oversight

The Results Act: Observations on the Department of Justice's February 1997 Draft Strategic Plan

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-07-11.

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

                     United States
GAO                  General Accounting Office
                     Washington, D.C. 20548

                     General Government Division

                     B-277403

                     July 11, 1997

                     The Honorable Richard K. Armey
                     Majority Leader
                     House of Representatives

                     The Honorable John Kasich
                     Chairman, Committee on the Budget
                     House of Representatives

                     The Honorable Dan Burton
                     Chairman, Committee on Government
                       Reform and Oversight
                     House of Representatives

                     The Honorable Bob Livingston
                     Chairman, Committee on Appropriations
                     House of Representatives

                     Subject: The Results Act: Observations on the Department of Justice’s
                     February 1997 Draft Strategic Plan

                     On June 12, 1997, you asked us to review the strategic plans submitted by
                     the cabinet departments and selected major agencies for consultation with
                     the Congress as required by the Government Performance and Results Act
                     of 1993 (the Results Act or GPRA). This letter is our response to that
                     request concerning the Department of Justice (DOJ).


                     Our overall objective was to review and evaluate the latest available
Objectives, Scope,   version of DOJ’s draft strategic plan. Specifically, we (1) assessed the plan’s
and Methodology      compliance with the Results Act requirements and its overall quality,
                     (2) determined if DOJ’s major statutory authorities were reflected,
                     (3) identified whether discussions about crosscutting functions and
                     interagency involvement were included, (4) determined if the plan
                     addressed major management problems, and (5) discussed DOJ’s capacity
                     to provide reliable information about performance.

                     We obtained the February 1997 DOJ draft plan provided to the House of
                     Representatives staff working with DOJ. This was the latest version
                     available at the time we did our work. Our overall assessment of DOJ’s
                     draft strategic plan was generally based on our knowledge of DOJ’s
                     operations and programs, our numerous reviews of DOJ and Justice-related



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             issues, recent work on DOJ’s fiscal year 1996 audit by an independent
             public accountant, and other existing information available at the time of
             our assessment. The criteria we used to determine whether DOJ’s draft
             strategic plan complied with the requirements of the Results Act were the
             Results Act and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance on
             developing the plans (Circular A-11, part 2). To make judgments about the
             strengths and weaknesses of the plan and its elements, we used our
             May 1997 guidance for congressional review of the plans
             (GAO/GGD-10.1.16) as a tool. To determine whether the plan contained
             information on interagency coordination and addressed management
             problems, we relied on our general knowledge of DOJ’s operations and
             programs and our previous reports.

             As you requested, we coordinated our work on DOJ’s capacity to provide
             reliable information with the DOJ Inspector General’s office. We also relied
             on our June 1995 report in which we described DOJ’s initial efforts to
             address the Results Act, including performance measures.1 Because of
             time constraints in doing this work, we did not review any supporting
             documents related to the plan or interview DOJ officials about its
             development and preparation.

             We did our work between June 21 and July 10, 1997. On July 7, 1997, we
             provided a draft of this letter to the Attorney General for her review and
             comment. DOJ’s comments are discussed at relevant points in this letter
             and in a section at the end.


             The Department of Justice was created in June 1870 (see 28 U.S.C. 501,
Background   503),2 with the Attorney General as the head of the Department. DOJ
             encompasses a wide array of core functions, whose responsibilities range
             from assisting state and local governments in reducing juvenile
             delinquency to working with foreign governments to fighting terrorism.
             The Attorney General is responsible for provision of legal advice to the
             President and department heads, representation of the executive branch in
             court, investigation of federal crimes, and enforcement of federal laws.3
             The Attorney General also supervises and directs the operation of the

             1
               Managing for Results: The Department of Justice’s Initial Efforts to Implement GPRA (GGD-95-167FS,
             June 20, 1995).
             2
              The Judiciary Act of 1789 originally created the position of Attorney General and also directed the
             President to appoint an attorney for each federal judicial district to represent the United States. 1 Stat.
             73, 92-93.
             3
              See chapter 31 of title 28 of the U.S. Code.



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various components of DOJ, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI),4 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),5 Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS),6 Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP),7 and the
Offices of U.S. Attorneys,8 U.S. Marshals,9 and U.S. Trustees.10 Each of
these components has statutory authorities under which they operate
and/or which they enforce. In addition, the Attorney General has been
given numerous other statutory responsibilities over the years through
anticrime legislation and in the context of various appropriations acts.

The Results Act specifies that all agencies’ strategic plans should 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 description of the
relationship between the long-term goals/objectives and the annual
performance plans required by the Act; (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 and revise strategic goals and
a schedule for future program evaluations.

4
 The FBI was established in 1908 by the Attorney General, who directed that DOJ investigations be
handled by its own staff. General statutory provisions related to the FBI are contained in chapter 33 of
title 28 of the U.S. Code. The FBI is charged with investigating all violations of federal law except those
that have been assigned by legislative enactment or otherwise to another federal agency.
5
 DEA was created in July 1973, by Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1973 (5 U.S.C. app. 1), which merged
four separate drug law enforcement agencies. DEA is the lead agency in enforcing narcotics and
controlled substances laws, primarily contained in title 21 of the U.S. Code.
6
 INS was created in March 1891 (see 8 U.S.C. 1551 note), and its purpose and responsibilities were
further specified by the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (8 U.S.C. 1101 note), which
charges the Attorney General with the administration and enforcement of its provisions. The Attorney
General has delegated authority to the Commissioner of INS to carry out these provisions of
immigration law.
7
 BOP is generally responsible for the operation of federal penal and correctional institutions. Its
general statutory provisions are contained in chapter 303 of title 18 of the U.S. Code.
8
 The government is represented in each of the 94 judicial districts by a U.S. Attorney. The U.S.
Attorneys prosecute criminal offenses against the United States, represent the government in civil
actions in which the United States is concerned, and initiate proceedings for the collection of fines,
penalties, and forfeitures owed to the United States. General statutory provisions related to the U.S.
attorneys are contained in chapter 35 of title 28 of the U.S. Code.
9
 The government is represented in each of the 94 judicial districts by a U.S. Marshal. The primary
mission of the U.S. Marshals Service is protection of the federal judiciary, protection of witnesses,
execution of warrants and court orders, management of seized assets, and custody and transportation
of unsentenced prisoners. General provisions related to the U.S. Marshal Service are contained in
chapter 37 of title 28 of the U.S. Code.
10
 The U.S. Trustees supervise the administration of bankruptcy cases and private trustees in the
Federal Bankruptcy Courts. General provisions related to the U.S. Trustees are contained in chapter 39
of title 28 of the U.S. Code.


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                       DOJ’s strategic plan is organized around what DOJ has identified as its seven
                       core functions: (1) investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses;
                       (2) assistance to state and local governments; (3) legal representation,
                       enforcement of federal laws, and defense of U.S. interests;
                       (4) immigration; (5) detention and incarceration; (6) administration and
                       improvement of the justice system; and (7) management.

                       It is important to recognize that we reviewed a draft of DOJ’s strategic plan
                       and that the final plan is not due to the Congress and OMB until
                       September 1997. Furthermore, the Results Act anticipated that several
                       planning cycles would be needed to perfect the process and that the final
                       plan would be continually refined as future planning cycles occur. Thus,
                       our comments reflect a snapshot status of the plan at a given point in time.
                       We recognize that developing a strategic plan is a dynamic process and
                       that DOJ officials, with input from OMB and congressional staff, are
                       continuing to revise the draft.


                       Of the six elements required by the Act, three—the relationship between
Results in Brief       long-term goals/objectives and the annual performance plans, the key
                       factors external to DOJ that could affect DOJ’s ability to meet its goals, and a
                       program evaluation component—were not specifically identified in the
                       draft plan. The remaining three elements—the mission statement, goals
                       and objectives, and strategies to achieve the goals and objectives—were
                       discussed. However, each of these elements had weaknesses, some more
                       significant than others.

                       The three elements discussed in DOJ’s plan generally contained some, but
                       not all, of the attributes that would be desirable to meet the purposes of
                       the Act and to be consistent with OMB guidance. For example,

                   •   the mission statement includes six of the seven core functions of DOJ, but
                       it does not include DOJ’s detention and incarceration function;
                   •   the goals and objectives are not consistently results oriented or expressed
                       in as measurable a form as they could be; and
                   •   the strategies to achieve the goals and objectives do not explain the extent
                       to which DOJ programs and activities will contribute to the achievement of
                       the goals and how DOJ plans to assess progress in meeting the goals.
                       Further, the performance indicators are not always as outcome related as
                       they could be, nor do the strategies describe the processes and resources
                       needed to meet the goals and objectives of the plan, as required by the Act.




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The draft plan makes no explicit mention of the other three required
elements. With regard to relating long-term goals/objectives to
performance plans, the plan provided no substantive comment. Instead,
DOJ stated that the draft plan provides a basis for its components to
develop more detailed annual plans and related program performance
information. The plan does not contain a section on key external factors. It
is important that factors that could significantly affect the achievement of
strategic goals be identified and that mitigation strategies be considered. A
program evaluation element was also missing, even though OMB guidance
states that the plan should, among other things, (1) describe how program
evaluations were used to prepare the plan and (2) outline the scope and
methodology, timetable, and key issues to be addressed in future
evaluations. Program evaluations are a critical source of information for
assessing progress toward achieving strategic goals as well as ensuring
their validity and reasonableness.

The draft plan appears to reflect consideration of most of DOJ’s major
statutory responsibilities. However, the plan does not contain specific
references to the underlying statutory bases for major functions and
operations, provide specifics of how any particular statutory responsibility
will be implemented, or provide linkages between the stated goals and
objectives and DOJ’s relevant statutory authorities that form the basis for
them. Including such linkages may facilitate a better understanding of the
diversity and complexity of DOJ’s overall mission and goals and objectives.

In addition, the draft plan could be more useful to DOJ, the Congress, and
other stakeholders if it provided a more explicit discussion of crosscutting
activities, major management challenges, and DOJ’s capacity to provide
reliable information to manage its programs or determine if it is achieving
its strategic goals. The draft plan is silent on crosscutting issues and does
not mention whether DOJ coordinated with related external law
enforcement stakeholders, such as the Customs Service and state and
local law enforcement agencies. Recognizing crosscutting issues and the
coordination required to address them is particularly important for DOJ
because as the federal government’s attorney, it helps the various federal
agencies enforce the law in federal courts. The draft plan does not
explicitly discuss how crosscutting issues might arise or affect the
successful accomplishment of DOJ’s goals and objectives.

The plan is also silent on the formidable management problems we and
others, including the DOJ Inspector General and the National Performance




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                       Review (NPR), have identified in recent years. Consideration of these
                       problems is important because they could affect DOJ’s ability to develop
                       and meet its goals. Also, we and others have identified problems with the
                       reliability and availability of data in DOJ’s program-related and financial
                       management systems. The draft plan does not mention how data
                       limitations may affect DOJ’s ability to manage its programs or to measure
                       performance. Consideration of these areas could give DOJ a better
                       framework for achieving the purposes of the Act and help stakeholders to
                       better understand DOJ’s operating constraints and environment.


                       DOJ’s  strategic plan is incomplete and does not provide the Congress with
Draft Plan Does Not    critical information for its consultations with DOJ. DOJ’s plan includes the
Achieve All the        first two critical elements—mission statement and goals and
Purposes of the Act,   objectives—but the mission statement is not complete and the goals and
                       objectives are not consistently results oriented and expressed in as
and the Quality of     measurable a form as they could be. While DOJ partially included a third
Individual Elements    element—its strategies to achieve the goals and objectives—it does not
                       explain to what extent DOJ programs and activities will contribute to
Could Be Improved      achieving the goals and how DOJ plans to assess progress in meeting the
                       goals. Further, the strategies are not always outcome related, nor do they
                       describe the processes and resources needed to meet the goals and
                       objectives of the plan, as required by the Act. In addition, three other
                       elements have not been included in the plan—the relationship between
                       long-term goals/objectives and the annual performance plans, key external
                       factors, and the use of program evaluations to establish or revise strategic
                       goals.


Mission Statement      DOJ’splan contains a mission statement that is results oriented and
                       generally defines the basic purpose of DOJ with emphasis on its core
                       programs and activities. DOJ’s mission statement is as follows:

                       “Our mission at the United States Department of Justice is to enforce the law and defend
                       the interests of the U.S. according to the law, provide Federal leadership in preventing and
                       controlling crime, seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, administer
                       and enforce the Nation’s immigration laws fairly and effectively and ensure fair and
                       impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”


                       DOJ’smission statement covers six of the seven core functions that DOJ
                       identified but does not specify the detention and incarceration function,
                       which is one of DOJ’s largest budget items. Nevertheless, the plan




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                              incorporates the detention and incarceration function in its goals and
                              objectives and strategies to achieve the goals and objectives.

                              In commenting on a draft of this letter, DOJ officials said that they do not
                              agree that the DOJ mission statement omits detention and incarceration or
                              that the major functions of DOJ need to be explicitly spelled out in a
                              mission statement. They believe this function is covered by the phrases
                              “seek just punishment. . .”, and “ensure fair and impartial administration of
                              justice. . .” While we agree that mission statements may vary in the extent
                              to which they specify particular activities, our view that it would be
                              helpful to include the detention and incarceration function in this case
                              arises from DOJ’s decision to specify all of the other major functions in its
                              mission statement. In our view, the omission of one of DOJ’s larger
                              functions makes the mission statement appear to be incomplete.


Goals and Objectives          DOJ’s goals and objectives cover its major functions and operations and are
                              logically related to its mission. However, they are not consistently results
                              oriented and sometimes focus on activities and processes. For example,
                              one set of results-oriented goals involve reducing violent, organized, and
                              gang-related crime; drug-related crime; espionage and terrorism; and white
                              collar crime. DOJ’s goals in other areas are more process oriented, such as
                              representing the United States in all civil matters and promoting the
                              participation of victims and witnesses in legal proceedings.

                              Another weakness of the goals is that they are not always expressed in as
                              measurable a form as they could be. For example, two of DOJ’s goals in the
                              legal representation, enforcement of federal laws, and defense of U.S.
                              interests core function are to guarantee the civil rights of all Americans
                              and safeguard America’s environment and natural resources. It is not clear
                              how DOJ is able to measure its progress in achieving these goals.


Strategies to Achieve Goals   The Results Act and OMB Circular A-11 indicate that DOJ should describe
and Objectives                the processes that will be used to achieve its goals and objectives. Our
                              review of DOJ’s strategic plan, specifically the strategies and performance
                              indicators, showed where improvements could be made to better meet the
                              Act’s purposes and OMB Circular A-11 guidance.

                              Some of the strategies could be clarified to better explain how and to what
                              extent DOJ programs and activities will contribute to achieving the goals
                              and how DOJ plans to assess progress in meeting those goals. For example,



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because DOJ has limited ability to control criminal activities, it is not clear
how DOJ will be able to determine the degree to which its programs and
activities have contributed to changes in violent crime, availability and
abuse of illegal drugs, espionage and terrorism, and white collar crime.
Similarly, in its immigration core function, DOJ has a goal to maximize
deterrents to unlawful migration by reducing the incentives of
unauthorized employment and entitlements. It is likewise unclear how DOJ
will be able to determine the effect of its efforts to deter unlawful
migration, compared to the effect of changes in the economic and political
conditions in countries from which illegal aliens originated. The plan does
not address either issue.

DOJ elected to include performance indicators in its strategic plan. While
we are supportive of the concept of using performance indicators to
measure outcomes, we noted that DOJ’s performance indicators are more
output than outcome related. For example, a strategy to achieve the goal
for ensuring border integrity is to increase the strength of the Border
Patrol. One of the performance indicators DOJ is proposing to measure
how well the strategy is working is the percentage of time that Border
Patrol agents devote to actual border control operations. While this may
indicate whether agents are spending more time controlling the border, it
is not clear how it will help DOJ assess how this practice affects its
progress in deterring unlawful migration.

Further, the plan’s strategies do not discuss the types of resources (e.g.,
human skills, capital, and information technology) that will be needed to
achieve the strategic and performance goals, including any significant
changes to be made in resource levels. Such information could be
beneficial to DOJ and Congress in establishing the goals, evaluating the
progress in achieving the goals, and making resource needs allocations
during the budget process.

In commenting on a draft of this letter, DOJ officials said that the additional
draft material provided to us includes estimates of resource needs. While
we did not review the supplemental information DOJ provided, we believe
the purposes of the Results Act would be better achieved if the strategic
plan included—as OMB guidance suggests—information on resource needs
linked to goals and objectives.




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Three Elements Not       The plan does not discuss (1) the relationship between long-term
Included in Draft Plan   goals/objectives and the annual performance goals, (2) key external
                         factors, and (3) use of program evaluations.

                         Under the Results Act, DOJ’s long-term strategic goals are to be linked to its
                         annual performance plans and the day-to-day activities of its managers and
                         staff. The intent for this linkage is to provide a basis for judging whether
                         an agency is making progress toward achieving its long-term goals.
                         However, the DOJ plan generally does not provide such linkages.

                         DOJ officials commented that the plan provides a basis for a linkage
                         between the long-range goals of the strategic plan and the annual
                         performance plans. They said that DOJ’s 1999 annual performance planning
                         and budget formulation activities are to be closely linked and both are to
                         be driven by the goals of the strategic plan. According to these officials,
                         this interrelationship is the cornerstone of DOJ’s Results Act
                         implementation approach. They also said that while the draft plan itself
                         does not describe these connections, the linkages are in fact “real” and
                         would become more apparent as the 1999 annual performance plan and
                         budget request are issued. Further, they said they would amend the plan to
                         more adequately explain this process.

                         The strategic plan also does not identify or discuss key factors external to
                         DOJ that could significantly affect it in achieving its strategic goals.
                         External factors can at times invalidate assumptions about DOJ’s ability to
                         achieve its strategic goals. For example, the purpose of the Act would be
                         more fully achieved if DOJ would discuss its alternative plan for achieving
                         its goals if it does not get the coordination with other federal agencies and
                         foreign governments. Another external factor that may significantly affect
                         DOJ accomplishing its strategic plan is that of having to respond to changes
                         in its statutory responsibilities, such as new immigration initiatives.

                         In commenting on a draft of the letter, DOJ officials strongly agreed that
                         external factors significantly affect DOJ’s work and that events and
                         conditions over which it has little or no control are likely to determine to a
                         significant degree its success in achieving its goals. In this regard, they
                         said they expect the next version of the plan to include such external
                         factors as emergencies and other unpredictable events (e.g., the Murrah
                         building bombing); changing statutory responsibilities; and the capacity
                         and effectiveness of their federal, state, and local law enforcement
                         partners.




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                         Finally, the strategic plan does not include a program evaluation element.
                         Under the Act and OMB guidance, this element should describe program
                         evaluations that were used in preparing the strategic plan and outline the
                         general scope and methodology for future evaluations, key issues to be
                         addressed, and when such evaluations are to occur. Program evaluations
                         can be a potentially critical source of information for ensuring the validity
                         and reasonableness of goals and strategies, and for identifying factors
                         likely to affect performance.

                         DOJ officials commented that program evaluation can and should be linked
                         to strategic planning and that this is an area where DOJ needs to make
                         improvements. They said that the next version of the plan is to have a
                         much more extensive discussion of program evaluation, including a list of
                         anticipated future evaluations.


                         The February 1997 DOJ plan appears to reflect consideration of most of
Draft Plan Generally     DOJ’s major statutory responsibilities. The plan addresses these
Reflects Most of DOJ’s   responsibilities generally and does not contain specific references to the
Major Statutory          underlying statutory bases for DOJ’s major functions and operations. It
                         cites three of the laws that DOJ is charged with enforcing or implementing:
Responsibilities         the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Brady
                         Handgun Violence Prevention Act, and the Violence Against Women Act.

                         A listing that briefly summarizes DOJ’s responsibilities under the laws that
                         are reflected in various parts of the plan and the relevant DOJ components
                         that are responsible for implementing them could be useful in helping
                         stakeholders to better understand the diversity and complexity of DOJ’s
                         overall mission. It would also help to clarify the linkages between stated
                         goals and objectives and the underlying statutory authorities on which
                         they rest.

                         Consistent with your request, we did not attempt to identify whether all of
                         the statutory responsibilities of DOJ were reflected in the plan. Instead we
                         focused on whether the “major” ones were addressed, and we found that,
                         for the most part, they were. However, one area of statutory responsibility
                         that is not mentioned in the DOJ plan is the Attorney General’s authority to
                         regulate controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (21
                         U.S.C. 801 et seq.). This authority has been delegated to DEA.




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                           Many law enforcement organizations—international and domestic (i.e.,
Draft Plan Could           other federal, state, and local)—perform either similar or the same
Better Address             activities as DOJ. The draft plan includes a goal to coordinate and integrate
Crosscutting Program       law enforcement activities, wherever possible, and cooperate fully with
                           other federal agencies. However, the plan could better serve the purposes
Activities                 of the Results Act by discussing how DOJ will coordinate with external
                           organizations’ activities and how inputs, outputs, and outcomes will be
                           measured and assessed. For example, the plan does not discuss

                       •   how DOJ plans to work with the Departments of Defense and State, the
                           intelligence agencies, and foreign governments in fighting international
                           terrorism;
                       •   how DOJ’s drug enforcement activities will relate to the Office of National
                           Drug Control Policy, which has governmentwide planning responsibilities
                           for drug control activities;
                       •   how DOJ and the Department of the Treasury, which have similar
                           responsibilities concerning the seizure and forfeiture of assets used in
                           connection with illegal activities (e.g., money laundering) will coordinate
                           and integrate their operations; and
                       •   how INS and the Customs Service, which both inspect arriving passengers
                           at ports of entry to determine if they are carrying contraband and are
                           authorized to enter the country, will coordinate their resources.11

                           Along these lines, certain program areas within DOJ have similar or
                           complementary functions that are not addressed in the strategic plan. For
                           example, both BOP and INS detain individuals, but the plan does not address
                           the interrelationship of their similar functions or prescribe comparable
                           measures for inputs and outcomes. As a second example, the plan could
                           do a better job of recognizing the linkage among DOJ’s investigative,
                           prosecutorial, and incarceration responsibilities.




                           11
                            We discussed this issue in our report—Customs Service and INS: Dual Management Structure for
                           Border Inspections Should Be Ended (GAO/GGD-93-111, June 30, 1993).



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                        Over the years, our work and the work of others, including the DOJ
Draft Plan Does Not     Inspector General and the NPR, addressed many management challenges
Address Some Major      that DOJ faces in carrying out its mission. In addition, recent audits under
Management              the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (CFO Act), which the Government
                        Management Reform Act12 expanded, have revealed internal control and
Challenges              accounting problems. Further, DOJ will face emerging management
                        challenges of implementing modern technology and resolving the need for
                        computer systems to be changed to accommodate dates beyond the year
                        1999—the “year 2000 problem.”

                        DOJ’s draft strategic plan is silent on these issues. Specifically, the plan
                        does not mention how DOJ has addressed the management problems that
                        have been identified over the years and the status of its efforts to address
                        them. These types of information could help DOJ and its stakeholders in at
                        least two ways. First, it could help in the processes of developing and
                        reviewing the selection of goals, strategies, and objectives. Second, major
                        management problems could impede DOJ’s efforts to achieve its goals and
                        objectives. Stakeholders could benefit from knowing what DOJ has done, is
                        doing, or plans to do to address such problems or, if DOJ has addressed
                        such problems in the past, thereby avoiding their reoccurrence.


Previously Identified   In recent years, we13 and the NPR14 have identified the following challenges
Challenges              faced by DOJ: (1) the coordination and structure of federal enforcement
                        agencies; (2) problems with INS’ enforcement, delivery of service, budget
                        development and execution, and control over a decentralized organization;
                        (3) the vulnerability of the asset forfeiture program within DOJ to waste,


                        12
                          This legislation requires agencies to have their agencywide financial statements annually audited
                        beginning with the fiscal year 1996 financial statements. The first year financial audits of DOJ and its
                        components focused primarily on evaluating their control structures and environments and did not
                        include auditing of their statements of operation, which include the entities’ operating costs. The fiscal
                        year 1996 audit reports are expected to be issued before the September 30, 1997, submission date for
                        strategic plans.
                        13
                         Justice Department: Improved Management Processes Would Enhance Justice’s Operations
                        (GAO/GGD-86-12, Mar. 14, 1986); Immigration Management: Strong Leadership and Management
                        Reforms Needed to Address Serious Problems (GAO/GGD-91-28, Jan. 23, 1991); Justice Issues
                        (GAO/OCG-89-13TR, Nov. 1988); Justice Issues (GAO/OCG-93-23TR, Dec. 1992); Asset Forfeiture
                        Programs (GAO/HR-93-17, Dec. 1992); Asset Forfeiture Programs (GAO/HR-95-7, Feb. 1995); Quick
                        Reference Guide (GAO/HR-97-2, Feb. 1997); and High-Risk Program: Information on Selected
                        High-Risk Areas (GAO/HR-97-30, May 16, 1997).
                        14
                           From Red Tape to Results: Creating a Government That Works Better and Costs Less, report of the
                        NPR, Vice President Al Gore, Sept. 7, 1993. We provided our views on NPR’s
                        recommendations—Management Reform: GAO’s Comments on the National Performance Review’s
                        Recommendations (GAO/OCG-94-1, Dec. 3, 1993); and Management Reform: Implementation of the
                        National Performance Review’s Recommendations (GAO/OCG-95-1, Dec. 5, 1994).



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                         fraud, abuse, and mismanagement; and (4) management of debt collection
                         efforts.

                         We believe these areas are significant enough to warrant some discussion
                         in the plan. In problem areas where DOJ has taken successful corrective
                         actions, such as law enforcement coordination, some discussion of how
                         DOJ addressed those problems and intends to prevent them from
                         resurfacing would be informative and useful. For other problems where
                         DOJ may have had less success, such as debt collection, the plan could
                         identify these problems and discuss how DOJ plans to resolve them. If not
                         adequately addressed, these management problems could have a negative
                         impact on DOJ’s ability to achieve goals and measure performance and thus
                         its ability to successfully implement the Results Act may be hampered.


Internal Control and     Work under way by us and others has identified internal control
Accounting Problems      weaknesses and problems with financial information reporting. DOJ is one
                         of the 24 federal agencies covered under the CFO Act. The audit work done
                         pursuant to this act, while not yet finalized, has revealed several
                         significant internal control weaknesses. For instance, significant problems
                         with DOJ’s ability to safeguard and account for physical assets generally
                         occurred because inventory systems, which were used to account for DOJ’s
                         assets and those in DOJ’s custody, were not updated in a timely manner and
                         in accordance with established policies and procedures. As a result, the
                         systems could not provide a complete and accurate inventory of assets.
                         This places DOJ at increased risk of loss or theft of assets that are in its
                         possession but are not accounted for in its inventory systems.

                         This audit work also found weaknesses in DOJ’s data processing
                         operations. As a result, the general controls cannot be relied upon to
                         provide reasonable assurance that financial data is reliable. Also, since
                         fiscal year 1996 was the first time that DOJ’s financial statements were
                         subject to audit and operating costs were not included as part of this audit,
                         it is unknown whether DOJ’s systems can produce the necessary cost
                         information regarding its programs and related outcomes. Such
                         information would be needed to relate the cost of various programs and
                         activities to their performance outputs and results.


Information Technology   In discussing the goals relating to its management core function, DOJ states
Issues                   that it intends to make effective use of the best available management
                         practices, including current and new information technology, that will



                         Page 13                                GAO/GGD-97-153R DOJ’s Draft Strategic Plan
                       B-277403




                       improve program performance and overall efficiency. DOJ’s stated strategy
                       for accomplishing this goal is to integrate information technology
                       programs and initiatives with other planning and decisionmaking
                       processes, including those for human resources, budget, and financial
                       management.

                       In this regard, we identified two issues that the strategic plan does not
                       address. First, the plan does not discuss how DOJ intends to meet
                       requirements of the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 for implementing a
                       framework of modern technology management to improve performance
                       and meet strategic goals. This management framework would describe
                       DOJ’s approach for ensuring that (1) senior executives are involved in
                       information management decisions, (2) a qualified senior-level Chief
                       Information Officer is appointed, (3) appropriate agencywide technology
                       standards are established, (4) discipline over technology spending is
                       imposed through implementation of an information technology investment
                       strategy, and (5) performance measures are used to assess technology’s
                       contribution in achieving mission results.

                       Second, the plan does not discuss how DOJ will resolve the “year 2000
                       problem” as well as any significant information security weaknesses—two
                       issues that we have identified as high risk across government. Many of
                       DOJ’s critical systems dealing with the investigation, apprehension,
                       prosecution, and incarceration of criminals are date dependent and
                       exchange data with federal, state, and local government agencies. As a
                       result, these systems are at risk of unauthorized access and disclosure or
                       malicious use of sensitive data due to weaknesses in security and could
                       malfunction or produce incorrect information due to problems associated
                       with the year 2000.


                       To efficiently and effectively operate, manage, and oversee its diverse
Concerns About         array of law enforcement-related responsibilities, DOJ needs reliable data
Capacity to Provide    on their results and those of other responsible organizations. These data
Reliable Performance   are needed so that DOJ can measure its progress and monitor, record,
                       account for, summarize, and analyze crime and crime-related data.
Information
                       DOJ’sstrategic plan contains little discussion about its capacity to provide
                       performance information for assessing its progress toward its goals and
                       objectives over the next 5 years. For example, under its discussion of the
                       immigration core function, DOJ’s plan states that it intends to establish and
                       maintain automated systems that provide reliable, timely, and accessible



                       Page 14                                GAO/GGD-97-153R DOJ’s Draft Strategic Plan
                  B-277403




                  employment and entitlement eligibility verification. However, there is no
                  discussion on its use of information management systems to positively
                  identify criminal aliens. Also, DOJ’s strategy over the legal representation,
                  enforcement of federal laws, and defense of U.S. interests core function
                  states that it intends to enhance financial litigation and debt collection
                  through automation improvements. The narrative under this function
                  appears to be limited to the collection of tax debts and does not discuss
                  DOJ’s efforts to alleviate the long-standing weaknesses in accounting for,
                  collecting, and reporting on monetary penalties imposed on federal
                  criminals.

                  Further, DOJ will need to rely on a variety of external data sources to
                  assess the impact of its plan. For example, those goals that are crime
                  related are primarily dependent on data from state and local law
                  enforcement agencies. Goals related to juvenile criminal activity will also
                  depend on program information that is generated by state and local
                  agencies. DOJ has little control over the completeness, accuracy,
                  timeliness, and reliability of these data.


                  On July 9, 1997, we met with DOJ officials, including the Director,
Agency Comments   Management and Planning Staff, Justice Management Division, who has
                  responsibility for DOJ’s strategic plan. DOJ officials agreed with a number of
                  our observations, noting that their strategic plan addresses three of the six
                  statutorily required elements. DOJ officials said that DOJ has started
                  working on the three other elements and expects to address each of these
                  elements in the next version of the plan.

                  The DOJ officials expressed the opinion that our draft letter did not fully or
                  fairly reflect the DOJ’s progress in developing the strategic plan and they
                  provided a description of their planning process and its achievements. As
                  noted in the introductory section of this letter, our scope was limited to a
                  review of the plan itself. Accordingly, we did not incorporate this
                  additional information in this letter.

                  DOJ officials said that notwithstanding the merits of our specific
                  suggestions, there is a risk of unintentionally undermining the plan’s
                  usefulness as a means for spurring public dialogue if it becomes a vehicle
                  for addressing other issues and concerns. Despite this reservation, they
                  agree that the plan could be enriched by greater attention to information
                  technology and other management-related topics not required by the




                  Page 15                                 GAO/GGD-97-153R DOJ’s Draft Strategic Plan
B-277403




Results Act. Therefore, they said that DOJ intends to address these topics in
their revised version.


As arranged with your offices, unless you publicly announce its contents
earlier, we plan no further distribution of this letter until 30 days from its
issue date. At that time, we will send copies of this letter to the Ranking
Minority Members of your committees, and to the Chairman and Ranking
Minority Members of other committees that have jurisdiction over DOJ
activities, the Attorney General, and to the Director, OMB. We will send
copies to others on request.




Page 16                                 GAO/GGD-97-153R DOJ’s Draft Strategic Plan
B-277403




Please contact me at (202) 512-8777 if you or your staffs have any
questions concerning this letter. Major contributors to this letter are listed
in the enclosure.




Norman J. Rabkin, Director
  Administration of Justice Issues


Enclosure




Page 17                                 GAO/GGD-97-153R DOJ’s Draft Strategic Plan
Enclosure

Major Contributors to This Letter


                        Richard M. Stana, Acting Associate Director
General Government      James M. Blume, Assistant Director
Division                Samuel A. Caldrone, Assignment Manager
                        Mary B. Hall, Evaluator-in-Charge
                        Michael H. Little, Communications Analyst
                        Michelle Wiggins, Issue Area Assistant
                        Lessie M. Burke, Writer-Editor


                        Ronald B. Bageant, Assistant Director
Accounting and          John P. Finedore, Assistant Director
Information             Deborah A. Taylor, Assistant Director
Management Division     Anastasia P. Kaluzienski, Auditor
                        Brian C. Spencer, Technical Assistant Director


                        Jan B. Montgomery, Assistant General Counsel
Office of the General
Counsel




(182039)                Page 18                              GAO/GGD-97-153R DOJ’s Draft Strategic Plan
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