Results Act: Information on the Missions, Goals, and Measures Developed by FHWA, FTA, and NHTSA

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-11-14.

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

      United States
GAO   General Accounting
                    D-C. 20548
                                                                                   ‘.    js9s6”3
       Resources, Community,    and
      ‘Economic Development     Division

      November 14, 1997

      The Honorable Richard K Arrney
      Majority Leader
      House of Representatives

      The Honorable Bud Shuster
      Chairman, Committee on Transportation
       and Infrastructure
      House of Representatives

      Subject: Results Act: Information on the Missions, Goals. and Measures
               Developed bv FKWA FTA and NHTSA

      As you requested, this report provides information on the missions, goals, and
      performance measures being developed under the Government Performance
      and Results Act (the Results Act) by the Department of Transportation’s
      (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit
      Administration (PTA), and National Highway Traffic Safely Administration
      (NHTSA). Specif%zally, we (1) discuss the relationships of the three agencies’
      missions and strategic go& to DOT’s mission and goals, (2) track the
      agencies’ strategic goals and outcomes to program-level goals and measures,
      and (3) provide our views on the goals and measures.

      To address the first two objectives, we reviewed the draft missions, strategic
      goals and outcomes, and program goals and performance measures for the
      three agencies as of October 20,1997. The agencies are revising and/or
      developing this information to support DOT’s September 1997 strategic plan
      and fiscal year 1999 budget, which will not be final until early 1998. We also
      interviewed planning and budgeting officials at the three agencies and at the
      department level and reviewed supporting documents. To address the third
      objective, we analyzed the three agencies’draft goals and measures on the
      basis of our knowledge of their programs and operations &om our past

                                     GAO/ECED-98-34E   Missions,   Goals, and Measares   at FKWA,   FTA, & NETSA
B-278504                                                          . -
Our findings reflect a “snapshot” of these agencies’missions, goals, and
measures at this time. We recognize that F’HWA, FTA, and NHTSA are
continuing to revise this information as they update their strategic plans and
complete their fiscal year 1999 budgets.


The mission statements for FFIWA, ETA, and NHTSA reflect the agencies’
focus on highways, public transportation, and highway safety, respectively,
while DOT’s mission statement reflects its broad authority over the nation’s
transportation systems. (See enc. I, table 1.1.) F’HWA’s and FTA’s strategic
goaIs generally parallel the Department’s goals for safety, mobility, economic
growth and trade, human and natural environment, and national security.
NHTSA has 11 strategic goals: 4 goals support the Department-wide safety
goal and 1 supports DOT’s goal to protect and enhance communities and the
natural environment. Table I.2 in enclosure I lists the strategic goaIs for each
agency and the Department. Table 1 below tracks DOT’s strategic goals to
the agencies’strategic goals and summarizes the areas in which the goals are

Table 1: Summarv Comparison of DOT’s Strateaic Goals With FHWA’s. FTA’s. and

    DOT goal            FHWA goat          Similar     FTA goal              Similar   NHTSA goal
    Safety              Yes                Yesa                              Yesb
    Mobility            Yes                Yes                               No comparable goal
    Economic growth     Yes’               Yes                               No comparable goal
    and trade
    Human and           Yes                Yes                               Yes
    National security   Yes                No comparable goala               No comparable goal

Note: In addition to the goals that are similar to DOT’s, FTA has one other goal and
NHTSA has six other goals (see table I.2 in enc. I).

aFTA has a goal for “safety and security.” According to FTA, its safety and security
goal is comparableto DOT’s goal for national security. The DOT goal, however,

2                        GAO/ICED-98-34R   Missions,   Goals, and Measures    at FElWA, FIX,   % NETSA
B-278504                                                             -

deals with issues such as national defense, while the FTA goal addresses                  personal
security and property damage.                            .- .

bNHTSA has four goals for safety.

‘FHWA has a similar goal for “productivity.”

AND OUTCOMES TO PROGRAM GOALS AND MEASURES                                                      \

Each of ~A’s      three major programs-federal aid highways, federal lands
highways, and motor carriers-has program goals and measures to support
various strategic goals, outcomes, and measures (see tables I.3 and L4 in enc.
FI’A has agency-level goals, outcomes, and measures that its four major
programs-formula programs, major capital investments, Washington Metro,
and transit planning and research-are expected to support. According to
FTA planning officials, the agency does not have specifk goals for the
individual programs. (See table I.5 in enc. L)

Information on the relationship of NHTSA’s individual programs to its
strategic goals will not be available until the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) completes its review and the fiscal year 1999 budget is
completed early in 1998. However, NBTSA has developed goals, outcomes,
and measures at both the agency and program levels. At the agency level,
NHTSA has identified two primary outcomes-save lives and prevent injuries-
and three intermediate outcomes-reduce the occurrence of crashes, reduce
the consequences of crashes, and serve the agency’s customers. NBTSA has
provided us with information from its draft budget that indicates the
relationships of its 31 programs to one or more of the outcomes and shows
the performance measures for each program. (See tables L6 and I.7 in enc.

The three agencies’goals and measures vary in speciiicity; FTA’s are the
broadest, FBWA’s are somewhat program-specific, and NHTSA’s are the most
progmm-specifk      FfA’s goak and measures are at a high level of aggregation
and reflect broad outcomes. For example, FlYA’s goal to improve mobility
and accessibility to transit systems is supported by the outcome to maintain,
improve, and expand the nation’s transit infrastructure. This outcome, in

3                        GAOfECED-9S-34E   Missions,   Goails, and Measnres   at E’EWA, FM,   & ?J’EIQSA
B-278504                                                       . -
turn, is measured by the average age of bus and rail fleets and the condition
of bus and rail facilities. The outcomes and measures-provide little
information to indicate how the specific programs support the goals. The
agency is developing a strategic plan that may provide this link.
Furthermore, it is di.fficult to determine whether ETA will have the
information needed to determine whether outcomes have been achieved.
Although FTA has developed measures for 8 of its 18 outcomes, some of the
measures do not adequately measure the outcome. For example, FfA’s
outcome to “reduce the true economic cost of transportation taking into
account the quality of the transit service” is measured by the condition of
transit bus and rail facilities, the average age of bus and rail fleets, and the
cost per passenger mile. These measures do not address important aspects
of the quality of service, such as service frequency and reliability.

According to FTA officials, the agency has chosen a high level of aggregation
for its outcomes and measures because of the nature of its programs. In
general, the funds for FI’A’s major programs are used for a similar purpose-
to improve transit service-by the same grantees. In their option, it is not
possible to distinguish changes in outcomes by the source of funds used. $I
addition, FI’A told us it is in the process of developing measures for all of its
outcomes. By the time the fiscal year 1999 budget is submitted to the
Congress in early 1998, FI’A expects to have developed measures or
identified data needed for all of the outcomes. Finally, FTA told us that it is
developing additional measures for quality of service, such as the amount of
transit service provided at high frequencies, the speed of transit service, and
a measure of service reliability.

FHWA’s strategic gods and measures are at a similarly high level of
aggregation, but the agency has a second level of more specific program
goals and measures. Each strategic goal has one or two broad outcome goals
and measures associated with it For example, FEWA’s mobility goal has an
associated outcome to preserve and enhance highway infrastructure with
emphasis on the National Highway System. This outcome will be measured
by the percentage of miles of pavement in the National Highway System that
have poor ride qualiIy, the percentage of bridges on the National Highway
System that are structurally or functionally deficient, and the percentage of

4                       GAO/WED-98443   Missions,   Goals, and Measnres   at FB’WA, FM,   & NETSA
 B-278504                                                       _

all bridges that are structurally or functionally de5zient.l In addition to this
broad focus, FHWA has a second tier of program goals and over 50 measures.
The program measures include many that are results-oriented and some that
are process-oriented. For the most part, the process-oriented measures refer
to specific programs. For example, to address FHWA’s goal to protect and
enhance the natural environment and the communities affected by highway
transportation, the federal-aid program plans to measure progress by issuing
new guidance on the National Environmental Policy Act. It is unclear how
the guidance will help to measure progress toward achieving the goal.
According to F’HWA, issuing the new guidance wiu eventually help the agency
to achieve its goal to protect and enhance the natural envknment and the
conununities affected by highway transportation.

We have several additional observations about FHWA’s goals and measures:

- The goals of F’HWAk federal lands program could better support the
  agency’s strategic goals. The federal-aid program and the federal lands
  program both fund highway and bridge construction Although both
  programs undertake similar activities, the goals of the federal-aid program
  support all five strategic goals, while the goals of the federal lands
  program support only one strategic goal.

- It will be diBicult to determine if some program goals have been met
  because they are not directly measured. For example, a goal of the
  federal-aid program is to quickly restore service on damaged highway
  facilities following an emergency or natural disaster. Measures for this
  goal are (1) state and local officials’ satisfaction with the FHWA
  emergency relief program, (2) a reduction in the number of days required
  to process emergency relief requests, and (3) the number of states using
  streamlined contracting techniques to advance permanent repair projects.
  FHWA does not include a more direct measure of the amount of time to
  restore service. According to F’HWA, it does not use a more direct
  measure because such a measure would impose additional burdens on
  state agencies to collect such information.

‘A structurally deficient bridge is one that (1) has been restricted to light
vehicles only, (2) is closed, or (3) requires immediate rehabilitation to remain
open. A functionally deficient bridge is one on which the deck geometry,
load-carrykg capacity, clearance, or approach roadway alignment no longer
meets the usual criteria for the highway system of which it is an integral part

.5                      GAomzED-98-3m   Missions,   Gods,and   Measures   ZitETlW&ETB,%NRTSA
B-278504                                                          -

Among the three agencies, NJJTSA has developed the most program-specik
goals and measures. NHT§A also has the most experience in measuring
performance. NHTSA was designated a pilot program under the Results .Act
in 1994, and its goals and measures predate the Department-wide goals and
the more recent goals and measures developed by FBWA and FIX NHTSA
has developed goals, outcomes, and measures at several levels. As we
mentioned, at the agency level, NHTSA has idenaed two primary outcomes
and three intermediate outcomes, each with associated measures. NHTSA’s
31 programs also have measures.

We have several additional observations about NHTSA’s goals, outcomes, and

- The agency’s goals, outcomes, and measures reflect a combination of
  results orientation and process orientation. For example, the goal to
  mitigate the consequences of motor vehicle crashes is results-oriented,
  while the goal to improve the agency’s internal processes, management,
  and structure is oriented more toward activities to achieve desired
  outcomes. NHTSA plans to revise its strategic plan early in 5sca.l year
  1998 to make its goals more results-oriented and to more closely reflect
  the Department’s strategic goals.

- Although many of its program measures focus on program activities,
  NHTSA’s draft budget documents clearly explain the relationships among
  program measures and the agency’s outcomes. For example, to measure
  performance in its program of rulemaJ&tg support for safety performance
  standards, NHTSA uses the average time to complete rulemaking actions
  and the percentage of petitions for rulemaking answered within 120 days.
  According to NJJTSA,the activities that are being measured lead to
  completing rulemaking actions in the minimum period of time, which leads
  to earlier implementation of safety improvements in production vehicles,
  which leads to greater cumulative reductions in deaths and injuries.


We provided copies of a draft of this report to DOT for review and comment.
We met with a special assistant to the Deputy Secretasy, the team leader for
Strategic Planning, FHWA; the Director, Office of Strategic Planning and
Program Review, FI’I1; the Director, Policy Development, IT’.& and the chief
for the Strategic Planning Division, NHTSA, who generally agreed with the
information presented in the draft. Overall, they agreed that the report
showed that F’HWA, FM, and NETSA are aligning their missions, goals,

6                     GAOIBCED-98-34R   Missions,   Goals, and Measures   at FERVA, FN,   & NiTHA
B-278504                                                     -

indicators, and measures with DOT’s strategic plan. They emphasized,
however, that the performance information presented-in this report indicates
the status at one point in time and that the agencies are continuing to’refine
and develop the mformation. We clariEed the report to reflect this comment.
In addition, we have incorporated other technical comments and
clarifications where appropriate.

We conducted our work thorn May through November 1997 using generally
accepted government auditing standards. We are sending copies of this
report to the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives; the Ranking
Minority Member of the House Committee on Transportation and
In&&ructure; the Secretary of Transportation; and the Director, OMB. We
wiu make copies available to others on request.

Please call me at (202) 512-2834 if you or your staff have any questions about
this report. Major contributors to this report are Janet Barbee, Sharon Dyer,
Teresa Spisak, and John Thomson.

Phyllis F. Scheinberg
Associate Director, Transportation Issues


7                     GAO&ZED3M4lZ   Missions,   Goals, and Measures   at F’HWA, FL4,   % NETSA


                                         .- .

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