oversight

Observations on the Department of State's Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-07-20.

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

United States General Accounting Office                                                                  National Security and
Washington, D.C. 20548                                                                            International Affairs Division




                 B-282873

                 July 20, 1999

                 The Honorable Dick Armey
                 Majority Leader
                 House of Representatives

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

                 The Honorable Fred Thompson
                 Chairman, Committee on Governmental Affairs
                 United States Senate


                 Subject: Observations on the Department of State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan

                 As you requested, we have reviewed and evaluated the fiscal year 2000 performance plans for
                 the 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies that were submitted to Congress as
                 required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (Results Act). Enclosure I
                 to this letter provides our observations on the fiscal year 2000 performance plan for the
                 Department of State. Enclosure II lists the identified GAO management challenges and the
                 State Inspector General’s areas of concern that the agency faces and the applicable goals and
                 measures in the fiscal year 2000 annual performance plan.

                 Our objectives were to (1) assess the usefulness of the agency’s plan for decisionmaking and
                 (2) identify the degree of improvement the agency’s fiscal year 2000 performance plan
                 represents over the fiscal year 1999 plan. Our observations were generally based on the
                 requirements of the Results Act, guidance to agencies from the Office of Management and
                 Budget (OMB) for developing the plan (OMB Circular A-11, Part 2), our previous reports and
                 knowledge of State’s operations and programs, and our observations on State’s fiscal year
                 1999 performance plan. Our summary report on the CFO Act agencies’ fiscal year 2000 plans
                                                                                             1
                 contains a complete discussion of our objectives, scope, and methodology.


                 1
                  Managing for Results: Opportunities for Continued Improvements in Agencies’ Performance Plans (GAO/GGD/AIMD-99-215,
                 July 20, 1999).




                 Page 1                                               GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
B-282873


As agreed, unless you announce the contents of this letter earlier, we plan no further
distribution until 30 days from the date of the letter. The major contributors to this report are
listed in enclosure III. Please call me on (202) 512-4128 if you or your staff have any
questions.




Benjamin F. Nelson, Director
International Relations and Trade Issues

Enclosures - 3




Page 2                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I

Observations on the Department of
State's Performance Plan for Fiscal
Year 2000
                               1
State’s fiscal year 2000 annual performance plan provides a partial picture of (1) intended
performance across the agency, (2) the strategies and resources that will be used to achieve
the performance goals, and (3) the methods it will employ to ensure the credibility of the
information used to assess agency performance. For example, State’s strategic goal of
opening foreign markets has two areas of emphasis. However, the plan provides performance
information for only one of them. Figure 1 highlights the plan’s major strengths and key
weaknesses that need to be addressed in future plans.

Figure 1: Major Strengths and Key Weaknesses of State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Annual
Performance Plan

Major Strengths
• Contains more results-oriented goals, strategies, and quantifiable measures
• Includes baseline and targets for each performance

Key Weaknesses
• Does not provide a complete performance picture for all strategic goals
• Does not sufficiently describe how resources will help achieve goals
• Does not describe efforts to verify and validate performance




The Department of State’s fiscal year 2000 performance plan represents a moderate
improvement over the fiscal year 1999 plan in that it shows some progress in addressing the
weaknesses we identified in our assessment of that plan. In reviewing the fiscal year 1999
plan, we observed that (1) many of the goals were not clearly stated and/or extended beyond
State’s span of control, (2) the plan did not have baselines and targets for each performance
indicator, and (3) cross-cutting issues and data limitations were not addressed. Among
improvements in the fiscal year 2000 plan are the addition of baselines, targets, and
quantifiable measures to gauge performance, and results-oriented goals that better capture
what State can accomplish.




1
 This plan sets out the Department of State’s performance targets for fiscal years 1999 and 2000. It replaces the fiscal year 1999
plan submitted in February 1998. The performance report due in March 2000 will report results against the fiscal year 1999
targets from this plan.




Page 3                                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of State's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




The Agency’s Performance Plan Provides a Limited Picture of
Intended Performance Across the Agency
State’s plan contains results-oriented goals and quantifiable measures, including baselines
and targets, for many of its performance goals. However, State’s plan is incomplete in that it
only partially identifies its performance goals and related performance information, contains
targets or measures that are sometimes unclear, and does not identify how it plans to
coordinate its activities with other agencies. Thus, this segment of the plan, although a
moderate improvement over last year’s plan, will be limited in assessing the agency’s
performance in some areas.

The performance plan identifies 19 goals, 3 diplomatic readiness and 16 strategic, with
multiple areas of emphasis. For the 3 diplomatic readiness goals (human resources,
information, and infrastructure and operations), State provides 15 performance “goal papers,”
one paper for each area of emphasis (for example, career development, systems security, and
overseas facilities). The “goal papers” state the performance goal and outline the full range of
objectives, strategies, external factors, and performance indicators for that performance goal.
For the 16 strategic goals (for example, regional security, exports, and international crime),
the plan usually presents only one illustrative goal paper for each strategic goal, even though
there may be more than one area of emphasis. The plan acknowledges that absent these
papers, the plan does not provide a complete picture of its planned activities for all 16
strategic goals. To illustrate, the strategic goal to open foreign markets to free the flow of
goods, services, and capital, has two areas of emphasis for fiscal years 1999 and 2000. They
are (1) reestablishing financial stability and economic growth in Asia, Russia, the Americas,
and other areas affected by the Asian economic crisis; and (2) expanding the scope and
coverage of regional and multilateral trade and investment agreements. The paper for this
strategic goal only provides performance information for the second area of emphasis. State
concluded in its plan that preparing goal papers for each area of emphasis would produce a
performance plan with more than 600 pages. The agency indicated that it would continue to
explore ways to present a more comprehensive performance plan without producing a
document that is too voluminous.

Although the plan did not have a complete set of performance goal papers, the goal papers
presented with the plan demonstrated that the agency generally had a clear understanding of
the expected results. For example, the agency’s goal to train foreign governments in the
methods and techniques of combating international crime and drug trafficking includes
numerical targets for enrolling foreign officials in law enforcement training programs.
Further, goal papers for the strategic goals included an “outcome desired” in addition to a
performance goal. The performance goal captures what State believes it can accomplish. The
outcome desired provides a link between what State is doing and the broadly stated strategic
goal. For example, one strategic goal is to ensure that local and regional instabilities do not
threaten the security and well-being of the United States or its allies. An outcome desired is


Page 4                                            GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of State's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




that Great Britain, Ireland, and Northern Ireland implement the Good Friday 1998 peace
agreement. The performance goal is to minimize factors inhibiting implementation of the
peace agreement. The addition of an outcome desired seems appropriate in those cases
where State is one of several agencies or organizations addressing an issue.

A significant improvement in this year’s plan is the addition of performance measures that
include a fiscal year 1998 baseline and identify target levels of performance for multiyear
goals, or trend data for past performance to show how a program’s anticipated performance
level compares with past performance. For example, the diplomatic readiness goal for
“establishing and maintaining infrastructure and operating capacities that enable employees
to pursue policy objectives and respond to crisis” identifies multiyear efforts for achieving
energy efficiency, renovating and constructing facilities, and replacing vehicles. In several
areas, State uses quantifiable measures. In one goal paper, concerning Northern Ireland, State
uses a non-quantifiable, alternative form of measurement. The alternative form includes
descriptive statements of “successful,” “minimally effective,” and “unsuccessful” performance
to assess results. For example, one measure of the success of the peace agreement is the
degree to which the institutions created by the accord operate as envisioned.

In some cases, certain targets and measures need to be further clarified. For example, State
has two targets/measures for achieving overseas security in fiscal year 1999—getting the
embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, operational, and ensuring that
“project management plans for security upgrades are at least 40 percent through their
execution phase.” However, since State did not define what “execution phase” means, it will
be difficult to measure performance. In addition, State’s goals for protecting employees in
domestic facilities and enhancing overseas security contain somewhat different measures
without explanation. Domestically, the measures are the number of facilities that meet
security standards and the number of incidents that result in physical harm due to inadequate
physical security. Overseas, the security targets do not mention meeting standards or
numbers of incidents of physical harm. Further, the plan acknowledges that some of its goals
will or should lead to economies and efficiencies; however, there are no indicators or targets
for achieving such savings. For example, State’s goal for improving its logistics acquisition
system calls for expanding the use of electronic commerce. The plan notes that electronic
commerce will lead to the consolidation of warehouses, however, there is no specific target
for such consolidation.

In addition, the plan would be more useful if it elaborated on the many cross-cutting issues
facing the agency. While the plan appropriately references other agencies involved in the
achievement of the goal, it does not identify the programs that contribute to the same or
similar results and planned coordination strategies. In addition, it does not include
complementary performance goals and common or complementary performance measures to
show how differing program strategies are mutually reinforcing. For example, the strategy for
the performance goal to focus U.S. government export promotion efforts on the best



Page 5                                            GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of State's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




international market prospects merely states that it will work closely with the U.S. Trade
Representative and the Department of Commerce to facilitate resolution of trade issues with
the European Union. It does not explain what each agency will do. In addition, although the
performance plan frequently mentions other agencies and organizations as partners in
accomplishing these and other strategic goals, it is not always clear who will be held
accountable for achieving the results.

The Agency’s Performance Plan Provides a Limited Discussion
of the Strategies and Resources the Agency Will Use to Achieve
Its Goals
This year’s plan shows a moderate improvement over last year’s plan in that it more clearly
describes the strategies the agency will use to achieve results. But since State did not prepare
a complete set of goal papers for its 16 strategic goals, not all strategies are presented. The
plan provides budget data related to the achievement of the strategic goals and each of the
diplomatic readiness performance goals. However, there is limited discussion of how
personnel, capital assets, and mission-critical management systems will be used to achieve
results.

For those strategies contained in the goal papers, State links strategies to specific
performance goals and describes how the strategies will contribute to the achievement of
those goals. For example, one of State’s strategic goals is to control how immigrants and
nonimmigrants enter and remain in the United States. A related performance goal is to
replace approximately 5.5 million border crossing cards used to enter the United States by
October 1, 2001, without disrupting cross-border travel and trade. State’s strategy calls for
opening/expanding consulates and setting up temporary facilities to handle the additional
workload, as well as working closely with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to
produce the cards.

In some cases, State’s planned strategies or actions need to be clarified. For example, the
plan does not adequately discuss strategies for resolving visa-related management challenges
identified by us and by State’s Inspector General. The strategy section of the plan briefly
refers to the installation of the second-generation, machine-readable visa computer system.
State presents a performance goal for replacing border-crossing cards, but other management
challenges associated with visa issuance, such as staffing shortages and other limitations in
the consular automated systems, are not addressed. State’s strategy for reducing its child
abduction caseload should also be clarified. The plan establishes a fiscal year 1998 baseline of
140 child abduction cases per officer and a target of 80 cases per officer in fiscal year 1999,
without explaining what it plans to do to reduce the caseload.




Page 6                                            GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of State's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




Attached to State’s plan is a table that allocates funding from State’s budget accounts for
fiscal years 1998 through 2000 to all of State’s strategic and/or performance goals. This
represents some improvement over last year’s plan, which did not provide such information.
However, because the plan aggregates program activities within its accounts, it is difficult to
determine how individual program activities are related to performance goals.

The plan also does not sufficiently address how human capital, proposed capital assets, and
mission-critical management systems (for example, information technology, financial
management, procurement, and other systems) will support the achievement of program
                          2
results. In February 1999, we reported on practices that were applied in some agencies’
annual performance plans that might, if consistently applied, improve the usefulness of all
agencies’ performance plans. Such practices include describing the processes, technologies,
and types of resources, including capital, that are needed to achieve performance goals. We
also noted that useful performance plans also provide agencies with the opportunity to show
how a proposed capital asset will, for example, decrease costs, improve service quality, or
increase productivity. State’s diplomatic readiness goals (human resources, information, and
infrastructure and operations) capture what State needs to carry out its overall mission and
to support other agencies in pursuing theirs. However, the plan does not provide a clear
rationale for how these resources will be used to improve performance or help achieve
specific performance goals. For example, the plan only loosely addresses how information
technology will aid State in meeting its strategic goals, and there is no discussion of how
specific information resources will do so. A second example is in the plan’s discussion of
overseas security. Although the plan refers to new hires and new monies, it does not describe
how the current staff and existing assets will be used to achieve the security goal.

The Agency’s Performance Plan Provides Limited Confidence
That Agency Performance Information Will Be Credible
The agency has taken a good first step by identifying data sources and the responsible
organizational unit for each indicator in the plan. However, the agency has acknowledged
that it does not have good data sources across the board. In addition, the plan recognizes that
known system deficiencies and data limitations will impact performance measurement but
does not specifically discuss the actions planned to address these deficiencies. Thus, this
segment of the plan shows little improvement over last year’s plan.

Although State has improved its identification of data sources, some data sources are not
specific enough to develop a methodology for verification. For example, as the plan itself

2
 Agency Performance Plans: Examples of Practices That Can Improve Usefulness to Decisionmakers (GAO/GGD/AIMD-99-69,
Feb. 26, 1999).




Page 7                                              GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of State's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




points out, the data sources are sometimes vaguely expressed as “X report” or “Bureau X
records.” After identifying the internal and external sources for performance data, the next
step is to determine how best to verify and validate the data. State does not address whether
there are specific efforts underway to ensure that the information is sufficiently complete,
accurate, and consistent. For data that are unavailable or of questionable quality, the plan
should address the implications of the quality of the data, including accuracy, reliability, and
timeliness, and the cost of collection. The plan should also indicate what actions are being
taken to compensate for the limitations and report when those actions will be taken.

One of State’s long-standing shortcomings has been the absence of an effective financial
management system that can assist managers in making “cost-based” decisions. The plan
acknowledges known deficiencies in the financial management systems and their impact on
performance measurement. Among improvements in the fiscal year 2000 plan is the
identification of areas of focus in financial management for the next 2 years. For example, the
plan indicates that State will develop an account coding structure that will provide for
resource utilization measurement by foreign affairs goal and function. State believes that
implementing this new coding structure in fiscal year 2000 will enable it to integrate the
Results Act (1993 Government Performance and Results Act) requirements into the strategic
planning and resource allocation process.

Other Observations on the Department of State’s
Implementation of Performance–Based Management
While we have not made an overall assessment of performance-based management
implementation, State’s plan acknowledges that the process of managing for results, as
envisioned by the Results Act, is not well entrenched. State reports that to many people the
planning process appears to be a paper exercise with no connection between the plans they
prepare and the budgets they receive. This perception exists at the mission level, the bureau
level, and the agency level. Furthermore, the plan states that because State’s progress is
influenced to a large degree by forces outside State’s control, many people believe it is
unreasonable to hold them accountable for performance based on a plan. Despite these
criticisms, State says that planning and managing for results continues to be a desirable goal
and that it will continue to work toward achieving this goal. We agree that performance-based
management presents a new way of doing things at State but are encouraged that the agency
recognizes the challenge and is taking steps to address the issue.

Agency Comments
On April 13, 1999, we obtained comments from officials of State’s Office of Management
Policy and Planning and the Bureau of Finance and Management Policy on a draft of our
analysis of the agency’s fiscal year 2000 annual performance plan. These officials generally



Page 8                                            GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of State's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




agreed with our analysis. However, they questioned the need for identifying the roles,
responsibilities, and complementary performance goals and measures of other agencies with
cross-cutting programs. They believe that adding more detailed references to other agencies
goes beyond what time and resources will allow. They also requested a more explicit
discussion of the requirement that the plan show how State’s personnel, capital assets, and
mission-critical management systems contribute to achieving performance goals. We have
included additional guidance on this issue in our analysis.




Page 9                                            GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure II

Management Challenges


The following table presents management challenges confronting the agency that we
and State’s Inspector General have identified and describes goals and measures in
State’s fiscal year 2000 performance plan that address these challenges. This table
shows that the performance plan includes goals and measures that address, to some
extent, most of the management challenges identified.

Table II.1: Management Challenges in State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Management challenges                                       Applicable goals and measures in the fiscal year
                                                            2000 performance plan
Enhance the management of security programs for             None. The performance goals and measures do not
overseas personnel and property.                            specifically address the management challenges
                                                            identified by GAO and the State IG regarding State’s
(State’s Inspector General (IG) also identified this        ability to implement a major security construction
area as a management challenge.)                            program and to ensure the efficient and effective use of
                                                            funds. State’s performance plan contains strategies for
                                                            getting the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam
                                                            operational and upgrading security at overseas facilities.
Year 2000 IRM problems.                                     State’s goal is to ensure its infrastructure, including its
                                                            information technology (IT) systems, works after
(State’s IG also identified this area as a                  December 31, 1999. The plan says that State expects to
management challenge.)                                      have all 59 mission-critical and 180 non-mission- critical
                                                            systems Year 2000 compliant and implemented during
                                                            fiscal year 1999.
Improve information security.                               One goal is to keep State’s IT systems and the
                                                            information processed and stored in them safe from
                                                            unauthorized access, change, disclosure, disruption, or
                                                            denial of services. In fiscal year 1999, State plans to
                                                            resolve all eight major GAO recommendations regarding
                                                            computer security made in GAO’s May 1998 reporta and
                                                            conduct information security penetration testing. It
                                                            expects to prevent unauthorized access by independent
                                                            testers 100 percent of the time.

                                                            Another goal is to ensure that all classified and sensitive
                                                            information at overseas and domestic facilities is
                                                            safeguarded from physical and technical compromises.
                                                            State anticipates that no incidents involving the
                                                            compromise of classified information will occur in fiscal
                                                            years 1999 and 2000 (as was the case in fiscal year
                                                            1998). It also anticipates accelerating its security
                                                            clearance update schedule for State’s U.S. direct-hire
                                                            employees.
Modernize IT capabilities utilizing the planning and        State’s goal is to make modern, integrated IT accessible
investment process called for in federal guidance.          to all employees. Although the performance plan states
                                                            how it will upgrade IT capability, primarily through ALMA
(State’s IG also identified this area as a                  (a logical modernization approach) deployment and
management challenge.)                                      compliance with ALMA standards, it does not address
                                                            how State plans to use the planning and investment
                                                            process called for in federal guidance.
Improve the visa processing system, streamline and          None. No goals specifically address issues identified by
rationalize visa workloads, and reduce the incidence        GAO and the IG, such as unfilled computer hardware




Page 10                                                GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure II
Management Challenges




Management challenges                                  Applicable goals and measures in the fiscal year
                                                       2000 performance plan
of fraud.                                              and software requirements, insufficient staffing overseas,
                                                       and inadequate interagency coordination. However, the
(State’s IG also identified this area as a             plan does include a performance goal aimed at
management challenge.)                                 decreasing the vulnerability to illegal entries. This goal is
                                                       to replace approximately 5.5 million border-crossing
                                                       cards by October 1, 2001, without disrupting cross-
                                                       border travel and trade.
Improve financial management.                          State’s goal is to have financial and accounting systems
                                                       that meet internal and external financial management
(State’s IG also identified this area as a             and programmatic requirements. State also plans to
management challenge.)                                 upgrade its central financial management system,
                                                       develop a regional financial management system,
                                                       develop a financial account code structure, improve
                                                       interfaces, implement systems changes/enhancements
                                                       to meet standards, and correct material weakness during
                                                       fiscal years 1999 and 2000.
Manage the reorganization of foreign affairs           State’s goal relating to reorganization is to integrate the
agencies.                                              Department of State, the U.S. Information Agency,
                                                       (USIA), and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency,
(State’s IG also identified this area as a             (ACDA), into a single institution. The performance plan
management challenge.)                                 did not list any indicators or targets for this effort because
                                                       of the number of aspects involved in the reorganization.
                                                       The plan referred to State’s reorganization plan and
                                                       report submitted to Congress in December 1998 for
                                                       details on the implementation of the Foreign Affairs
                                                       Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, including
                                                       milestones.
Other areas identified by State’s IG                   Applicable goals and measures in the fiscal year
                                                       1999-2000 performance plan
Assess the adequacy of training and preparation for    State plans to (1) create a Department-wide, integrated
both Foreign Service and Civil Service personnel,      workforce plan, that will include USIA and ACDA and that
and handle staffing shortages, particularly in areas   will determine the size, distribution, composition, and
of consular operations, security, and information      recruitment needs of its U.S. workforce through 2010,
management.                                            and (2) ensure State is staffed with a fully skilled
                                                       workforce and is ready to handle the surge in “baby
                                                       boomer” retirements without a disruption in its work.

                                                       State plans to complete and issue the workforce plan in
                                                       fiscal year 1999, and develop and implement a hiring
                                                       plan in fiscal year 2000. It also plans to increase the
                                                       number of information management specialist positions
                                                       for both fiscal years 1999 and 2000 and plans to increase
                                                       the number of Foreign Service positions in four global
                                                       bureaus during fiscal years 1999 and 2000. To ensure a
                                                       fully skilled workforce, State plans to increase
                                                       participation in leadership and management courses
                                                       during fiscal years 1999 and 2000 and to make
                                                       assignments on a more timely basis.




Page 11                                           GAO/NSIAD-99-183R State’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure III

Major Contributors


GAO Contacts
Benjamin F. Nelson,   (202) 512-4128



Acknowledgments
In addition to the contact named above, Diana M. Glod, Edward D. Kennedy, La Verne G.
Tharpes, Ronald L. Hess, and Linda P. Garrison made key contributions to this product.




(711415)




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