.
                       These case studies—as well as those included in our recent briefings 1—
                       also demonstrate how Congress can assist agencies in developing and
                       achieving performance goals. For example, in many of these examples,
                       Congress set clear expectations for agency performance, required routine
                       reporting on progress, and provided consistent oversight over a sustained
                       period of time. When an agency fell short of meeting established goals,
                       Congress examined whether additional authority would help the agency
                       meet the goal and, when needed, provided such authority. In one case
                       study, Congress required an agency to develop and submit a strategic
                       plan prior to receiving a portion of its appropriations.


                       Members of Congress, congressional committees and staff can use
Performance            performance information about the outcomes of federal programs to
Information Can Help   identify pressing issues for the federal government to address. The
                       transformation of the United States Citizenship and Immigration
Congress Identify      Services’s (USCIS) benefits processing illustrates how information on an
Issues to Address      agency’s performance helped Congress identify issues to address and
                       act upon.




                       1
                        GAO-12-215. The case studies contained in the briefings covered efforts to consolidate
                       four overlapping bilingual education programs, reform the personnel security clearance
                       process to reduce backlogs, and shift from paper to electronic filing of tax returns.




                       Page 14                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
                         Section II: Case Studies Illustrate How
                         Congress Uses Performance Information to
                         Inform Its Decision Making




Case Illustration:       USCIS, a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),
Transforming USCIS’s     adjudicates benefits requests and petitions for individuals seeking to
Processing of Benefits   become citizens of the United States or to study, live, or work in this
                         country. Our past work, and that of the DHS Office of Inspector General
                         (OIG), has identified performance challenges USCIS faces in processing
                         benefits. For example, a 2005 DHS OIG report found that USCIS’s ability
                         to annually process more than 7 million benefit applications has been
                         hindered by inefficient, paper-based processes, resulting in a backlog that
                         peaked in 2004 at more than 3.8 million cases. 2 Recognizing that
                         dependence on paper files makes it difficult to process immigration
                         benefits efficiently, USCIS began a transformation initiative in 2005 to
                         transition to electronic processing to enhance customer service, improve
                         efficiency, and prevent future backlogs of immigration benefit
                         applications.

                         Recognizing the importance of this transformation initiative, Congress
                         provided USCIS with $181,990,000 in appropriations in fiscal year 2007, 3
                         which included, according to the Conference Committee report, $47
                         million to upgrade its information technology and business systems. 4
                         However, before USCIS could obligate this funding, Congress directed
                         the agency to submit a strategic transformation plan and expenditure plan
                         with details on expected performance and deliverables. Congress also
                         directed us to review and report to the appropriations committees on the
                         plans. According to a House Committee on Appropriations report that
                         accompanied the act, the committee wanted to ensure that USCIS’s
                         transformation efforts were consistent with best practices. 5 In May 2007,
                         USCIS submitted its Transformation Program Strategic Plan and
                         Expenditure Plan to the appropriations committees. We briefed the
                         committees in June and July 2007 on our review, which found that
                         USCIS’s plans had mixed success in addressing key practices for
                         organizational transformations. As illustrated in table 1, more than half of
                         the key practices (five out of nine) were either partially or not addressed.



                         2
                          Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, USCIS Faces Challenges
                         in Modernizing Information Technology, OIG-05-41 (Washington, D.C.: September 2005).
                         3
                          Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007, Pub. L. No. 109-295, 120
                         Stat. 1355, 1374 (2006).
                         4
                         H. Rep. No. 109-699, at 165 (2006).
                         5
                         H. Rep. No. 109-476, at 105 (2006).




                         Page 15                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
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Our report noted that more attention was needed in a number of
management-related activities, including performance measurement. 6




6
 GAO, USCIS Transformation: Improvements to Performance, Human Capital, and
Information Technology Management Needed as Modernization Proceeds,
GAO-07-1013R (Washington, D.C.: July 17, 2007).




Page 16                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
                                           Section II: Case Studies Illustrate How
                                           Congress Uses Performance Information to
                                           Inform Its Decision Making




Table 1: GAO’s Assessment of USCIS’s 2007 Transformation Program Strategic Plan’s Conformance with Key Practices

                                         Fully         Partially      Not
Key practice                           addressed      addressed    addressed    Summary of findings
1. Ensure top leadership drives the       X                                     USCIS took several actions to ensure top
transformation.                                                                 leadership drove the transformation, such as
                                                                                establishing a Transformation Program Office that
                                                                                directly reports to the USCIS Deputy Director.
2. Establish a coherent mission and       X                                     USCIS established a mission, vision, and strategic
integrated strategic goals to guide                                             goals in its Strategic Plan that could have been
the transformation.                                                             used to guide the transformation.
3. Focus on a key set of principles       X                                     USCIS identified priorities and a succinct set of
and priorities at the outset of the                                             core values with which to guide the transformation
transformation.                                                                 and help build a new agencywide culture.
4. Set implementation goals and a                           X                   USCIS established high-level implementation
timeline to build momentum and                                                  goals and a timeline for the transformation, but
show progress from day one.                                                     had not shared them with all employees and
                                                                                stakeholders, a step that would have helped build
                                                                                momentum and illustrate progress.
5. Dedicate an implementation                               X                   USCIS dedicated an implementation team to
team to manage the transformation                                               manage the transformation and involved
process and involve key                                                         stakeholders on an as-needed basis; however, its
stakeholders.                                                                   Federal Stakeholder Advisory Board had not yet
                                                                                convened.
6. Use the performance                                                 X        USCIS was not using its performance
management system to define                                                     management system to define expectations and
responsibility and assure                                                       hold employees accountable for the
accountability for change.                                                      transformation.
7. Establish a communication                                X                   USCIS completed an initial communication
strategy to create shared                                                       strategy and began exchanging information with
expectations and report related                                                 employees and stakeholders. However, the
progress.                                                                       strategy for 2008 and beyond was not clearly
                                                                                defined, and lacked an effective approach for
                                                                                communicating with stakeholders.
8. Involve employees to obtain their      X                                     USCIS took several steps to involve employees in
ideas and gain ownership for the                                                the transformation, and was planning for
transformation.                                                                 additional involvement as the transformation
                                                                                progressed.
9. Build a world-class organization                         X                   USCIS was conducting benchmarking research to
using leading practices in strategic                                            identify leading business processes, but its plans
human capital management,                                                       did not adequately consider information
performance measurement, and                                                    technology management controls, strategic
information technology                                                          human capital management, and performance
management.                                                                     measurement to build a world-class organization.
                                           Source: GAO-07-1013R.




                                           Page 17                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
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Congress Uses Performance Information to
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Since then, Congress has continued to provide oversight on, and raise
concerns about the performance of, USCIS’s transformation initiative,
which is ongoing. For example, several committees held at least six
hearings related to USCIS’s transformation plan from 2007 to 2011,
including appropriations hearings in 2008 and 2010 during which
committee members expressed concerns about USCIS not meeting its
goals for timely processing of applications and implementing its
transformation plan. In February 2011, the Ranking Member of the
Senate Committee on the Judiciary—which has jurisdiction over
immigration issues—wrote a letter to the Director of USCIS expressing
concern over reported delays and cost increases for completing the
transformation and requested a briefing on the effort. In addition, in
response to congressional requests, we have reviewed aspects of
USCIS’s implementation of its transformation plan. For example, in
September 2011 we reported that while USCIS had improved the quality
and efficiency of the immigration benefit administration process and
strengthened its immigration fraud detection and deterrence efforts, the
agency’s efforts to modernize its benefit processing infrastructure and
business practices missed planned milestones by more than two years. 7
In November 2011, we reported that a lack of defined requirements, an
acquisition strategy, and associated cost parameters contributed to the
delays and noted that consistent adherence to DHS’s acquisition policy
could help improve USCIS’ transformation program outcomes. 8 In
particular, we reported that USCIS was managing the program without
specific acquisition management controls, such as reliable schedules,
which detail work to be performed by both the government and its
contractor over the expected life of the program. As a result, we found
that USCIS does not have reasonable assurance that it can meet its
future milestones. We made three recommendations aimed at ensuring
that USCIS takes a comprehensive and cost-effective approach to the
development and deployment of transformation efforts to meet the
agency’s goals of improved adjudications and customer services
processes. In its comments on our report, DHS reported that USCIS is
taking action to address each recommendation.



7
 GAO, Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made and Work Remaining in
Implementing Homeland Security Missions 10 Years after 9/11, GAO-11-881
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 7, 2011).
8
 GAO, Immigration Benefits: Consistent Adherence to DHS’s Acquisition Policy Could
Help Improve Transformation Program Outcomes, GAO-12-66 (Nov. 22, 2011).




Page 18                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
                            Section II: Case Studies Illustrate How
                            Congress Uses Performance Information to
                            Inform Its Decision Making




                            After identifying issues, Congress has established expectations for the
Performance                 level of performance to be achieved by federal agencies and programs,
Information Can Be          and regular reporting on results. As highlighted in our case study on
                            efforts to address the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, setting clear goals—
Used to Measure the         with target levels of performance and timeframes for achieving them—
Federal Government’s        and expectations for periodic progress reports helped Congress sustain
                            attention on improving results over the course of several years.
Progress toward
Addressing Issues

Case Illustration:          In 2003, Congress found that HIV/AIDS had reached pandemic
Coordinating U.S. Efforts   proportions during the previous 20 years, and that by the end of 2002, an
to Address the Global       estimated 42 million individuals were infected with HIV or living with
                            AIDS. 9 In addition, Congress found that the U.S. government had the
HIV/AIDS Pandemic
                            capacity to lead and enhance the effectiveness of the international
                            community’s response, but it required strong coordination among various
                            agencies to ensure the effective and efficient use of financial and
                            technical resources to provide international HIV/AIDS assistance. 10
                            However, at that time, the U.S. government funded separate HIV/AIDS
                            foreign assistance programs in several agencies as well as directly to the
                            Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. 11 To address these
                            issues, Congress authorized a 5-year initiative—also known as the
                            President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR—to establish a
                            comprehensive, integrated 5-year strategy to fight global HIV/AIDS. 12
                            Congress authorized up to $15 billion in funding and created a
                            streamlined U.S. approach to global HIV/AIDS treatment by coordinating
                            and deploying federal agencies and resources through a single entity: the
                            Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) within the
                            Department of State.


                            9
                             United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003, Pub.
                            L. No. 108-25, § 2(1), (3)(A), 117 Stat. 711, 712 (2003).
                            10
                                Pub. L. No. 108-25, § 2(22), (24).
                            11
                              The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a multilateral, non-profit,
                            public-private mechanism to rapidly disburse grants to augment existing spending on the
                            prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria while maintaining
                            significant oversight of financial transactions and program effectiveness.
                            12
                                Pub. L. No. 108-25, 117 Stat. 711 (2003).




                            Page 19                        GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
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Congress established a performance goal to support treatment for 2
million people infected with HIV/AIDS by 2006. 13 In addition, for the 5-
year period covered by the initial authorization, fiscal years 2004 through
2008, PEPFAR sought to prevent 7 million new HIV infections and
support care for 10 million people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. As
required in the authorizing legislation, OGAC reported annually to
Congress on the progress being made under PEPFAR. This information
proved useful to congressional decision makers leading up to
reauthorization in 2008. For example, the House Committee on Foreign
Affairs held a hearing in April 2007 to assess PEPFAR’s progress and
challenges in combating the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. During his
opening remarks, the committee’s chairman provided an update of
performance under PEPFAR to date:

“So far we can say that this critically important legislation is working. It has supplied
lifesaving antiretroviral therapy to more than 800,000 adults and children, provided
invaluable testing and counseling for 19 million, supported essential services to prevent
mother-to-child transmission to more than 6 million women and served 4.5 million people
with desperately needed care and support. These numbers represent solid progress
toward the program’s stated 5-year goal of 5 million treated with antiretrovirals, 7 million
infections averted and care provided to 10 million patients.” 14

Congress reauthorized PEPFAR and provided up to $48 billion through
fiscal year 2013 in the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States
Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
Reauthorization Act of 2008 (2008 Leadership Act). 15 The 2008
Leadership Act also established new 5-year goals, which among others,
include assisting partner countries to

•     support the increase in number of individuals receiving antiretroviral
      treatment above 2 million;
•     prevent 12 million new HIV infections worldwide; and




13
    Pub. L. No. 108-25, § 402(a)(3).
14
  PEPFAR: An Assessment of Progress and Challenges, Hearing before the H. Comm. on
Foreign Affairs, 110th Cong. 2 (2007) (statement by Chairman Tom Lantos).
15
    Pub. L. No. 110-293, 122 Stat. 2918 (2008).




Page 20                        GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
                             Section II: Case Studies Illustrate How
                             Congress Uses Performance Information to
                             Inform Its Decision Making




                             •     support care for 12 million people infected with or affected by
                                   HIV/AIDS, including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children affected
                                   by HIV/AIDS. 16
                             Since then, Congress has continued to monitor progress towards the
                             updated goals. For example, in September 2010, the House Committee
                             on Foreign Affairs held another hearing assessing PEPFAR’s progress
                             and challenges in addressing the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. In addition,
                             we have issued several reports 17 reviewing various aspects of PEPFAR—
                             such as the selection and oversight of organizations implementing
                             PEPFAR activities and global HIV/AIDS program monitoring—in response
                             to directives contained in the 2008 Leadership Act 18 and the Consolidated
                             Appropriations Act of 2008. 19


                             Finally, Members of Congress, congressional committees, and staff can
Performance                  assess whether existing strategies are the most efficient and effective
Information Can Help         means for agencies to meet their goals. Analyzing existing performance
                             information can help identify new strategies that could lead to improved
Identify Better              results. As the case study on addressing improper payments shows,
Strategies to Address        when it is clear that agencies are not meeting performance expectations,
Issues                       Congress has provided agencies with additional authorities and required
                             alternate approaches to achieve results.

Case Illustration:           The federal government is accountable for how its agencies and grantees
Identifying and Addressing   spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars annually, including
Improper Payments            safeguarding those expenditures against improper payments and
                             establishing mechanisms to recoup those funds when overpayments




                             16
                                 Pub. L. No. 110-293, § 101(a).
                             17
                               For example, see GAO, President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief: Program Planning
                             and Reporting, GAO-11-785 (Washington, D.C.: July 29, 2011), President’s Emergency
                             Plan for AIDS Relief: Efforts to Align Programs with Partner Countries’ HIV/AIDS
                             Strategies and Promote Partner Country Ownership, GAO-10-836 (Washington, D.C.:
                             Sept. 20, 2010), and President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief: Partner Selection and
                             Oversight Follow Accepted Practices but Would Benefit from Enhanced Planning and
                             Accountability, GAO-09-666 (Washington, D.C.: July 15, 2009).
                             18
                                 Pub. L. No. 110-293, § 101(d).
                             19
                                 Pub. L. No. 110-161, § 668(d), 121 Stat. 1844, 2353 (2007).




                             Page 21                       GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
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Congress Uses Performance Information to
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occur. 20 Since fiscal year 2000, we have issued a number of reports and
testimonies, at the request of Congress, aimed at raising the level of
attention and corrective actions surrounding improper payments. Our
work has highlighted long-standing, widespread, and significant problems
with improper payments across the federal government. For example, we
reported in 2000 that the full extent of improper payments
governmentwide remained largely unknown, hampering efforts to reduce
such payments since many agencies did not attempt to identify or
estimate improper payments while others only did so for certain
programs. 21 To help address these issues, Congress passed the
Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 (IPIA), 22 which requires
executive branch agencies to (1) identify programs and activities
susceptible to significant improper payments, (2) estimate the amount of
improper payments for those programs and activities, and (3) report these
estimates along with actions taken to reduce improper payments for
programs with estimates that exceed $10 million.

Congressional oversight helped highlight progress agencies made in
identifying and addressing improper payments, but also identified a
number of challenges related to IPIA implementation. Six congressional
committees and subcommittees held 12 hearings on or related to
improper payments from 2004—the first year in which IPIA’s reporting
requirements were fully implemented—through 2009. Our testimony at an
April 2009 hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security
and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial
Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and
International Security summarized the progress and challenges in



20
  We have previously reported that an improper payment is any payment that should not
have been made or that was made in an incorrect amount (including overpayments and
underpayments) under statutory, contractual, administrative, or other legally applicable
requirements. It includes any payment to an ineligible recipient, any payment for an
ineligible good or service, any duplicate payment, any payment for a good or service not
received (except for such payments where authorized by law), and any payment that does
not account for credit for applicable discounts. OMB guidance also instructs agencies to
report payments for which insufficient or no documentation was found as improper
payments. Accordingly, improper payments do not necessarily represent a loss to the
government.
21
  GAO, Financial Management: Billions in Improper Payments Continue to Require
Attention, GAO-01-44 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 27, 2000).
22
 Pub. L. No. 107-300, 116 Stat. 2350 (2002).




Page 22                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Section II: Case Studies Illustrate How
Congress Uses Performance Information to
Inform Its Decision Making




implementation to date. 23 Although reported improper payment estimates
rose substantially from 2004 to 2008, the first 5 fiscal years of IPIA
implementation, we reported that this was a positive step in improving
transparency over the full magnitude of the federal government’s
improper payments as more agencies and more programs reported
estimates over time (see figure 1). In addition, of the 35 agency programs
that reported estimates in each of the 5 fiscal years, 24 of them (or about
69 percent) reported reduced error rates when comparing 2008 rates to
those in 2004. However, we identified several major challenges that
remained in meeting the goals of IPIA, including that

•    the total estimates reported in fiscal year 2008 did not reflect the full
     scope of improper payments across federal agencies;
•    noncompliance issues with IPIA implementation existed; and
•    agencies continued to face challenges in the design or
     implementation of internal controls to identify and prevent improper
     payments.
We also noted that separate assessments by agency auditors, such as
GAO or inspectors general, would help to reliably determine the scope of
any deficiencies in, and provide a valuable independent validation of,
agencies’ efforts to implement IPIA.




23
 GAO, Improper Payments: Progress Made but Challenges Remain in Estimating and
Reducing Improper Payments, GAO-09-628T (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 22, 2009).




Page 23                     GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Section II: Case Studies Illustrate How
Congress Uses Performance Information to
Inform Its Decision Making




Figure 1: Governmentwide Improper Payment Estimates, Fiscal Years 2002 to 2011




Note: Improper payment estimates reported by OMB are subject to change over time as agencies
update the underlying data. Amounts shown in the chart for 2004–2010 include updated estimates as
reported in the Financial Report of the United States Government for the following fiscal year.


To help address these challenges, Congress expanded IPIA’s
requirements for identifying, estimating, and reporting on programs and
activities susceptible to significant improper payments through the
Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (IPERA). 24
Among other things, IPERA requires (1) agencies to report on their
remediation actions and include a summary of the steps they have taken
to hold agency officials accountable for meeting improper payment
reduction targets and establishing controls, and (2) agency inspectors
general to annually determine and report on whether their respective
agencies are in compliance with key IPERA requirements. IPERA also
included a new, broader requirement for agencies to conduct recovery
audits, where cost effective, for each program and activity with at least $1




24
  Pub. L. No. 111-204, 124 Stat. 2224 (2010).




Page 24                        GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Section II: Case Studies Illustrate How
Congress Uses Performance Information to
Inform Its Decision Making




million in annual program outlays. 25 In the first year of IPERA
implementation, fiscal year 2011, 17 agencies reported an estimated
$115 billion in improper payments for 79 programs—a decrease of about
$5 billion from revised fiscal year 2010 estimates. 26 In addition, OMB
reported that agencies recaptured about $1.25 billion in improper
payments to contractors, vendors, and health care providers in fiscal year
2011. As we recently reported, OMB also identified improper payments as
an area covered by one of 14 interim crosscutting priority goals in the
President’s Budget for fiscal year 2013. 27 The particular goal is to reduce
the governmentwide improper payment rate by at least 2 percentage
points by fiscal year 2014, from 5.42 percent in 2009, and applies to all
federal programs that annually report improper payment estimates.




25
  This IPERA provision significantly lowered the threshold for required recovery audits
from $500 million to $1 million and expanded the scope for recovery audits to all programs
and activities.
26
  The reported decrease was primarily related to three programs—decreases in program
outlays for the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance program, and decreases
in reported error rates for the Department of the Treasury’s Earned Income Tax Credit
program and the Department of Health and Human Services’s Medicare Advantage
program.
27
  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 25                      GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Appendix I: Illustrative Questions to Assist
               Appendix I: Illustrative Questions to Assist
               Congress in Focusing Consultations on Key
               Issues


Congress in Focusing Consultations on Key
Issues
               We have previously reported that consultations provide an opportunity for
               Congress to influence

               1. what results agencies should seek to achieve (long-term and annual
                  goals);
               2. how those results will be achieved, including how an agency’s efforts
                  are aligned and coordinated with other related efforts (strategies and
                  resources);
               3. how to measure progress given the complexity of federal programs
                  and activities (performance measures); and
               4. how to report on results (reporting). 1

               Table 2 presents examples of questions that Members of Congress and
               their staffs can ask on strategic plans and related performance issues—
               during consultations with agencies or in other venues such as hearings—
               to help ensure that the associated performance information meets their
               needs and expectations.




               1
                GAO-12-215R.




               Page 26                       GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
                                             Appendix I: Illustrative Questions to Assist
                                             Congress in Focusing Consultations on Key
                                             Issues




Table 2: Illustrative Consultation Questions

Topic 1: Long-term and Annual Goals
1.1.   Are the agency’s goals and priorities consistent with those of Congress? If not, why do differences exist and can they be
       resolved?
1.2.   Do the long-term goals cover the major functions and activities of the agency?
1.3.   Are the long-term goals expressed in a manner that will allow the agency and Congress to assess whether the goals are
       achieved? If not, is the relationship between the long-term goals and annual goals clearly articulated to allow for progress to be
       gauged?
1.4.   Are the agency’s goals adequately aligned with other federal efforts, such as the agency’s contribution to any crosscutting goals
       or related efforts at other agencies?
Topic 2: Strategies and Resources
2.1.   Are the agency’s long-term and annual goals realistic given current and expected resources?
2.2.   Are strategies clearly linked to agency’s goals? Are the outlined strategies the most effective and efficient approaches?
2.3.   Does the agency identify the various federal organizations, programs, and activities—within and external to the agency—that
       contribute to its goals? Are there additional federal entities and efforts that should be included?
2.4.   Does the plan reflect coordination or strategies for working with other agencies as appropriate? If so, how are the agencies
       working together to ensure that related efforts are complementary appropriate in scope and not unnecessarily duplicative?
Topic 3: Measuring Performance
3.1.   How does or will the agency measure progress toward its goals? In measuring progress, does the agency measure various
       aspects of its performance—such as cost, customer satisfaction, efficiency, outputs, outcomes, quality, and timeliness—to
       provide balance among competing demands?
3.2.   Has the agency been meeting established performance targets? If not, are the targets realistic and what actions are being taken
       to meet future targets?
3.3.   Does the agency provide sufficient information on the validity and accuracy of its performance measures and data to ensure that
       reported results will be useful for congressional decision making? Would additional information or actions improve its
       usefulness?
Topic 4: Reporting Results
4.1.   What steps does the agency take to ensure that congressional decision makers are aware that performance results are
       available?
4.2.   Does the timing and format of the agency’s performance reporting align with congressional needs?
4.3.   Would it be useful for interested parties in Congress to receive any of the agency’s performance data more frequently or in
       different formats than the agency is currently reporting them?
                                             Source: GAO.




                                             Page 27                       GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Appendix II: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix II: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  J. Christopher Mihm, (202) 512-6806 or mihmj@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the above contact, Elizabeth Curda, Assistant Director;
Staff             Benjamin T. Licht; and Megan M. Taylor made significant contributions to
Acknowledgments   this guide. Todd M. Anderson, Kathryn Bernet, Carla Brown, Gerard
                  Burke, Virginia A. Chanley, Beryl H. Davis, Rebecca Gambler, David
                  Gootnick, Nancy Kingsbury, Susan Offutt, James Michels, Stephanie
                  Shipman, Katherine Siggerud, Bernice Steinhardt, Andrew J. Stephens,
                  Jack Warner, and Dan Webb also made key contributions.




                  Page 28                      GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
Related GAO Products
             Related GAO Products




             Managing for Results: Opportunities for Congress to Address
             Government Performance Issues. GAO-12-215R. Washington, D.C.:
             December 9, 2011.

             Managing for Results: GPRA Modernization Act Implementation Provides
             Important Opportunities to Address Government Challenges.
             GAO-11-617T. Washington, D.C.: May 10, 2011.

             Government Performance: GPRA Modernization Act Provides
             Opportunities to Help Address Fiscal, Performance, and Management
             Challenges. GAO-11-466T. Washington, D.C.: March 16, 2011.

             Government Performance: Strategies for Building a Results-Oriented and
             Collaborative Culture in the Federal Government. GAO-09-1011T.
             Washington, D.C.: September 24, 2009.

             Government Performance: Lessons Learned for the Next Administration
             on Using Performance Information to Improve Results. GAO-08-1026T.
             Washington, D.C.: July 24, 2008.

             Congressional Oversight: FAA Case Study Shows How Agency
             Performance, Budgeting, and Financial Information Could Enhance
             Oversight. GAO-06-378. Washington, D.C.: March 8, 2006.

             Performance Budgeting: PART Focuses Attention on Program
             Performance, but More Can Be Done to Engage Congress. GAO-06-28.
             Washington, D.C.: October 28, 2005.

             Managing for Results: Enhancing Agency Use of Performance
             Information for Management Decision Making, GAO-05-927. Washington,
             D.C.: September 9, 2005.

             Results-Oriented Government: GPRA Has Established a Solid
             Foundation for Achieving Greater Results. GAO-04-38. Washington, D.C.:
             March 10, 2004.

             Managing for Results: Views on Ensuring the Usefulness of Agency
             Performance Information to Congress. GAO/GGD-00-35. Washington,
             D.C.: January 26, 2000.

             Managing for Results: Enhancing the Usefulness of GPRA Consultations
             Between the Executive Branch and Congress. GAO/T-GGD-97-56.
             Washington, D.C.: March 10, 1997.


             Page 29                GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
           Related GAO Products




           Managing for Results: Using GPRA to Assist Congressional and
           Executive Branch Decisionmaking. GAO/T-GGD-97-43. Washington,
           D.C.: February 12, 1997.

           Managing for Results: Achieving GPRA’s Objectives Requires Strong
           Congressional Role. GAO/T-GGD-96-79. Washington, D.C.: March 6,
           1996.

           Program Evaluation: Improving the Flow of Information to the Congress.
           GAO/PEMD-95-1. Washington, D.C.: January 30, 1995.




(450878)
           Page 30                GAO-12-621SP Congressional Decision Making under GPRAMA
GAO’s Mission         The Government Accountability Office, the audit, evaluation, and
                      investigative arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its
                      constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and
                      accountability of the federal government for the American people. GAO
                      examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and
                      policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance
                      to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions.
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