oversight

Agencies' Strategic Plans Under GPRA: Key Questions to Facilitate Congressional Review (Version 1)

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-05-01.

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

                  United States General Accounting Office

                  GeneralGovernmentDivision
GAO

May 1997
Version 1
                  Agencies’
                  StrategicPlans
                  UnderGPRA:
                  Key Questions
                  to Facilitate
                  Congressional
                  Review




GAo/GGD-lo.l.16
t
                                  Preface

Under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993, every major
federal agency must now ask itself some basic questions: What is our mission?
What are our goals and how will we achieve them? How can we measure our
performance? How will we use that information to make improvements? GPRA
forces a shift in the focus of federal agencies–away from such traditional concerns
as staffing and activity levels and toward a single overriding issue: results. The
act requires agencies to set goals, measure performance, and report on their
accomplishments.

There is no more important element in resulk-oriented management than an
agency’s strategic planning effort. This effort is the starting point and foundation
for defining what the agency seeks to accomplish, identifying the strategies it will
use to achieve desired resulk and then determining how well it succeeds in
reaching results-oriented goals and achieving objectives. Developing a strategic
plan can help clarify organizational priorities and unify the agency’s staff in the
pursuit of shared goals.

Leading results-oriented organizations focus on the process of strategic planning,
rather than on a strategic planning document. They believe strategic planning is
not a static or occasional event, but rather a dynamic and inclusive process. If
done well, strategic planning is continuous, provides the foundation for the most
important things the organization does each day, and fosters informed
communication between the organization and its stakeholders--that is, those ptiies
potentially affected by or interested in the organization’s activities.

For strategic planning to be done well, we found that three practices appear to be
critical.l Organizations must (1) involve their stakeholders; (2) assess their internal
and external environments; and (3) align their activities, core processes, and
resources to support mission-related outcomes. Stakeholder involvement is
particularly important for federal agencies because they operate in a complex
political environment in which legislative mandates are often broadly stated and
some stakeholders may disagree strongly about the agency’s mission and goals.

The act seeks to address such situations by requiring agencies, as they develop
their strategic plans, to consult with Congress and solicit the views of other key
stakeholders.    According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular



IExecutiveGuide: Effectively Implementingthe GovernmentPerformance and Resdts Act
(GAO/GGD-96-l18,June 1996).

                      GAO/GGD-10.1.16   Congressional Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 1
Preface

No. A-ll, Part 2,Za transmitti letter to Congress accompanying the strategic plan,
is to include information on the constitutions that occurred and goals or strategies
suggested by stakeholders that are contrary to the agency’s strategic plan. The
letter also is to describe the contribution (if significant) made by nonfederd
parties--e. g., consultants, customers, contractors, state governments--in the
preparation of the strategic plan.

Purpose and Use of This Guide

In March 1997, after interviewing both congressional staff and agency officials who
had participated in early consultations, we testified on some general approaches
that may contribute to the use~ness of GPRA consultations.3 Congressional staff
and agency officials expressed a widespread appreciation for the essential role that
consultations can play in the development of a strategic plan that is useful to the
agency and appropriately takes into account the views of Congress. However, both
congressional staff and agency officials we interviewed believed that their
consultation experiences had been too limited to use in ident~ng     specific best
practices for future consultations.

Recognizing that best practices had not yet evolved, the Chairmen of the
Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Committee on Appropriations, and
Committee on the Budget in the House of Representatives requested that we
develop an initial set of key questions to facilitate congressional consultations on
the plans and to help Congress determine how those plans can be improved to
better support congressional and agency decisionmaking. They saw a need for a
readily usable tool to provide a sting    point for fruitful didogue. This guide was
developed in response to that request. The guide should also be helpfil to
agencies as they develop their strategic plans. We expect that as agencies and
Congress gain experience with the act, develop strategic plans and engage in the
required consultations, additiond issues and key questions will emerge. We will
incorporate those issues and key questions into subsequent versions of this
document as appropriate.

This document consists of three sections. The first lists key questions on the
overall strategic plan that congressional staff may find useful in determining how
those plans can be improved to better support congressional and agency
decisionmaking. For each of the six critical components GPRA requires for
strategic plans, the second section describes the component’s purpose, includes a
definition, and suggests key questions for the consultation. The third section



2CircularA-II, Part 2, Preparationmd Submissionof StrategicPlans (Sept. 1995).

“]ManagingFor Resul@: Enhancingthe Usefuhess of GPRA ConsultationsBetween the Executive
Branch and Congress (GAO~-GGD-97-56,March 10, 1997).

Page 2    GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                                                                     Preface

consists of a set of tables that repeat the key questions on the overall plan and for
each component of the plan. The tables are intended to facilitate a “hands on”
review of draft plans by providing space to write comments on or answers to each
question.

One key lesson that emerged from our examinations of early consultation efforts
was that to be most useful, consultations must be tailored to the individual needs
and experiences of congressional committees and agencies. Thus, every question
contained in this guide may not be appropriate for every specific consultation.
Congressional staff may want to focus on those questions that are most relevant to
their needs as they engage in a particular consultation.

We developed this guide based on GPRA requirements for agency strategic plans;
key steps and best practices described in our Executive Guide for effectively
implementing the act; and guidmce contained in the OMB Circular No. A-n, Part
2. To help ensure its usefulness to congressional staff, the guide was reviewed by
selected House staff actively involved in consultations; their suggested
improvements were incorporated. We also obtained and incorporated commenk
from OMB staff directly involved in overseeing agencies’ efforts to implement the
act.

Major contributors to this guide were Donna Byers, Victoria M. O’Dea, Hazel
Bailey, Alan Stapleton, and J. Christopher Mihm. An electronic version of this
guide is available from GAO’s World-Wide Web server at the following Internet
address: http: //www .gao.gov.

If you have any questions about this guide, please contact Michael Brostek,
Associate Director, or me on (202) 512-8676.



.
G=
L. Nye Stevens
Director, Federal Management and
   Workforce Issues




                     GAO/GGD-10.1.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 3
Agencies’ Strategic Plans Under GPRA: Key Questions




Page 4   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional Review of Agency Strategic Plans
               Agencies’ Strategic Plans Under GPRA:
           Key Questions to Facilitate Congressional Review




                     Table of Contents

Preface                                                                                  1

    Purpose and Use of This Guide                                                        2

Section 1                                                                                7
Key Questions on
the Overall StrategicPlan
for the Agency

Section 2
Key Questions on
Required Components
of Agency StrategicPlans
    Component    Mission Statement
                1:                                                                      10
    Component    Goals and Objectives
                2:                                                                      12
    Component    Approaches to Achieve Goals and Objectives
                3:                                                                      14
    Component    Relationship Between Long-Term Goals/Objectives
                4:                                                                      16
                  and Annual Performance Goals
    Component 5: Key External Factors Beyond the Agency’s Control                       18
    Component 6: How Program Evaluations Were Used to                                   20
                  Establish/Revise Strategic Goals

Section 3                                                                               22
Tables for Reviewing
Agency StrategicPlans




                 GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 5
Agencies’ Strategic Plans Under GPRA: Key Questions




Page 6   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                 Section 1

   Key Questions on the Overall Strategic
           Plan for the Agency

The following section provides key questions on the agency’s overall plan that may
facilitate congressional consultations on the plan, including determining how the
plan relates to other management initiatives on information technology and
financial information.

The Overall StrategicPlan: Key Questions
   Is the plan consistent with legislative priorities and agendas? Are there areas
   important to your Committee that have not been addressed in the strategic
   plan?

   Did the agency already consult with other congressional committees? What
   were their views on the draft plan’s mission, strategic goals, and strategies?

   Does the plan reflect coordination with other executive agencies as
   appropriate? Are other agencies’ plans attempting to achieve similar strategic
   goals, or do they have activities or functions similar to those discussed in the
   plan under review? If so, how does the plan ensure that such related efforts
   are complementary, appropriate in scope, and not unnecessarily duplicative’?

   What organizations and individuals were key stakeholders and why? Were their
   views on the plan solicited and incorporated? Why or why not?

   What agency staff were involved in developing the plan? Did they include line
   managers? How, if at all, does the agency plan to communicate the goals,
   priorities, and decisions reflected in the strategic plan to managers and staff
   throughout the agency?

   What contribution was made by nonfederal parties--e. g., consultants, customers,
   contractors, state governments--in preparing the plan?

   If the agency was involved in a GPRA performance measurement pilot project,
   did any “lessons learned” from the pilot influence the draft strategic plan’?
   How?



                     GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 7
Section 1: Agency Overall Strategic Plans



  How will information technology reforms required by the Paperwork Reduction
  Act of 1995 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 better support the agency’s
  mission and improve its program performance?

   Is there an investment control process, consistent with the Clinger-Cohen Act,
   to prioritize information technology projects in line with the agency’s overall
   goals and priorities?

   Does the plan include a general description of the information resources needed
   to meet the agency’s strategic goals? Does this information include steps to
   build the staff skills to develop and manage the information systems needed to
   support the achievement of GPRA goals?

   How does the agency plan to provide timely, reliable, useful, and consistent
   financial information as required by the Chief Financial Officers Act, as
   expanded nd amended by the Government Management Reform Act?

   Overall, is the plan logical, and do the various components fit together well? In
   other words, can the plan, if implemented well, get the agency “from here to
   there?”

The following section discusses key questions on each component of an agency
strategic plan that may be useful to congressional staff who are preparing for
consultations with agency officials.




Page 8   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                    Section 2

 Key Questions on Required Components
       of Agency StrategicPlans

GPRA requires that each strategic plan include six components. This section
describes each component’s purpose and includes a definition. It dso provides key
questions that may be useful for the consultation.

Six Required Components
Agency strategic plans are to have six critical components:

(1)   a comprehensive    agency mission statement;

(2)   agencywide long-term goals and objectives for all m~or functions and
      operations;

(3)   approaches (or strategies) to achieve the goals and objectives and the
      various resources needed;

(4)   a relationship between the long-term goals/objectives and the annual
      performance goals;

(5)   an identification of key factors, external to the agency and beyond its
      control, that could significantly affect achievement of the strategic goals; and

(6)   a description of how program evaluations were used to establish or
      revise strategic goals, and a schedule for future program evaluations.




                        GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 9
Section 2: Com~onents         of Aaencv Strategic Plans



(1) Mission Statement

The mission statement brings the agency into focus. It expltins why the agency
exists md tells what it does. Because programs ultimately must have a statutory
basis and because Congress is the source of legislation creating, modifying, and
funding programs, Congress’ involvement is indispensable in defining each agency’s
mission and establishing its goals. This involvement may entail identifying
legislative changes that are needed to clarify or modify Congress’ intent and
expectations or addressing differing conditions and citizens’ needs that have
occurred since the original statutory requirements were established.

The federal government’s adaptive responses over time to new needs and problems
have also contributed to fragmentation and overlap in a host of program areas,
such as food safety, employment training, early childhood development, and rural
development.~ Overlapping and fragmented programs waste scarce funds, confuse
and frustrate program customers, and limit the overall effectiveness of the federal
effort.

The requirement for agencies to consult with Congress in developing their strategic
plans presents an important opportunity for congressional committees and the
executive branch to work together to address the problem of agencies whose (1)
missions are not well-defined or are not aligned with related efforts in other
agencies, (2) goals are unclear or nonexistent, and (3) programs are not properly
targeted. Such consultations should be helpful to Congress in modifying agencies’
missions; setting better priorities; and restructuring, creating, or terminating
programs.




ISee, for example, Food Safetv: A Unified.Risk-BasedFood Safetv Svstem Needed (GAO~-RCED-
94-223,May 1994) and Earlv Childhood Programs: Multi~leProgramsand Overla~~in~Target
Grou~s (GAO/HEHS-95-4FS,    Oct. 31, 1994).

Page 10   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                           Components       of Agency Strategic Plans:         Section 2



Mission Statement: Key Questions

   Is the mission results-oriented, and does it fulfill a public need? If not, how
   could the mission better focus on resdts?

   Is the mission based on statute, and if so, does it cover all relevant statutes?

  Are parts of the agency’s functions or activities not covered in the mission
  statement? Why?

   Are there developments (e.g., in technology or competition) that suggest the
   mission and corresponding legislation need to be revised or updated?

   Is the agency’s mission similar to those of other agencies, md if so, has
   coordination occurred? Does unwarranted duplication of missions exist?

   How is the agency’s mission differentiated from those of other agencies with
   similar missions? Are there unique agency characteristics that give it an
   advantage in fulfilling its mission, such as location of field offices or staff
   expertise?




                  GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 11
Section 2: Components         of Agency Strategic Plans



(2) General Goals and Objectives
General goals and objectives–or strategic gods–explain what results are expected
from the agency’s major finctions and when to expect those results. Thus, such
goals are an outgrowth of the mission and are very often results-oriented. The
general goals need not be in a quantitative or measurable form, but the Senate
Committee on Governmental Mairs’ committee report (S. Rep. 103-58) on GPRA
says goals must be expressed in a manner that allows for future assessment of
whether they are being achieved.

Congress intended for GPRA to fundamentally shift the focus of federal
management and oversight from a focus on s~lng and activi@ levels to a focus
on the results of federd programs. This will not be arI easy transition, nor will it
be quick because agencies must move beyond what they control-their activities-to
focus on what they merely influence-their resul~. But the act has the potential for
adding greatly to government performance-a particularly vital goal at a time when
resources are limited and public demands are high.




Page 12   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                          Components        of Agency Strategic Plans:           Section 2



Goals and Objectives: Key Questions

   Do the goals cover the major functions and operations of the agency? If not,
   what functions and operations are missing? Are the gods logically related to
   the mission?

   Are the goals results-oriented, such as to reduce crime or have fewer
   workplace accidents? Or, me they focused more on outputs, such as
   inspecting more workplaces? ~ SO, why?

   If the goals are not expressed in a quantitative or measurable form, are they
   expressed in a manner that will allow the agency and Congress to assess
   whether the goals are achieved?

   Are all of the agency’s goals and priorities consistent with Congress’ goals and
   priorities? When differences exist, why do they exist, and can they be
   resolved?

   Do the agency’s goals appear similar to the goals in plans of other agencies
   that are performing related activities? If so, are these sets of goals
   complementary or duplicative?

   Are the gods targeted at results over which the agency has a reasonable
   degree of influence (may not apply to all agencies)?




                   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 13
Section 2: Components          of A~encv Strateuic Plans



(3) Approaches or Strategiesto Achieve
    the General Goals and Objectives
Strategies help in aligning an agency’s activities, core processes, and resources to
support achievement of the agency’s strategic goals and mission. Under GPRA,
strategies are to briefly describe the operational processes, staff skills, and
technologies, as well as the human, capital, information, and other resources,
needed. According to OMB Circular No. A-n, Part 2, such strategies should also
outline how the agency will communicate strategic goals throughout the
organization, and hold managers and staff accountable for achieving these goals.

We have found that some agencies need to do a better job of designing strategies
to improve efficiency and reduce costs.s In an era of fiscal constraint, agencies’
planning processes should support making intelligent resource allocation decisions
that minimize, to the extent possible, the effect of funding reductions on mission
accomplishment. Congress can use the consultation process to assure itself that
the agency has designed well-thought-out strategies to achieve results-oriented
goals and that the strategies are consistent with Congress’ fiscal realities.




‘For example, see State De~artment: Options for Addressin~Possible Budget Reductions
(GAO~SLAD-96-124,Aug. 29, 1996).

Page 14   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                          Components       of Agency Strategic Plans:            Section 2



Approaches or Strategies: Key Questions
   How are the goals to be achieved? Are the strategies logically linked to the
   goals and the day-to-day activities of the managers and staff? Are they
   consistent with historical resource trends?

   What steps will the agency take to align its activities, core processes,
   workforce, and other resources to support its mission-related outcomes?

   What are the required resources, such as human, capiti, and information?
   Are new regulations, flexibilities, user fees, or legislation required?

   What steps is the agency taking to ensure that managers have the authority
   they need to achieve results? Are there strategies to hold managers
   accountable for the results? Are there any strategies that focus on providing
   incentives for managers and other staff to achieve the goals?

   Do managers have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to implement GPRA? If
   not, what strategies are needed to develop the necessary capacity?

   Are technological advances necessary to successfully execute the strategies?
   If so, how likely are those advances?

   What, if any, alternative strategies were considered?

   Are there programs or activities that need to be eliminated, created, or
   restructured to achieve the goals?




                  GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 15
Section 2: Components            of Agency Strategic Plans



(4) Relationship Between the Long-Term
    Goals/Objectives and the Annual Performance Goals
Under GPRA, agencies’ long-term strategic goals are to be linked to their annual
performance plans and the day-to-day activities of their managers and staff.
Without this linkage, Congress may not be able to judge whether an agency is
making progress toward achieving its long-term goals. The first governmentwide
annual performance plan is to cover fiscal year 1999 and be submitted to Congress
about February 1998 with the President’s budget. The individual agency plans are
to be submitted to Congress shortly thereafter. In anticipation of Congress
receiving these annual plans, mmy congressional staff are particularly interested in
how general gods will be translated into the future annual performance gods. We
include several related questions that congressional staff may want to ask agency
Officids.


GPRA defines an annual performance goal as the target level of performance
expressed as a tangible, measurable objective against which actual achievement is
to be compared. An annual performance goal is to consist of two parts: (1) the
performance measure that represents the specific characteristic of the program
used to gauge performance and (2) the target level of performance to be achieved
during a given fiscal year for the measure. For example, a tangible goal may be to
increase the lead time for predicting tornadoes (characteristic) from 7 to 9 minutes
(target level).

In areas where meaningful objective measurement is not feasible, GPRA allows
agencies to use an alternative form of performance assessment, provided they
receive authorization from OMB. All forms of performance assessment must be in
terms that would permit an independent determination of whether the program’s
eventual performance corresponded to the performance statement.




Page 16     GAOIGGD-10.1.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                          Components       of Agency Strategic Plans:           Section 2



RelationshipBetween Long-TermGoals and Annual
Performance Goals: Key Questions

  Does the plan describe how annual performance goals will be related to long-
  term goals, e.g., how annual goals will be used to gauge progress? Lfnot, why
  not?

  What additional descriptive information, if any, could be included in the
  strategic plan to help clarify the link between the strategic goals and the
  annual goals that will subsequently be proposed? For example, are key terms
  and performance measures defined?

   Does the strategic plan recognize the need for a clear linkage between the
   annual goals and the program activity structure listed in the budget?

   Is the agency considering whether any revisions will be needed to budget
   account and program activity structures? If revisions will be needed, is the
   agency consulting with the Committees on Appropriations and cognizant
   authorizing committees?

   Does the strategic plan indicate whether each long-term strategic goal will
   have a corresponding outcome-oriented annual performance goal?

   Will the agency’s annual performance     goals be tangible or measurable? If not,
   does the agency plan to ask OMB for      an alternative form of performance
   assessment for its annual performance     plan? If so, will the alternative provide
   some basis for assessing whether the     goals were met?

   Has the agency established annual performance measures to determine how
   well information technology is supporting strategic and program goals, as
   required by the Clinger-Cohen Act?

   Will the agency’s performance goals include goals related to reducing any
   unintended negative effects of agency programs, e.g., increases in loan default
   rates or in the burden that agency programs may place on the private sector?




                  GAOIGGD-10.1.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 17
    Section 2: Components        of Agency Strategic Plans



    (5) Key ExternalFactors Beyond
        the Agency’s Control
    This component of the plan involves an identification and discussion of key factors
    external to the agency and beyond its control that could occur during the period
    covered by the strategic plan and could significantly affect achievement of strategic
    goals. Such factors could include economic, demographic, social, technological, or
    environmental factors. Without this assessment, Congress or the agencies may not
    be able to judge the likelihood of achieving the strategic goals and actions needed
    to better meet those goals.
I
    External factors can at times invalidate assumptions that the agency initially used
    to develop a goal. Consequently, information on these factors can be useful for
    goal setting and also for explaining results in the agency’s annual performance
    reports, including, when applicable, the reasons annual performance goals were not
    met.

    Key external factors could also include conditions or events that would affect the
    agency’s ability to achieve its strategic goals if they do not occur. For example,
    achievement of goals can depend on the actions of other federal entities, state
    governments, local governments, and nonfederal entities. According to OMB
    Circular No. A-ll, Part 2, in its plan, the agency should briefly (1) describe each
    key factor, (2) indicate its link with a particular strategic goal or goals, and (3)
    describe how achievement of the goal(s) could be affected by the factor.

    Beyond monitoring external factors, leading organizations monitor their internal
    environments continuously and systematically. Internal factors could include the
    culture of the agency, its management practices, and its business processes. By
    doing this internal monitoring, these organizations are better able to anticipate
    future challenges and make adjustments so that potential problems do not become
    crises. For this reason, we include a question about internal factors that
    congressional staff may want to ask, even though assessing internal factors is not
    required either by the act or OMB.




    Page 18   GAO/GGD-10.1.16 Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                                                                         “~

                            Components       of Agency Strategic Plans:            Section 2



External Factors: Key Questions
F   Does the agency monitor external factors? If not, why not? If it does, is the
    monitoring process likely to identi~ all the m~or factors? What have been the
    findings of this monitoring?

➤   Have any actions been identified that could reduce or ameliorate the potential
    impact of external factors?

➤   Are the agency’s strategies for achieving its long-term goals properly reflective
    of external factors? For example, if changes in information technology make
    it possible to increase productivity, does the plan discuss how this change will
    be translated either into more progress in achieving results or into savings
    through downsizing the workforce?

➤   Does the agency monitor internal factors? What internal factors within the
    control of the agency could affect achievement of the strategic goals? Are
    agency culture changes needed?




                   GAO/GGD-10.I.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 19
Section 2: Components         of Agency Strategic Plans



(6) How Program EvaluationsWere Used
    to Establish or Revise StrategicGoals
GPRA was intended, in part, to improve congressional and agency decisionmaking
by providing comprehensive and reliable information on the extent to which
federal programs are fulfilling their statutory intent. Program evaluations can be a
potentially critical source of information for Congress and others in ensuring the
validity and reasonableness of goals and strategies, as well as for identifying
factors likely to affect performance. Such information can also be useful in
explaining results in the agency’s annual performmce reports, including, when
applicable, the reasons annual performance goals were not met, and identi~ng
appropriate strategies to meet unmet goals.

Program evaluations are defined in the act as objective and formal assessments of
the results, impact, or effects of a program or policy. Program evaluations include
assessments of the implementation and results of programs, operating policies, and
practices. According to OMB Circular No. A-n, Part 2, the program evaluation
schedule included in the strategic plan should outline the general scope and
methodology for the evaluations, key issues to be addressed, and when such
evaluations are to occur. Further, such schedules should cover the fiscal years
leading to the next revision of the strategic plan.




Page 20   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                          Components       of Agency Strategic Plans:           Section 2



How Program EvaluationsWere Used:
Key Questions
  Were program evaluation findings used in developing the strategic goals or
  other components of the plan? Were GAO or Inspector General report
  findings used?

  Are systems in place or planned to produce reliable performance and cost
  data needed to set goals, evaluate results, md improve performance? For
  example, does the agency have trend or baseline data that it can use to
  confidently set goals?

   Is there a schedule for future program evaluations? If not, why not? If yes,
   does it outline the general scope and methodology for the evaluations, key
   issues to be addressed, and when such evaluations are to occur?

   How will future program evaluation findings be used to improve
   performance? How will the agency’s program evaluations inform
   congressional decisionmaking?




                  GAO/GGD-10.1.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 21
                                      Section 3

                    Tables for Reviewing
                    Agency StrategicPlans

This section lists the six critical components of strategic plans and then repeats
the section 1 and 2 key questions in a table format. This format is intended to
facilitate a “hands on” review of draft strategic plans by providing space for
congressional staff to write their answer (or the agency’s answer) to each question
and any comments they might want to make.

One key lesson that emerged from our examinations of early consultation efforts
was that to be most useful, consultations must be tailored to the individual needs
and experiences of congressional committees and agencies. Thus, every question
contained in this guide may not be appropriate for every specific consultation.
Congressional staff may want to focus on those questions that are most relevant to
their needs as they engage in a particular consultation. Depending on the context,
some questions cannot be answered “yes” or “no.” However, we have included
such response boxes for use when appropriate.

Required Components

As discussed in section 2, GPRA requires that agency strategic plans have six
critical components:

(1)   a comprehensive   agency mission statement;

(2)   agencywide long-term goals and objectives for all major functions and
      operations;

(3)   approaches (or strategies) to achieve the goals and objectives and the
      various resources needed;

(4)   a relationship between the long-term goals/objectives and the annual
      performance goals;

(5)   an identification of key factors, external to the agency and beyond its
      control, that could significantly affect achievement of the strategic goals; and

(6)   a description of how program evaluations were used to establish or
      revise strategic goals, and a schedule for future program evaluations.


Page 22   GAO/GGD-10.1.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                                        Tables for Reviewing Plans: Section 3




I OVERALLSTRATEGICPLAN
I Question                              Yes       No       Comment                                   I
 Is the plan consistent with
 legislative priorities and agendas?

 Are there areas important to your
 Committee that have not been
 addressed in the strategic plan?



 Did the agency already consult with
 other congressional committees?

 What were their views on the draft
 plan’s mission, strategic goals, and
 strategies?



 Does the plan reflect coordination
 with other executive agencies as
 appropriate?

 Are other agencies’ plans
 attempting to achieve similar
 strategic goals, or do they contain
 activities or functions similar to
 those discussed in the plan under
 review?

 If so, how does the plan ensure
 that such related efforts are
 complementary, appropriate in
 scope, and not unnecessarily
 duplicative?



 What organizations and individuals
 were key stakeholders, and why?

 Were their views on the plan
 solicited and incorporated? Why or
 why not?




                      GAO/GGD-10.1.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 23
[
I




    Section 3:    Tables for Reviewing Plans




     OVERALLSTRATEGICPLAN
    I Question                                  Yes      No      Comment           I
     What agency staff were involved in
     developing the plan? Did they
     include line managers?

     How, if at all, does the agency plan
     to communicate the goals,
     priorities, and decisions reflected in
     the strategic plan to managers and
     staff throughout the agency?



     What contribution was made by
     nonfederal parties--e.g.,
     consultants, customers, contractors,
     state governments--in preparing the
     plan?



     If the agency was involved in a
     GPRA performance measurement
     pilot project, did any “lessons
     learned” from the pilot influence the
     draft strategic plan? If so, how?



     How will information technology
     reforms required by the Paperwork
     Reduction Act of 1995 and the
     Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 better
     support agencies’ missions and
     improve its program performance?



     Is there an investment control
     process, consistent with the
     Clinger-Cohen Act, to prioritize
     information technology projects in
     line with the agency’s overall goals
     and priorities?




    Page 24   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                                       Tables for Reviewina Plans: Section 3




I OVERALLSTRATEGICPLAN
I Question                               Yes     No      Comment
 Does the plan include a general
 description of the information
 resources needed to meet the
 agency’s strategic goals?

 Does this information include steps
 to build the staff skills to develop
 and manage the information
 systems needed to support the
 achievement of GPRA goals?



 How does the agency plan to
 provide timely, reliable, useful, and
 consistent financial information as
 required by the Chief Financial
 Officers Act, as expanded and
 amended by the Government
 Management Reform Act?



 Overall, is the plan logical, and do
 the various components fit together
 well? In other words, can the plan,
 if implemented well, get the agency
 “from here to there?”



Additional comments:




                       GAO/GGD-10.1.16 Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 25
Section 3: Tables for Reviewinq Plans



! (1) MISSIONSTATEMENT
I Question                                  Yes     No      Comment            I
 Is the mission results-oriented, and
 does it fulfill a public need?

 If not, how could the mission better
 focus on results?



 Is the mission based on statute,
 and if so, does it cover all relevant
 statutes?



 Are parts of the agency’s functions
 or activities not covered in the
 mission statement?
 Why?



 Are there developments (e.g., in
 technology or competition) that
 suggest the mission and
 corresponding legislation need to
 be revised or updated?



 Is the agency’s mission similar to
 those of other agencies, and if so,
 has coordination occurred? Does
 unwarranted duplication of missions
 exist?




Page 26   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                                          Tables for Reviewing Plans: Section 3



I (1) MISSIONSTATEMENT
I Question                                Yes      No       Comment                                   I
 How is the agency’s mission
 differentiated from those of other
 agencies with similar missions?

 Are there unique agency
 characteristics that give it an
 advantage in fulfilling its mission,
 such as location of field offices or
 staff expertise?



Additional comments:




                       GAO/GGD-10.1.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 27
Section 3: Tables for Reviewing plans



I (2) LONG-TERMGOALSAND OBJECTIVES
                                            Yes     No      Comment            I
 Do the goals cover the major
 functions and operations of the
 agency? If not, what functions and
 operations are missing?

 Are the goals logically related to the
 mission?



 Are the goals results-oriented, such
 as to reduce crime or have fewer
 workplace accidents?

 Or, are they focused more on
 outputs, such as inspecting more
 workplaces? If so, why?



 If the goals are not expressed in a
 quantitative or measurable form,
 are they expressed in a manner
 that will allow the agency and
 Congress to assess whether the
 goals are achieved?



 Are all of the agency’s goals and
 priorities consistent with Congress’
 goals and priorities?

 When differences exist, why do
 they exist, and can they be
 resolved?




Page 28   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                                       Tables for Reviewing Plans: Section 3



~(2)
 . . LONG-TERMGOALSAND OBJECTIVES

 Question                                 Yes    No       Comment                                   I
 Do the agency’s goals appear
 similar to the goals in plans of other
 agencies that are performing
 related activities?

 If so, are these sets of goals
 complementary or duplicative?



 Are the goals targeted at results
 over which the agency has a
 reasonable degree of influence
 (may not apply to all agencies)?




Additional comments:




                       GAO/GGD-10.1.16 Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 29
Section 3: Tables for Reviewing Plans



 (3) APPROACHESOR STRATEGIESTO
     ACHIEVETHE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
] Question                                  Yes      No     Comment            I
 How are the goals to be achieved?

 Are the strategies logically linked to
 the goals and the day-to-day
 activities of the managers and
 staff?

 Are they consistent with historical
 resource trends?



 What steps will the agency take to
 align its activities, core processes,
 workforce, and other resources to
 support its mission-related
 outcomes?



 What are the required resources,
 such as human, capital, and
 information?

 Are new regulations, flexibilities,
 user fees, or legislation required?



 What steps is the agency taking to
 ensure that managers have the
 authority they need to achieve
 results?

 Are there strategies to hold
 managers accountable for the
 results?

 Are there any strategies that focus
 on providing incentives for
 managers and other staff to
 achieve the goals?




Page 30   GAO/GGD-10.1.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                                       Tables for Reviewing Plans: Section 3



 (3) APPROACHESOR STRATEGIESTO
     ACHIEVETHE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
1Question                                Yes      No      Comment
 Do managers have the knowledge,
 skills, and abilities to implement
 GPRA?

 If not, what strategies are needed
 to develop the necessary capacity?



 Are technological advances
 necessary to successfully execute
 the strategies? If so, how likely are
 those advances?



 What, if any, alternative strategies
 were considered?



 Are there programs or activities that
 need to be eliminated, created, or
 restructured to achieve the goals?



Additional comments:




                       GAO/GGD-10.l.16   (congressional Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 31
Section 3:    Tables for Reviewing Plans



 (4) RELATIONSHIPBETWEENTHE LONG-
     TERM GOALSAND THE ANNUAL
     PERFORMANCEGOALS
I Question                                   Yes     No      Comment
 Does the plan describe how annual
 performance goals will be related to
 long-term goals, e.g., how annual
 goals will be used to gauge
 progress?

 If not, why not?



 What additional descriptive
 information, if any, could be
 included in the strategic plan to
 help clarify the link between the
 strategic goals and the annual
 goals that will subsequently be
 proposed?

 For example, are key terms and
 performance measures defined?



 Does the strategic plan recognize
 the need for a clear linkage
 between annual goals and the
 program activity structure listed in
 the budget?



 Is the agency considering whether
 any revisions will be needed to
 budget account and program
 activity structures?

 If revisions will be needed, is the
 agency consulting with the
 Committees on Appropriations and
 cognizant authorizing committees?




Page :32   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                                       Tables for Reviewina. Plans: Section 3



I (4) RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE LONG-
I ‘ ‘ TERM GOALS AND THE ANNUAL
I     PERFORMANCEGOALS
I Question                               Yes      No      Comment                                   I
 Does the strategic plan indicate
 whether each long-term strategic
 goal will have a corresponding
 outcome-oriented annual
 performance goal?


 Will the agency’s annual
 performance goals be tangible or
 measurable? If not, does the
 agency plan to ask OMB for an
 alternative form of performance
 assessment for its annual
 performance plan?

 If so, will the alternative provide
 some basis for assessing whether
 the goals were met?



 Has the agency established annual
 performance measures to
 determine how well information
 technology is supporting strategic
 and program goals, as required by
 the Clinger-Cohen Act?



 Will the agency’s performance
 goals include goals related to
 reducing any unintended negative
 effects of agency programs; e.g.,
 increases in loan default rates or in
 the burden that agency programs
 may place on the private sector?




                      GAO/GGD-10.l.16    Congressional Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 33
Section 3:    Tables for Reviewinq Plans



 (5) KEY EXTERNAL FACTORS THAT COULD
I- “ AFFECT GOALS
I Question                                   Yes      No     Comment            I
 Does the agency monitor external
 factors? If not, why not?

 If it does, is the monitoring process
 likely to identify all the major
 factors?

 What have been the findings of this
 monitoring?



 Have any actions been identified
 that could reduce or ameliorate the
 potential impact of external factors?



 Are the agency’s strategies for
 achieving its long-term goals
 properly reflective of external
 factors?

 For example, if changes in
 information technology make it
 possible to increase productivity,
 does the plan discuss how this
 change will be translated either into
 more progress in achieving results
 or into savings through downsizing
 the workforce?



 Does the agency monitor internal
 factors? What internal factors
 within the control of the agency
 could affect achievement of
 strategic goals?

 Are agency culture changes
 needed?




Page :34   GAO/GGD-10.l.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                                          Tables for Reviewing Plans: Section 3



    (6) HOW PROGRAMEVALUATIONSWERE
!       USEDTO ESTABLISH/REVISE
I       STRATEGICGOALS
I Question                                 Yes       No     Comment                                    I
    Were program evaluation findings
    used in developing the strategic
    goals or other components of the
    plan?

    Were GAO or Inspector General
    report findings used?



    Are systems in place or planned to
    produce reliable performance and
    cost data needed to set goals,
    evaluate results, and improve
    performance?

    For example, does the agency have
    trend or baseline data that it can
    use to confidently set goals?



    Is there a schedule for future
    program evaluations? If not, why
    not?

    If yes, does it outline the general
    scope of the evaluations, key
    issues to be addressed, and when
    such evaluations are to occur?



    How will future program evaluation
    findings be used to improve
    performance?

    How will the agency’s program
    evaluations inform congressional
    decisionmaking?




                         GAO/GGD-10.l.16   (~ongressional Review of”Agency Strategic Plans   Page 35
                                             Notes




Page 36   GAO/GGD-10.1.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans
                                Notes




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           GAO/GGD-10.1.16   Congressional   Review of Agency Strategic Plans   Page 37
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