United States General Accounting Office GAO Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, House of Representatives For Release on Delivery Expected at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, July 29, 1999 VETERANS’ EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING SERVICE Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity Statement of Carlotta C. Joyner, Director of Operations Health, Education, and Human Services Division GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) and its planning activities under the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. The Congress has made it clear that alleviating unemployment and underemployment among veterans is a national responsibility. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs is responsible for most of the nation’s services for veterans, the Department of Labor administers VETS and other programs and activities designed to help veterans obtain employment and training. Recently, policymakers have focused increased attention on VETS and its programs. For example, in January 1999, the Congressional Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance issued a report that raised serious concerns about the performance and effectiveness of VETS’ programs.1 The Commission’s report made a number of recommendations, including that the Congress establish effective operational outcome measures for VETS. The Congress has also been interested in addressing the employment needs of the entire American workforce, including veterans. For example, to streamline the delivery of services of the nation’s workforce development systems, the Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). By establishing one-stop career centers, among other actions, WIA will affect how VETS will serve veterans in the future. My comments today will focus on (1) our observations on VETS’ strategic plan for fiscal years 1999 through 2004 and (2) our observations on VETS’ fiscal year 2000 performance plan. My testimony is based on our review of VETS’ most current strategic plan (revised as of May 1999) and VETS’ fiscal year 2000 annual performance plan, discussions with agency officials about those plans, our review of VETS’ fiscal year 1999 performance plan,2 and our comprehensive 1997 report on VETS’ grant programs.3 In summary, while including each of the basic components required by the Results Act, VETS’ May 1999 revised strategic plan and its fiscal year 2000 1 The Commission, established as part of the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 1996, was directed by the Congress to review programs that provide benefits and services to veterans and service members making the transition to civilian life. Report of the Congressional Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance (Arlington, Va.: Jan. 14, 1999). 2 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Assessment of the Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Plan (GAO/HEHS-98-240R, Sept. 30, 1998). 3 Veterans’ Employment and Training: Services Provided by Labor Department Programs (GAO/HEHS-98-7, Oct. 17, 1997). Page 1 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity performance plan lack vision and clarity and do not clearly identify what the program is to achieve and the direction the agency intends to take. For example, the strategic plan includes a mission statement and associated strategic goals; yet neither are clearly conveyed, making it difficult to understand where VETS is trying to go and how it is planning to get there. Similarly, we found that VETS’ annual performance plan provides only a limited picture of the agency’s intended performance for fiscal year 2000. The planning and communication framework established by the Results Act gives VETS an opportunity to discuss its responsibilities and how it intends to fulfill them, describe areas for improvement, and discuss steps it will take to improve its performance. But VETS has not taken full advantage of this opportunity. Its strategic and performance plans fail to address how it will help shape the way employment services are delivered to veterans and, in particular, how it will adapt to the new employment training environment being created by technological changes and WIA. VETS administers national programs intended to ensure that veterans Background receive priority in employment and training opportunities. VETS assists veterans, reservists, and National Guard members in securing employment and protecting their employment rights and benefits. Services provided are to be consistent with the changing needs of employers and the eligible veteran population, with priority given to disabled veterans and other veterans with significant disadvantages in the labor market. The key elements of VETS’ services include enforcement of veterans’ preference and reemployment rights, employment and training assistance, public information services, interagency liaison, and training for those assisting veterans. VETS’ programs are included among those affected by the recent passage of WIA. In addition, the agency has prepared plans in accordance with the requirements of the Results Act. VETS Programs VETS carries out its responsibilities through a nationwide network that includes representation in each of Labor’s 10 regions and staff in each state. The VETS staff at the state level monitor the operation of VETS’ two primary programs providing employment and training assistance to veterans: the Disabled Veteran’s Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists and the Local Veterans’ Employment Representative (LVER). DVOP and LVER staff, whose positions are federally funded, are part of states’ employment service systems and provide direct employment services to eligible veterans. States’ employment service systems were established by the Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933. Under the act, funds are allocated to each Page 2 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity state to plan and administer a labor exchange program that meets the needs of the states’ employers and job seekers. Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) provides general direction, funding, and oversight of states’ employment service systems. The total fiscal year 1999 appropriation for VETS was about $183 million, including $80 million for DVOP specialists and $77 million for LVER staff. These funds are expected to pay for about 1,400 DVOP positions and 1,300 LVER positions. The appropriation also included about $24 million for administrative costs and $2 million for the National Veterans’ Training Institute, which trains DVOPs, LVERs, and others. LVERs were first authorized under the original GI Bill—the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944; DVOP specialists were established by executive order in 1977 and later authorized by the Veterans’ Rehabilitation and Education Amendments of 1980. The duties of DVOP and LVER staff for serving veterans, as specified by law, include • developing jobs for veterans, • networking in the community for employment and training programs, • providing labor exchange services to veterans, • making referrals to support services, and • providing case management. The DVOP and LVER programs provide employment and training opportunities specifically for veterans, giving priority to the needs of disabled veterans and veterans who served during the Vietnam era (generally August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975). States are expected to give priority to veterans over nonveterans for services in their state employment service systems. In the simplest terms, this means that local employment offices are to offer or provide all services to veterans before offering or providing those services to nonveterans. To monitor the programs, VETS has established and used for several years internal performance standards to determine state compliance with requirements to give employment services to veterans. These standards of performance evaluate states in five service categories: (1) veterans placed in or obtaining employment;4 (2) Vietnam-era veterans and special disabled 4 Labor defines “placed in employment” as the hiring by the employer of veterans referred by a state employment office, and “obtaining employment” as individuals who secure employment within 90 days of receiving services from the state employment offices. Page 3 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity veterans5 placed in jobs on the Federal Contractor Job Listing; (3) veterans counseled; (4) veterans placed in training; and (5) veterans who received some reportable service, such as job referrals. To ensure priority service to veterans, VETS expects veteran applicants to be served at a rate exceeding the service to nonveteran applicants. According to VETS’ internal performance standards, veterans and other eligible people6 should be served at a rate 15-percent higher than nonveterans, Vietnam-era veterans at a rate 20-percent higher, and disabled veterans at a rate 25-percent higher; and the placement rates for special disabled veterans in jobs listed by federal contractors should also be 25-percent higher than the rate for nonveterans. Thus, if a state’s placement rate for nonveterans is 10 percent, the placement rate for veterans should be 11.5, or 15-percent higher than the nonveteran placement rate. In our past reviews of VETS’ programs, we have pointed out that the use of such standards results in states with poor levels of service to nonveterans being held to lower standards for service to veterans than states with better overall performance. In addition, while the first two of the five performance standards are results-oriented, they do not require information about the quality of job placements, such as wages and benefits, or whether jobs are permanent—that is, employment expected to last longer than 150 days. The remaining three standards are activity- and volume-driven and provide states little incentive to focus services on those veterans who are marginally job-ready or are most in need of intensive employability development services. Workforce Investment Act VETS will be affected by WIA, which streamlines the delivery of workforce preparation and employment services. Under the act, each local area will be required to establish, by July 1, 2000, a one-stop career center that includes access to services provided under multiple programs. These one-stop career centers are intended to provide customers convenient access to employment, education, training, and information services that, in the past, have often been provided at separate locations and were based on customer characteristics such as income or employment status. Because DVOP and LVER staff are a part of the employment services, VETS’ current service delivery methods will be affected. In establishing these 5 A special disabled veteran is (1) a veteran who is entitled to compensation (or who, but for the receipt of military retired pay, would be entitled to compensation) under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs for a disability rated at 30 percent or more or (2) a person who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability, as defined in title 38 of the United States Code. 6 Certain nonveterans who are dependents of veterans are also eligible for priority service, as provided for in title 38 of the United States Code. Page 4 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity one-stop centers, some states are adopting universal service delivery approaches that involve assigning a single center staff member to provide services offered under multiple programs to center customers. Because DVOP and LVER staff can only provide assistance to veterans, and because their roles in one-stop centers were not specifically addressed in WIA, it is unclear how they will function with regard to new one-stop career centers. Managing for Results The Results Act seeks to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and public accountability of federal agencies as well as to improve congressional decisionmaking. It aims to do so by promoting a focus on program results and providing the Congress with more objective information on the achievement of statutory goals than was previously available. The act outlines a series of steps whereby agencies are required to identify their goals, measure performance, and report on the degree to which those goals were met. Accordingly, executive branch agencies were required to submit the first of their strategic plans to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congress in September 1997 and their first annual performance plans in the spring of 1998. Agencies have recently submitted their second annual performance plans. Starting in March 2000, each agency is to submit a report comparing its performance for the previous fiscal year with the goals in its annual performance plan. Although not required by the Results Act, Labor’s component agencies, such as VETS, also have prepared strategic and performance plans at the direction of the Secretary of Labor. The Results Act required agencies to submit the first of their strategic plans to the Congress in September 1997. The strategic plans are to provide a long-term view (5 years) of the direction an agency is planning to take. To help delineate this direction, the strategic plans are expected to contain six key elements: (1) a comprehensive agency mission statement, (2) strategic goals and objectives for all major functions and operations, (3) approaches or strategies and the resources needed to achieve the goals and objectives, (4) a description of the relationship between the long-term goals and objectives and the annual performance goals, (5) an identification of key factors external to the agency and beyond its control that could significantly affect the achievement of the strategic goals, and (6) a description of how program evaluations were used to establish or revise strategic goals and a schedule for future program evaluations. The Results Act also required that agencies, building upon the decisions made as part of the strategic planning process, develop annual Page 5 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity performance plans covering each program activity set forth in their budgets. The objective of this requirement was to establish a connection between the long-term strategic goals outlined in the strategic plans and the day-to-day activities of managers and staff. Performance plans are to include annual performance goals linked to the activities displayed in budget presentations as well as the indicators the agency will use to measure performance against the results-oriented goals. Agencies are then to report each year on the extent to which they met these goals, provide an explanation if they did not meet these goals, and present the actions needed to meet any unmet goals. VETS’ May 1999 revised strategic plan included the basic components VETS’ Revised required by the Results Act, but it is not well organized, and important Strategic Plan information included in the plan is not clearly articulated. Such drawbacks Addresses Statutory make it difficult to understand what the agency hopes to achieve over the 5-year period. For example, while the revised plan includes strategies Requirements but intended to achieve goals, many of the strategies presented do not Could Better Convey describe the steps VETS will take and the needed resources and technology. Its Mission and How It Will Be Achieved Comprehensive Mission In its revised plan, VETS includes a mission statement that reflects its major Statement and Strategic statutory responsibilities and presents related strategic goals, which are Goals Need Improvement aligned with Labor’s departmentwide strategic goals.7 However, both its mission statement and its strategic goals could be improved in important ways. While VETS’ mission statement, “to help veterans, reservists, and National Guard members in securing employment, training, and the rights and benefits associated with their military service,” describes its significant statutory responsibilities, the statement itself does not convey the specific outcomes or results associated with accomplishing VETS’ mission. For example, VETS officials recently briefed congressional staff on their revised plan and noted that, among other things, the agency intends to promote the economic security of veterans. Such an outcome—once economic security is further defined—is more results-oriented, and the agency’s mission statement could be improved by incorporating this and other such outcomes. By broadening its mission statement in this way, VETS would better communicate what it hopes to accomplish. VETS could also improve its mission statement by including information that would 7 Labor’s three strategic goals are (1) A Prepared Workforce: Enhance opportunities for America’s workforce, (2) A Secure Workforce: Promote the economic security of workers and families, and (3) Quality Workplaces: Foster quality workplaces that are safe, healthy, and fair. Page 6 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity describe how its mission is different from other agencies with similar missions or activities—that is, what makes VETS’ employment, enforcement, and other activities unique. To help guide the agency toward accomplishing its mission, VETS presents three strategic goals in its plan: 1. Give veterans maximum employment and training opportunities within the workforce. 2. Assist veterans, reservists, and National Guard members so that they do not lose private (non-VA) pension rights or benefits because of military service or required training. 3. Reduce discrimination toward veterans in the workplace arising from military service, service-connected disability, or National Guard and reserve training. In general, VETS’ three strategic goals (1) are not clearly articulated or expressed in a manner that allows for future assessment and (2) are not sufficiently explained so that plan readers can understand VETS’ rationale for developing and pursuing them. For example, with respect to the first strategic goal, the plan does not elaborate on how VETS would measure and quantify maximum opportunities in the workforce. VETS’ second strategic goal—protecting veterans’ private pension rights—appears to be addressing an underlying problem or issue, but it is unclear what the problem is and how prevalent it may be. VETS’ plan does not discuss why the agency has developed this goal, nor does it clearly convey the general course of action VETS is taking to ameliorate the problem. Moreover, this goal does not reflect the importance of the employer population and its role and needed support. If the goal was broadened and stated more positively, for example, “to increase veterans’ awareness and understanding of their nonmilitary pension rights and to increase employers’ understanding and support of these rights,” then the reader might more easily understand what VETS is trying to achieve. Similarly, VETS’ third strategic goal—relating to reducing discrimination toward veterans—while being results-oriented and measurable in some form, is not accompanied by any additional information needed to understand the extent of the problem. An accompanying discussion would Page 7 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity help the reader link the strategic goal to VETS’ mission statement as well as understand the extent of the problem. Discussion on Strategies to For each strategic goal, VETS lists related performance goals and strategies Achieve Goals Is Vague describing how the agency will accomplish its goals. In many cases, however, VETS appears to confuse goals with strategies—that is, it confuses where it wants to go with how it will get there. For example, under its first strategic goal, VETS has a performance goal to “implement a Life Long Learning system to ensure individuals entering military service acquire or develop the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to achieve economic security that eliminates new homelessness or economically disadvantaged veterans.” First, it is not clear whether this responsibility even falls within VETS’ purview; it is also not clear whether this is actually a goal or a means to achieve a goal. In addition, a discussion of VETS’ relationships with other Department of Labor agencies is largely missing from the plan, even though, in some cases, VETS relies on them or could work with them in achieving its goals. For example, ETA provides much of the data VETS needs to measure program performance, but the plan includes little information on how VETS plans to work with ETA to obtain these data. Another Labor agency, the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA), should be a stakeholder and included in VETS’ strategic plan, especially in light of VETS’ strategic goal to ensure veterans’ pension rights. PWBA has oversight responsibilities for the nation’s private pension plans, and we believe that recognition of PWBA’s responsibilities and potential for collaboration should be discussed in the plan. Developing an effective working relationship with PWBA would likely further VETS’ goal of protecting veterans’ private pension rights. Key External Factors That Agencies are required to state in their plans external factors that are May Affect Agency beyond their control, in this way identifying, in advance, possible reasons Performance Are Not it may be difficult to achieve some strategic goals and helping agencies devise approaches for overcoming them. However, the plan does not Clearly Explained clearly explain for many of the factors how they could affect VETS’ ability to meet its goals. In addition, VETS lists as external some factors that are internal and over which the agency has some control. For example, “continuing changes at the state level of the employment delivery system will make it difficult for VETS to effectively predict or plan for specific outcomes for veterans” is described as an external factor beyond the Page 8 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity agency’s control. It would be helpful, however, to acknowledge that these changes are to some extent within the agency’s control, to detail the kinds of changes expected, and to explain what the effects of these changes might be. Because VETS’ own programs are a part of this very delivery system, it is surprising to see such a statement cited in a list of factors beyond agency control. In fact, planning for outcomes while changes continue to occur in the state employment delivery system is critical; we believe this is an area that should be addressed more fully in the plan’s goals and strategies. Purpose of Program VETS’ section on program evaluations—which include assessments of the Evaluations Is Unclear implementation and results of programs, operating policies, and practices—is not clearly presented and does not include a schedule outlining future evaluations. It is difficult to discern from the discussion what VETS is trying to achieve with its evaluations and what it plans to do in the future. For example, VETS states that “to address the issue of job stability or advancement over time, VETS will investigate more efficient ways of collecting baseline data and measuring results over time. By fiscal year 2000, the means to obtain this information, whether through survey or other approach, should be in place to provide the longitudinal information sought.” It would be helpful if the description more clearly addressed what the issue is, what the purpose of the data would be, who would conduct the evaluation, and when it would actually occur. VETS’ fiscal year 2000 performance plan is the agency’s second such plan VETS’ Annual prepared under the Results Act. While the plan shows improvement in Performance Plan some ways over VETS’ first such plan, the fiscal year 2000 plan could still be Could Be Improved improved significantly. Among the plan’s strengths are that its annual performance goals are aligned with the agency’s mission and with Labor’s Significantly departmentwide strategic goals. For example, its annual performance goal of assisting 300,000 veterans to find jobs is aligned with its mission, which includes providing veterans with employment and training assistance. But like VETS’ first performance plan, the fiscal year 2000 plan provides (1) only a limited picture of intended performance across the agency, (2) an incomplete discussion of strategies and resources VETS will use to achieve its goals, and (3) limited confidence that agency performance information will be credible. For example, although the plan indirectly states that VETS’ strategic goals include helping young, minority, and women veterans to get jobs, the plan does not include any annual performance goals related to Page 9 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity this effort. The plan’s major strengths and key weaknesses are the following. Major Strengths: • Agency’s goals are aligned with Labor’s departmentwide goals. • Performance goals are aligned with agency’s mission. Key Weaknesses: • Performance goals are inadequate to ensure progress toward achieving strategic goals. • Performance indicators will not adequately measure progress toward some goals. • Plan provides no or few details concerning strategies for achieving performance goals. • Plan provides limited confidence that performance information will be credible. VETS’ Performance Plan While VETS’ performance plan includes goals designed to address critical Provides a Limited Picture program areas, overall the plan does not give a clear picture of intended of Intended Performance performance across the agency or its programs. VETS’ plan includes seven performance goals that are mission-related and linked to two of VETS’ three Across the Agency strategic goals; in turn, these performance goals are linked to a departmentwide strategic goal. Four of the seven performance goals are intended to track progress toward VETS’ first strategic goal of helping veterans to find jobs. One goal, for example, is to “assist 300,000 veterans to find jobs; 9,000 will be service-connected disabled veterans, and 3,500 will be veterans who are homeless.” The goal, which is linked to VETS’ first strategic goal, is also linked to Labor’s departmentwide strategic goal of enhancing opportunities for America’s workforce. But despite an explanation in the plan that this strategic goal includes helping those veterans with disproportionately high unemployment rates—young, minority, and women veterans in particular—none of the four performance goals aligned with this strategic goal focuses on these veterans. As a result, VETS’ plan does not encourage program performance that leads to achieving this aspect of its strategic goal. Of the plan’s seven goals, the three remaining performance goals are all linked to VETS’ third strategic goal and are, in turn, similarly linked to a departmentwide strategic goal. However, a major plan deficiency is that it does not contain any annual performance goals to track progress toward VETS’ second Page 10 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity strategic goal, thus there is no indication of how VETS will assess its performance of ensuring that private pension rights are protected. While VETS has identified performance measures for each of its performance goals—an improvement from its fiscal year 1999 plan—some of the performance measures will not adequately indicate progress toward achieving VETS’ goals. For example, one performance goal linked to VETS’ third strategic goal is to “increase veteran and federal agency awareness of federal veterans’ preference rights.” VETS plans to measure progress toward meeting this goal by the number of contacts made with federal agencies. While the number of contacts made with federal agencies may be a reasonable measure for indicating the extent of agencies’ awareness, it may not adequately measure any progress toward increasing employees’ own awareness of their rights. In addition, unlike its first plan, VETS’ fiscal year 2000 performance plan does not discuss any of the performance measurement challenges it faces as a result of states’ increasing use of technology. VETS prior plan noted that many job-ready applicants are increasingly able to conduct electronic job searches at state employment service agencies, or remotely via the Internet, without first registering. Without registering users, states and VETS are unable to easily determine the number of veterans who are assisted in finding jobs. While VETS stated in its first plan that it may need to explore alternative performance measures in light of this change, the fiscal year 2000 performance plan does not, nor does the plan include any revised or new performance goals or measures that recognize such challenges. VETS’ Performance Plan Similar to our observations about its first plan, VETS’ fiscal year 2000 plan Provides a Limited (1) gives few or no details on its strategies for achieving VETS’ goals and Discussion of Strategies (2) does not explain how Results Act goals will be integrated with the performance standards VETS has traditionally set for states. As a result, the and Resources the Agency plan does not clearly convey how VETS will achieve its goals. For example, Will Use to Achieve Its throughout its plan, VETS labels several statements as strategies that are Performance Goals not strategies—that is, the operational processes, skills, technology, and resources that it will use to achieve its goals. One such statement is: “The Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program is a grants-to-State program authorized by Section 4103A of Title 38, United States Code.” Obviously, this is not a strategy. In other cases, VETS’ plan contains no discussion of strategies for dealing with significant changes to its operating environment, such as those now under way as a result of WIA. While VETS’ plan acknowledges that one-stop career centers will become much more prevalent during fiscal year 2000, it provides no strategies for dealing with Page 11 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity the potential consequences. One such consequence includes increasing constraints on state agencies’ staffing resources. For example, because one-stop career centers consolidate multiple workforce development programs, including unemployment insurance and employment services, some state agencies are cross-training their staffs to administer multiple programs. However, the statutory provisions do not allow VETS-funded DVOP and LVER staff from performing other than specified duties and serving people other than veterans. VETS’ plan does not discuss such constraints or present any strategies for dealing with them, such as working with the Congress to determine whether legislative or regulatory changes are needed to better serve veterans. In addition, VETS’ fiscal year 2000 plan does not discuss any strategies for integrating or reconciling VETS’ Results Act performance goals with the performance standards it sets for states. The current activity- and volume-driven nature of its state performance standards, in addition to becoming increasingly difficult to measure, may serve as a disincentive for states to assist those veterans who require more intensive services. At the same time, some of VETS’ Results Act performance goals consist of outcomes for hard-to-serve veterans, such as the goal to help 3,500 veterans each year who are homeless find jobs that lead to careers. Without a detailed strategy for addressing how it plans to hold states accountable for meeting multiple and potentially conflicting performance standards and goals, VETS may be unable to realize its own intended outcomes. In some cases, VETS’ fiscal year 2000 plan provides more detailed discussions of strategies VETS plans to pursue to achieve its goals than did its fiscal year 1999 plan. For example, in discussing its fiscal year 2000 budget priorities, VETS describes a strategy of developing a database containing the names of federal contractors and other employers along with other information such as the employers’ standard industrial classification codes, recent hiring activity, and human resource personnel. This strategy, according to the plan, will allow DVOP and LVER staff to better identify potential employers for veterans by, among other things, making it easier to match veterans’ skills to those required by local employers. VETS could improve its performance plan by presenting its other strategies in a similar manner—that is, by providing enough information for readers to understand what the agency plans to do, how it will do it, and how this will help achieve VETS’ goals. Page 12 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity VETS’ Performance Plan Overall, VETS’ fiscal year 2000 performance plan offers little confidence Does Not Promote that the agency’s performance information will be credible, a problem we Confidence That Agency also noted in assessing its fiscal year 1999 plan. According to the performance plan, VETS will largely rely on its state directors for verifying Performance Information and validating performance data. The plan also states that “VETS will utilize Will Be Credible internal control procedures to verify and validate data.” The plan gives no further information, however, that would allow readers to judge whether such procedures are sufficient to ensure that VETS’ data will accurately or reliably measure progress toward achieving performance goals. Additional information, such as a description of the information systems from which VETS will obtain its performance data, as well as clarifying what VETS’ internal control procedures are, would assist plan readers in rendering a judgment. While VETS’ strategic and performance plans address many of the technical Conclusion elements required by the Results Act, the plans fail to address most of the requirements in a clear, comprehensive, and meaningful manner. Thus, instead of presenting a road map of where the agency is headed and how it expects to get there, the plans present a muddled picture of its future direction. In essence, the plans miss the main point of the Results Act, which is to produce clearly identified programmatic results via detailed strategies. As written, the plans do not suggest with any degree of confidence that VETS officials have a coherent end result in mind. In our view, much more work is needed to demonstrate that the programs are being managed for results, thereby enabling the Congress to assess progress and identify areas needing improvement. Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I will be happy to answer any questions that you or other Members of the Subcommittee may have. For future contacts regarding this testimony, please call Cynthia M. GAO Contact and Fagnoni, Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues, at Acknowledgments (202) 512-7215. Individuals who made key contributions to this statement were Sigurd Nilsen, Jeff Appel, Valerie Rogers, and Julie Straus. Page 13 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Page 14 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Page 15 GAO/T-HEHS-99-177 Related GAO Products Agency Performance Plans: Examples of Practices That Can Improve Usefulness to Decisionmakers (GAO/GGD/AIMD-99-69, Feb. 26, 1999). Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Assessment of the Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Plan (GAO/HEHS-98-240R, Sept. 30, 1998). Results Act: Observations on Labor’s Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Plan (GAO/HEHS-98-175R, June 4, 1998). Agencies’ Annual Performance Plans Under the Results Act: An Assessment Guide to Facilitate Congressional Decisionmaking (GAO/GGD/AIMD-10.1.18, Feb. 1998). Managing For Results: Agencies’ Annual Performance Plans Can Help Address Strategic Planning Challenges (GAO/GGD-98-44, Jan. 30, 1998). Veteran’s Employment and Training: Services Provided by Labor Department Programs (GAO/HEHS-98-7, Oct. 17, 1997). Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Focusing on Program Results to Improve Agency Performance (GAO/T-HEHS-97-129, May 7, 1997). Agencies’ Strategic Plans Under GPRA: Key Questions to Facilitate Congressional Review (GAO/GGD-10.1.16, May 1997). 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Veterans' Employment and Training Service: Strategic and Performance Plans Lack Vision and Clarity
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-07-29.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)