DOD's GPRA Implementation

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-01-31.

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

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

National Security and
International Affairs Division


January 31, 1997

The Honorable William S. Cohen
The Secretary of Defense

Dear Mr. Secretary:

The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) (P. L. 103-62)
requires agencies, including the Department of Defense (DOD), to clearly define
their missions, set goals, link activities and resources to goals, measure
performance, and report on their accomplishments.        GPRA requires our office to
report on the implementation of GPRA by federal agencies. As part of this
governmentwide effort, we are reviewing DOD’s implementation efforts. The
purpose of this letter is to share with you some preliminary observations and to
elicit your views on these observations. To that end, we would appreciate
recei.ving a response from you or your designee to the questions at the end of
this letter by February 28, 1997.


GPRA requires federal agencies to develop (1) strategic plans by September 30,
1997, (2) annual performance plans for fiscal year 1999 and beyond, and (3)
annual performance reports beginning March 31, 2000. The act provides criteria
for the information required in these plans and reports. For example, strategic
plans must include information, such as mission statements and general goals
and objectives that are oriented towards outcomes; performance plans must
include measurable performance goals, where feasible, and the indicators for
measuring performance; and performance reports must compare actual
performance with performance goals and explain what needs to be done when
goals are not met.

In crafting GPRA, Congress sought to fundamentally shift the focus of federal
management and oversight from staffing and activity levels to outcomes or
results of federal programs. The Senate and House reports on the GPRA
legislation anticipated that GPRA would be institutionalized and practiced at all
organizational levels throughout the federal government. Establishing clear

                         GAO/NSIAD/GGD-97-65R      DOD’s GPRA Implementation

organizational hierarchies of goals and performance measures can help.’ In its
guidance on GPRA implementation, the Chief Financial Officers Council has
advised agencies that to comply with the spirit and intent of GPRA, the goals
and measures used at lower organizational levels should be linked with the
agency’s strategic goals.’

In making these linkages, organizations try to ensure that the goals and
performance measures for each organizational level are tied to those at
successive levels and ultimately to the organization’s overall strategic goals.
Several organizations implementing management reforms similar to GPRA have
indicated that without clear, hierarchically linked goals and performance
measures, managers and staff throughout the organization lack straightforward
roadmaps showing how their work contributes to attaining organizationwide
strategic goals. Moreover, organizations that are not achieving their goals might
not know why these goals were not met and what changes are needed to
improve performance. The Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) is the
person responsible for overseeing the implementation of GPRA within DOD.

According to DOD officials, DOD plans to integrate GPRA into its Planning,
Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS). DOD officials assigned GPRA
responsibilities in the areas of strategic planning, program analysis, program
evaluation, and budgeting believe that strategic planning, goal setting, and
performance measurement are accomplished through the PPBS. For example,
although they did not provide us documentation, DOD officials told us that DOD
(1) translates planning documents into planning and programming guidance that
is published annually; (2) uses, during the normal course of the PPBS
programming phase, performance measurement data to evaluate programs
through which it will try to achieve its most critical goals, and (3) ensures,
during the budgeting phase of the PPBS, that performance targets and plans are
achievable within budgeted resources. In discussing their intent to integrate
GPRA into PPBS, however, the officials also told us that DOD may need to
make a better effort at linking its goals in a hierarchical structure.

The Senate’s report on the GPRA legislation stated that past efforts at
comprehensive management reform, such as PPBS, were less than satisfactory.
Also, the Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces reported, in
May 1995, that (1) the PPBS phases operate semi-autonomously rather than

 ‘Executive Guide: Effectivelv Implementing   the Government Performance and Results Act
 (GAO/GGD-96-118, June 16, 1996)

 “Implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act CGPRA), (Chief Financial
 Officers Council, GPRA Implementation Committee, May 1995). The Chief Financial Officers
 Council is comprised of the chief financial officers and deputy chief financial officers of the
 largest federal agencies and senior officials of the Office of Management and Budget and the
 Department of the Treasury. The Council’s role is to improve financial management in the
 federal government.

 2                         GAO/lWIAD/GGD-97-65R               DOD’s    GPRA     Implementation

supportively, (2) guidance to the services and other DOD components tends to
lack specificity and be late, and (3) major program decisions are often delayed
until the end of the budget development phase. The Commission recommended
that the Secretary of Defense assign a high priority to restructuring the PPBS so
that major issues are decided before the program and budget development
processes begin.


The implementation of GPRA within DOD is in its initial stages and many
implementation strategies and key approaches need to be developed. However,
recognizing this, DOD has made progress at various organizational levels in
implementing GPRA or strategic planning and performance measurement
initiatives consistent with GPRA. At the department level, DOD has developed
strategic goals and objectives and is refining a set of performance measures to
meet the planning requirements of GPRA. Some subordinate DOD
organizations, building on their experience as GPRA pilots, are developing or
improving strategic planning and performance measurement systems; some
other defense organizations are developing or improving such systems as well.

However, our work suggests and DOD officials agree that DOD’s effectiveness
in implementing the requirements of GPRA may be improved by better
hierarchical linking of goals and performance measures. For example, we
recently examined the degree to which DOD’s logistics strategic plan provides
an integrated logistics roadmap for the department to support its warfighting
strategy. We found that, while the services’ strategic plans and initiatives
generally support implementation of the DOD plan, their goals, objectives, and
strategies are not, always directly linked. DOD indicated that it will ensure that
the next edition of the DOD Logistics Strategic Plan includes specific guidance
to require the services to link their goals to DOD%. This is important because,
without, this goal alignment, DOD may have difficulty meeting its
departmentwide logistics goals, which are to reduce logistics response time,
develop a seamless logistics system, and streamline the logistics infrastructure.

Our recent work also found that DOD’s strategic information resources planning
effort does not appear to link its information resources management systems
development with recent initiatives focusing on consolidating or privatizing
various areas of logistics operations. If not linked, DOD could end up spending
millions of dollars on systems designed to support functions that it might not
plan to do or in organizations that might be eliminated. However, DOD stated
that it is addressing these concerns by preparing a new logistics business
systems strategy.

Our review of DOD’s ongoing GPRA implementation efforts suggests that
hierarchically linked goals and measures will be crucial for success. DOD must
ensure the services implement GPRA at their level and provide goals that link

3                     GAO/NSIAD/GGD-97-65R         DOD’s GPRA Implementation

DOD’s department strategic goals with those of lower level components. Some
of the officials assigned GPRA liaison responsibilities told us they did not know
what, if anything, they should be doing to promote GPRA principles within their


Various organizational levels within DOD have made progress on strategic
planning and developing performance measures--key elements of successful
GPRA implementation.     DOD has developed its agency level mission statement
and GPRA strategic goals and objectives, which it calls “corporate” goals.
DOD’s mission statement and corporate goals were included in the current
Defense Planning Guidance.

In addition, DOD has developed a preliminary set of performance measures for
the corporate goals. However, DOD has stated that many of its outcomes are
unmeasurable because it annually prepares for its mission--national security--
unlike other agencies that execute their missions every year. Where it thought
feasible, DOD developed proposed performance measures to gauge progress
toward achieving its goals (for example, developing the average age of selected
weapon systems for the goal of providing the best and most advanced

Where it did not think that meaningful, objective, and quantifiable performance
measures were feasible, DOD developed a proposed set of descriptive
statements of the characteristics of a successful program and quantitative
progress indicators to use in evaluating whether progress is made in achieving
its goals (for example, the goal of sustaining and adapting security alliances,
enhancing coalition warfighting, and forging military relationships).” Office of
the Secretary of Defense (OSD) officials said that these goals, objectives, and
proposed measures could be changed or further refined during Office of
Management and Budget reviews of agencies’ proposed strategic and
performance plans, or during internal deliberations.

In addition to   the overall agency-level effort, some subordinate DOD
organizations,   such as the Air Combat Command and the Defense Commissary
Agency, which     served as GPRA pilot projects for performance planning and
reporting, are   building on their pilot experiences in implementing GPRA in their

 ‘The act allows agencies to use this alternative form of performance assessment provided they
 consult with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). DOD is currently consulting with
 OMB to reach agreement on the performance measures and descriptive statements and
 indicators to be included in DOD’s fiscal year 1999 annual performance plan.

 4                        GAO/NSIAD/GGD-97-65R             DOD’s GPRA Implementation

own organizations.’ Others, such as the Defense Information     Systems Agency
and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (formerly the Defense Mapping
agency) are independently developing these processes under management
reform initiatives independent of, but generaIly consistent with, GPRA.

Of the seven DOD GPRA pilots, five either planned to or had already developed,
a hierarchy of performance goals. Officials from the Air Force’s Air Combat
Command told us that one of the lessons learned was the importance of having
the command’s vision, mission, goals, and objectives cascade from the top to
the bottom of the organization to ensure the command was moving in the same
direction. According to the command’s officials, each of the lower-level units
participating in the pilot built its own goals, objectives, and mission statement
that were responsive to the command’s goals, objectives, and mission statement.
An official from the Defense Commissary Agency said that the agency adopted
the Air Combat Command’s model for its strategic planning approach.. It
developed five agency goals and then developed cascading goals for its regions
and stores.

We also discussed performance-oriented management systems with selected
agencies that are not participating in the GPRA pilot program. Some of these
agencies--for example, the Defense Special Weapons Agency, the Defense
Information Services Agency, and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency--
also developed a hierarchy of goals with their subordinate units that were
preparing business plans that supported their overall strategic goals and
objectives. For example, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency holds
monthly meetings with business unit leaders and headquarters staff assigned to
monitor goal achievement for the purpose of determining the status of meeting
annual goals and objectives outlined in its strategic plan.


The next critical step is for DOD to link its corporate goals with the goals of its
components. These hierarchically linked goals are especially important at DOD
because its components are often larger than other federal agencies. However,
our work indicates that DOD has yet to require the direct linkage of
components’ goals to corporate goals.

‘GPRA required OMB to designate pilot projects in performance measurement for fiscal years
1994, 1995, and 1996. Pilots were to undertake the preparation of performance plans and
performance reports and to use a strategic plan when preparing performance plans during 1 or
more years of the pilot period. There were seven DOD pilots: the Air Combat Command; the
Army Audit Agency; the Army Research Laboratory; the Office of the Commander-in-Chief,
Atlantic Fleet - Carrier Battle Group; the U.S. Corps of Engineers - Civil Works; the Defense
Commissary Agency; and the Defense Logistics Agency.

5                        GAO/NSIAD/GGD-97-65R             DOD’s GPRA Implementation

For example, DOD-level planning for logistics and that of the services could be
improved. As we reported in December 1996, DOD’s Executive Steering Group,
responsible for directing implementation of its logistics strategic plan, assessing
progress, setting priorities, and developing plan updates, needs to focus on
improving the services’ logistics strategic plans to ensure that their individual
goals and strategies link to DOD’s plan.” We found that the services’ goals,
objectives, and strategies could better support DOD’s plan.

We also recently reported that many of the problems troubling DOD’s
information resources management system for logistics might have been
prevented or limited had DOD employed a strategic information resources
planning effort beforehand.6 Such planning would have more closely aligned
information resources management goals with recent DOD initiatives focusing
on consolidating or privatizing various areas of logistics operations. We pointed
out that without such linkage, DOD may end up spending millions of dollars on
systems for functions that may later be privatized or organizations that may
later be eliminated.

Our work suggests that an absence of hierarchically linked goals and measures
could affect other program areas as well. Although OSD established points of
contact for GPRA in~plementation,7 according to DOD officials, OSD has not
required the services and other DOD components to develop goals and
performance measures in support of the DOD corporate goals beyond what may
be developed as part of the PPBS. The points of contact for the services
indicated that they were not issuing guidance to their subordinate units because
they had no indication from OSD that GPRA requires anything other than
department-level plans, goals and indicators. Officials from one of these
subordinate units, however, expressed concerns that they will receive an
“eleventh hour” call to implement GPRA that they will not be able to meet.

At a recent GPRA points of contact meeting, several officials said that they
found DOD’s corporate goals to be too broad for their organization to readily
align their activities in support of those goals. These officials believed that
establishing lower level goals (i.e., goals beneath those of the corporate level)
would have more relevance for many subordinate level activities and would
help them move toward implementing GPRA principles. They also indicated

“Logistics Planning: Opportunities for Enhancing DOD’s Lcgistics Strategic Plan (GAO/NSIAD-
97-28, Dec. 18, 1996).

“Defense IRM: Critical Risks Facing New Materiel Management Strategy (GAO/AIMD-96-109,
Sept. 6, 1996).

 ‘The Office of the Secretary of Defense, Office of the Comptroller, is responsible for overseeing
 implementation of GPRA within DOD. The Comptroller established a working group known as
 the DOD GPRA Points of Contact to serve as conduits for GPRA information between DOD and
 its respective organizations.

 6                         GAO/NSIAD/GGD-97-65R              DOD’s GPRA Implementation

that (1) lower level goals should be developed where they do not currently exist
and (2) in cases where they already exist, they should be clearly identified as
lower level goals that support DOD’s corporate goals. Otherwise, subordinate
organizational levels may not use them.

During our fieldwork, officials from the Atlantic Fleet GPRA pilot agreed that
the Fleet’s goals were only remotely connected to one of DOD’s corporate
goals--to provide a flexible, ready military structure. One official added that he
created subgoals based on his impressions of what might fill the void when he
attempted to link the Fleet’s performance goals and measures with DOD’s,
corporate goals.


To help facilitate our legislative oversight responsibilities and in light of our
observations, we would appreciate your response to the following questions:

-- What specific guidance do you plan to issue to the Secretaries of the Army,
   the Navy, and the Air Force and directors of defense agencies on how to link
   the services’ and agencies’ goals and budgets to DOD’s GPRA corporate goals
   and when do you plan to issue it?

-- If you do not plan to issue guidance, how will you ensure that services’ and
   agencies’ goals and budgets are linked to DOD’s GPRA corporate goals?

-- How do you intend for the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)--the
   person responsible for overseeing the implementation of GPRA in DOD--to
   monitor and assist subordinate DOD organizations in developing goals and
   performance measures that support those of the next higher level within

-- How do you intend to use GPRA goals and performance measures in the
   development of budget requests on behalf of subordinate organizations?

-- Where goals and measures already exist at s,ome lower organizational
   levels, how do you intend for the Under Secretary of Defense
   (Comptroller) to ensure that they are identified and adjusted, as necessary,
   to conform with this hierarchy?

We look forward to working with the Department as it proceeds with its
implementation of GPRA. We are sending copies of the letter to the
congressional committees of jurisdiction; the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and

7                     GAO/NSIAD/GGD-97-65R          DOD’s GPRA Implementation
 Air Force; and the Director of DLA. Your response to our inquiry will also be
 provided the same congressional distribution. If you or your designee have any
 questions, please contact Ken Knouse, at (202) 512-9280,or Chris Mihm, at (202)

 Sincerely yours,

 David R. Warren
 Director, Defense Management Issues           Director, Federal Management
                                               and Workforce Issue



   8                   GAO/NSIAD/GGD-97-65R DOD’s GPRA Implementation
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