Most Recent Action
In addition to proposing the first balanced budget in 30 years, the President's Fiscal Year 1999 budget request is also the first to include agency performance plans as required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). The National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) is conducting an evaluation of scientific agencies' strategic and performance plans. In a workshop help on April 16, COSEPUP members heard from agency representatives about their fi rst experiences working with GPRA. A summary of that workshop and addition GPRA information is available on the AGI website. The House Resources Committee held a hearing on Department of Interior complian ce with GPRA on April 22.
Many agencies have posted their strategic plans on the web to facilitate public comments. Because the performance plans were tied to the budget, the process for developing them was not as open. Some agencies, however, such as the National Science Found ation, have recently added their performance plans to the website to gain additional feedback. Please visit the following websites to learn more about each agency's actions regarding GPRA:
Members of Congress have found several ways to use the Government Performance and Results Act to hold federal agencies more accountable for achieving results. In early November, House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) issued a "report card" on how well the agencies' recently submitted strategic plans fared. According to Armey, nobody did better than a C and all but five failed with scores ranging from 75 to 28 out of 100. The National Science Foundation and NASA were two of the five that passed, wherea s the Departments of the Interior and Commerce (the latter a favorite target in Congress for elimination) were at the bottom of the list. The grades were based on such factors as mission statement, general goals and objectives, strategies to achieve those goals, program evaluations, coordination of cross-cutting functions, and congressional and stakeholder consultations.
In related news, Science Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., along with several other authorizing and appropriations committee heads, sent letters to the Administration requesting agencies link next year's budget requests to the agencies' p rimary goals as part of their responsibilities under the Government Performance and Results Act.
"Federal agencies must clearly define their objectives when asking the American taxpayer to foot the bill for federal programs," said Sensenbrenner.
The Chairman highlighted a section in the Department of Education's strategic plan as an example for agencies to follow. The plan directly links each budgetary program activity with each strategic goal of the department. The Members said they expected to see the linkage as either an addendum to the agencies' strategic plans which were submitted on September 30, 1997, or as part of the President's budget submission early next year.
The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) became Public Law 103-62 on August 3, 1993. The purpose of GPRA is to evaluate and give more direction to federal agencies, holding them a ccountable to Congress and the public for achieving results. Each agency must develop a long-term strategic plan with multiyear goals and objectives. Annual Performance Plans with performance measures and targets and expected outcomes are also required al ong with Performance Reports that compare actual performance to the performance projected in the Annual Performance Plan. These plans are the "tools" of GPRA that allow each federal agency to set priorities. The head of each agency is required to submit t o the Office of Management and Budget and to Congress a strategic plan for all program activities no later than September 30, 1997. Additional information is available from an article that appeared in The Professional Geologist, a publication of the American Institute of Professional Geologists.
GPRA mandates that each agency consult with Congress during the development of the strategic plan. The purpose of the July 17, 1997 House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power ove rsight hearing on compliance with GPRA was to evaluate how far the Bureau of Reclamation, the USGS, and the Department of Energy have come in meeting the requirements of GPRA. The July 30, 1997 House Science Committee hearing was to evaluate how far NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy have come in meeting the r equirements of GPRA.
House Subcommittee on Water and Power Resources Hearing
July 17, 1997
Chairman John Doolittle (R-CA)
After an hour and a half delay, Chairman John Doolittle (R-CA), the only committee member present, opened the hearing. Doolittle saw GPRA as the most practical means to bring federal agencies to order. In his view, GPRA is different from other performance acts because it allows the agencies and Congress to work with the public to develop plans that will help guide the agencies. Doolittle went on to say that GPRA identifies overlaps between agencies and helps rid the agencies of inefficient practices. The government should be beneficial to the public and not become a hindrance that is weighed down by numerous overlaps and inefficiencies. Doolittle stressed that agencies should compare strategic plans to identify overlaps: "There are too many agencies doing the same stuff." By complying with GPRA, agencies can save money and make the government more responsive.
Doolittle admonished the Bureau of Reclamation for not submitting a strategic plan in a more timely fashion. He criticized the Department of Energy for allotting the Power Marketing Administrations, groups that market electricity, one paragraph in the strategic plan, stating that this was "unacceptable" to the Subcommittee. The USGS strategic plan, which was submitted in May, covered the bases but needed some adjustments.
Ms. Susan D. Kladiva, Acting Associate Director, Energy Resources and Science Issues, U.S. General Accounting Office
The Honorable Eluid L. Martinez, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation
Dr. Gordon P. Eaton, Director, United States Geological Survey
Dr. Robert L. San Martin, Executive Director, Energy and Resources Board, The Department of Energy
Dr. Robert L. San Martin began his testimony by addressing one of the concerns brought up in the U.S. General Accounting Office report concerning aspects of the draft strategic plans. The GAO report criticized the DOE for not addressing more of the st rategic plan to the role of the Power Marketing Administrations (PMA) . According to San Martin, GPRA does not require each individual PMA to submit strategic plans, but rather to be included in the full agency strategic plan. The department-wide plan was not intended to go into specific detail. Despite the fact that GPRA does not require individual plans for each PMA, San Martin testified that DOE and the PMAs have been outlining strategic plans for years. DOE plans to submit the final strategic plan on September 30, 1997 and is currently seeking comment from Congress, Cabinet agencies, stockholder groups and the public.
Questions and answers
Chairman John Doolittle (R-CA) wanted some clarification. His understanding was that the PMAs had not done anything with respect to GPRA until they were contacted by this Subcommittee. According to Dr. San Martin, the PMA's have had practice with strategi c plans, and DOE began developing strategic plans several years ago. San Martin believed that all actions were done "in the spirit of GPRA." Doolittle continued to question San Martin about the timing of the development of strategic plans by the PMA's and requested written documentation as to exactly when the PMA's began developing strategic plans. According to San Martin, approximately 20+% of DOI's employees are part of PMA's. Doolittle was curious as to the reason why that when over 20% of the DOI's em ployees fall under the PMA's, only a few sentences pertaining to the PMA's was included in DOI's strategic plan. Dr. San Martin responded with the claim that the PMA's are very much like businesses and therefore are more fully covered in the corporate bus iness plan. Doolittle was not satisfied and stressed the need to see more information concerning the PMA's in the final strategic plan.
Ms. Susan D. Kladiva stated that although all of the agencies have made progress towards improving their strategic plans, the draft plans do not provide complete information to Congress. None of the plans adequately identified overlapping and cr oss-cutting groups. An example provided was the overlap between the PMAs that market the electricity and the Bureau of Reclamation and Corps of Engineers that generate the electricity. Kladiva found Energy's draft deficient in its mention of the PMAs, esp ecially considering their important role of marketing electricity. Three key areas of the Department of Interior's plan that Kladiva identified as needing further work include; the mission of the Bureau of Reclamation, cross-cutting between subagencies of the DOI and the financial and reporting systems. The Subcommittee and the Bureau of Reclamation differ in their views of what is the mission of the Bureau. The Bureau has been moving away from developing water resources to managing water resources. Kladi va found cross-cutting relationships between the USGS, EPA and other subagencies of the DOI in the similar types of water issues they each address. Finally, Kladiva stated that the financial and reporting systems need improvement.
The Honorable Eluid L. Martinez began his testimony by stating that GPRA provides the Bureau of Reclamation a chance to "reexamine the role of the Federal government in meeting contemporary water needs in the west." The Bureau's strategic plan i dentifies its goals to improve the management of water, develop water supply initiatives and promote conservation practices. Martinez noted that the Bureau's strategic plan has been available for comment since its availability was announced in the April 1 7, 1997 Federal Register. Many meetings regarding the plan were held including six in Washington D.C. Martinez emphasized that the Bureau of Reclamation began developing strategic plans in the 1980s, well before the implementation of GPRA.
Dr. Gordon P. Eaton of the USGS stated that in June 1996, the USGS concluded an 18 month strategic planning study. The USGS continued its effort so that it would meet GPRA requirements and include the merger of the National Biological Service wi th the USGS. The draft plan was presented to the GAO in February 1997 and has been updated as of June 1997. Eaton told the Committee that it is a challenge for the USGS to develop measures to weigh annual progress considering that many studies conducted b y the USGS take from five to 20 years to produce results. He concluded with the hope of gaining some constructive comments from the Subcommittee in order to have a final plan ready to submit to the GAO by September 30.
Questions and answers
Chairman John Doolittle (R-CA) began by voicing his disappointment in the failure by all the agencies to identify activities that cross-cut and are similar to actions in other agencies. He wanted comments from all representatives regarding this failure. M s. Kladiva found that all the agencies were "thinking of themselves and not how to relate to each other." The GAO was looking for more than just making each plan available. They wanted the agencies to meet with each other to discuss the overlaps and cross -cutting. Mr. Martinez stated that as far as he understood, GPRA did not require that the agencies meet but he felt this was an important part of the process nonetheless. Martinez concluded that although several agencies do the same types of things, it wo uld be hard to reach a common goal because each agency has different missions despite common interests. Kladiva corrected Mr. Martinez's belief that GPRA did not require the agencies to meet. She stated that one of the six required elements needed to comp ly with GPRA is to meet with external agencies.
Chairman Doolittle questioned whether Congress should create legislation to solve some of the duplicates or whether the legislation needed clarification. Dr. Eaton agreed that there needed to be some clarification. "The instructions in GPRA are not exp licit enough." Ms. Kladiva stressed that the point was not just that the agencies needed to talk but that they needed to reach agreements on goals. "The agencies need to go beyond day to day operational coordination." Dr. Eaton stated that coordination is already ongoing.
Chairman Doolittle concluded by telling all the agency representatives present that in order to carry out the intent of GPRA, the agencies must meet and coordinate with each other's strategic plans to identify conflicts and overlaps. All agency represe ntatives present agreed that this needed to be done and was a reasonable request. Doolittle also requested that the Bureau of Reclamation identify which statutes infer authority with respect to the goals and objectives in the strategic plan. He saw this a s a way to help Congress make sure the Bureau is "doing what you're supposed to do." Mr. Martinez agreed to address this issue to his staff but warned Chairman Doolittle that this could prove difficult considering that the Bureau has 14,000 pages of laws, many of which are project specific. Chairman Doolittle encouraged the agencies to keep Congress informed and report any problems so changes could be made if needed.
House Science Committee Hearing
July 30, 1997
Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
Ranking Member George Brown (D-CA)
Robert Cramer (D-AL)
Constance Morella (R-MD)
Merrill Cook (R-UT)
Ellen Tauscher (D-CA)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)
Tim Roemer (D-IN)
Kevin Brady (R-TX)
Gil Gutknecht (R-MN)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Bill Luther (D-MN)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Pete Sessions (R-TX)
Lynn Rivers (D-MI)
David Weldon (R-FL)
Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) opened the hearing by stating that he believes that the "Results Act will bring a more efficient, effective and accountable Federal government." To meet the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act, fe deral agencies must provide to Congress a five year strategic plan due this September, Annual Performance Plans to be presented to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) starting in February and Annual Performance Reports due each year. Sensenbrenner called the submission of each agency's strategic plan to Congress, "the first milestone" in implementing the Results Act. He went on to say that while many of the agencies may find the process "intrusive," Sensenbrenner sees it as an opportunity to "improve management and accountability of Federal programs." He expressed his disappointment with recent OMB actions. According to Sensenbrenner, OMB refused to testify at the hearing and has reportedly said tha t some of the strategic plans are "good enough." Sensenbrenner said that while the Agencies are to be commended for their hard work in preparing the plans, all of the plans are missing required elements or the completed elements are insufficient. The requ irement that received the least amount of attention in all the drafts, according to Sensenbrenner, was crosscutting activity, which he said is especially important in science agencies. Sensenbrenner concluded by saying that in research, "overlap can be pr oductive and beneficial or it can be duplicative and wasteful" and the strategic plans must address overlap and collaboration.
Ms. Susan Kladiva, Acting Associate Director, Energy Resources and Science Issues, U.S. General Accounting Office
Mr. Alan Ladwig, Associate Administrator for Policy and Plans, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Ms. Diana H. Josephson, Deputy Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Dr. Joe Bordogna, Acting Deputy Director, National Science Foundation
Mr. Marc Chupka, Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, U.S. Department of Energy
Ms. Susan Kladiva began by stressing that close coordination between agencies is essential to preventing waste of funds and ineffectiveness. Only one of the strategic plans contained all six elements that are required by GPRA, and in this case some of the completed elements were insufficient. Kladiva's biggest complaint was that while the goals and objectives outlined by the plans were results-oriented, it was unclear in all of the plans how the goals were to be measured. Another problem GAO found with all of the plans, was that none included summaries of consultation efforts with other agencies concerning crosscutting activities. Kladiva used ozone study as an example, stating that NSF, NOAA, DOE and NASA all have activities addressing ozone but n o indication in their respective strategic plans that these agencies coordinate activities to maximize research and results and reduce redundancies. Kladiva concluded by saying that the agencies need to coordinate, not at the program level but at the seni or management level to "ensure consistency of program objectives among agencies" and that such coordination activities should be a part of the final drafts.
Mr. Alan Ladwig of NASA stated that the process of developing a strategic plan has led to management improvements and he believes that NASA will be in full compliance with GPRA when the final plan is submitted. NASA will continue to meet with Co ngress, GAO, OMB and the public to ensure compliance. According to Ladwig, the strategic plan is based on a framework of customer-focused "Strategic Enterprises," which are Mission to Planet Earth, Space Science, Human Exploration and Development of Space , and Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology. He went on to say that in the next stage of the process, NASA intends to focus on methods to ensure that progress is made in implementing the actions to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic pla n.
Ms. Diana Josephson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began by discussing NOAA's mission to "describe and predict changes in the Earth's environment, and conserve and manage the Nation's coastal and marine resources to ensur e sustainable economic opportunities." The NOAA plan is divided into two main goals: Environmental Assessment and Prediction, and Environmental Stewardship. These goals are further broken down to included seven priorities.
Josephson continued by explaining that seven intra-agency Strategic Planning Teams were created to address each of the goals and two workshops were held to get stakeholder input. She emphasized the challenges facing NOAA in developing a strategic plan, especially when assessing performance in research areas where it is difficult to measure progress quantitatively. Josephson concluded by identifying areas that NOAA will further address, which include increased use of interagency and external partnership s and expanded coordination with other Department of Commerce bureaus. The NOAA Strategic Plan is available on theNOAA home page .
Dr. Joe Bordogna of the National Science Foundation stated that GPRA is a tool for "continuing to improve the already high returns on public investments in science and engineering research and education." He went on to discuss the four "prioriti es" of NSF, those being:
Bordogna explained that there are many challenges to face in order to comply with GPRA. The most difficult being the ability to measure progress towards NSF's four goals. Bordogna quoted from a GAO report entitled Measuring Performance: Strength and Limitations of Research Indicators, which stated that "the very nature of the innovative process makes measuring the performance of science-related projects difficult." He concluded by saying that "the steepest parts of the learning curve may yet lie ahead," and NSF will have to use a variety of creative techniques to measure program performance. NSF expects that further coordination between federal agencies will develop as the implementation process continues.
Mr. Marc Chupka of DOE began by explaining that DOE began implementation immediately after GPRA was enacted and thus has had four years of experience in strategic planning. DOE established a Strategic Management System (SMS) last year as a means of integrating GPRA requirements into daily management. Chupka went on to discuss the four "business lines" in which the DOE's programs are grouped: Energy Resources, National Security, Environmental Quality, and Science and Technology. DOE has solicited comments from employees and contractors, the Office of Management and Budget, other federal agencies and DOE's authorizing and appropriation committee. Chupka concluded by telling the Committee that a second draft plan would be available on August 1, 199 7 and the final draft would be submitted to OMB on August 15.
Questions and Answers
Chairman Sensenbrenner (R-WI) began the first round of questioning by addressing NASA's strategic plan and its deficiencies. Sensenbrenner's biggest concerns were that the plan did not describe a program evaluation system and did not address coordination activities with other agencies. Mr. Ladwig replied that the August draft would meet these deficiencies. Sensenbrenner expressed similar concerns with respect to NOAA's plan, saying that there were no ties between goals and performance measures, no descrip tion of how NOAA intends to reach its outlined goals, and no indication of coordination with other agencies. Ms. Josephson assured Sensenbrenner that an updated draft would be available in mid-August and that the plan would address all the deficiencies he had described.
Ranking Member Brown (D-CA) questioned the discussion in the NSF plan concerning a diverse workforce. Brown wanted an explanation as to how NSF was going to measure its accomplishments and whether NSF personnel meets the standards of a diverse work for ce. Mr. Bordogna agreed to provide Brown with statistics on the diversity of the NSF work force. Brown stated that NSF has a responsibility to ensure diversity in graduate education to include such underrepresented groups as African Americans and Hispanic Americans. Bordogna stated that through GPRA, NSF will be looking at graduate programs and how to make them more attractive to all Americans.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) stressed the need to create a win-win situation for tax payers and expressed his disappointment that NASA did not include a discussion of contract management in its draft plan when, according to Brady, 85-90 percent of NASA's go ods and services are purchased by contract. Ladwig explained that contract management was not included because it was felt that such a discussion would be getting into a level of detail that was inappropriate for an overall mission plan but he assured Rep . Brady that subsequent reports would specifically address the issue.
Rep. Constance Morella (R-MD) asked Ms. Kladiva to define crosscutting. Crosscutting, according to Kladiva, is a term that refers to overlapping, duplication, same processes, and all activities addressed to meeting some national need as defined in the budget. She went on to say that agencies have a shared responsibility to identify and address crosscutting. Morella expressed her concern that OMB needs to take a more aggressive role and suggested that senior level OMB management as well as senior level agency management work together to identify and address crosscutting. Morella asked Dr. Bordogna to comment on how NSF has been working with other agencies to define goals and performance measures. Bordogna said that NSF is involved in every science excep t medicine and therefore is involved daily with other agencies.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) wanted some information regarding how NASA is trying to reduce the cost of going to space. Ladwig said that this information will be provided in the Strategic Enterprise Plan, which is still in the works and will not be com pleted until the overall strategic plan is approved. Rohrabacher went on to discuss NASA's goal to send man to Mars. Ladwig responded that in the draft plan on page eight and nine under the "Strategic Roadmap to the Future," the goal of going to other space bodies is mentioned but at this point putting a human on Mars is not directed by U.S. Space Policy but that NASA can work on how to accomplish this goal. Rohrabacher asked if sending a man to Mars was a goal or not. Ladwig responded that it was a long-term goal but one that NASA was not currently addressing. Rohrabacher continued by stating that one would think that NASA would want authorization to do this, a statement wit h which Ladwig agreed.
Rep. David Weldon (R-FL) asked Mr. Ladwig if NASA had received any opinions from the Senate authorizing committee. According to Ladwig a meeting has occurred but to date, there has been no formal response. Weldon wanted comment on the extent of any int ernational talks NASA has had regarding its strategic plan. Ladwig replied that the process began with the NASA team, then moved to discussions with stakeholders and other agencies and after these talks are completed, NASA will move to the international l evel. Weldon asked for an explanation as to how the Origins Program fits into the strategic plan. Ladwig explained that the Origins Program is a part of the Space Science Enterprise and that NASA has a good plan addressing the Program. Weldon asked Ladwig to comment on why this strategic plan would be a better management tool than the previous plans done by NASA. Ladwig called strategic plans done before GPRA, "wish lists," where there was no interaction with Con gress or the Administration.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) presented an example to demonstrate how strategic plans need to better discuss the resources necessary to accomplish the goals. Sessions had a chart that showed the six different agencies (DOE, Dept. of Defense, Dept. of Agric ulture, Dept. of Health and Human Services, NSF, and Dept. of Veterans Affairs) involved in breast cancer research. His question to the panel focused on who should have the responsibility to make sure interaction between all of these agencies occurred. Ms . Kladiva said that GAO issued a report in June that commented on crosscutting but GAO has not specifically said who should be responsible. OMB maintains that agencies should share the responsibility. Kladiva considers OMB to be the logical entity to take responsibility and stressed the need to have sustained leadership to examine crosscutting coordination.
Rep. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) asked the panel to comment on how GPRA addresses the need for basic research. Bordogna responded that it was almost impossible to assess the value of research unless you judge the researcher. He went on to say that NSF has a process that evaluates results. Stabenow asked the panel if they had any advice to give Congress regarding how to improve GPRA and its evaluation of science agencies. Bordogna said that the law allows alternatives when applying GPRA but that it will take time to invent these alternatives.
Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-MI) commented on GAO testimony that indicated the need for NASA to expand its coverage of external factors in the strategic plan. Rivers found NASA's coverage to be fairly complete and asked Ms. Kladiva what NASA could do to enhance its coverage of external factors. Kladiva said that NASA presented many assumptions and GAO was concerned that these assumptions were not related to specific goals. She went on to say that NASA, as well as all the other agencies, needs to address how the goal is effected if the assumptions do not occur.
Chairman Sensenbrenner concluded the hearing by expressing his disappointment that an Administration that has had four years to address a plan that was introduced by the Vice President has not come further along. He gave some encouragement by saying th at the four agencies present were doing better than other executive agencies but went on to say that the fours years would be up in September and many of the agencies still had "huge holes" to fill in order to comply. Sensenbrenner said it was critical to "dispel the anti-government feeling" by showing Americans where their tax dollars are going.
House Resources Committee hearing on Dept. of the Interior Compliance with GPRA
April 22, 1998
The House Resources Committee appropriately held an oversight hearing on the Department of the Interior's (DOI) compliance with GPRA on Earth Day, April 22, 1998. The fact that the USGS was not mentioned during the hearing was good news for geoscientis ts, as most of the questions and criticisms focused on the immense DOI plan as a whole or the activities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Rep. Jim Hansen (R-Utah) said Interior has shown an "inadequate" response to GPRA and its annual performance plan sho ws little coordination among the agencies. "If Interior's plan doesn't pass muster, I support using Congress' power over their purse strings to hold them accountable for their performance, or lack thereof," he said. Rep. Bruce Vento (D-Minn.), on the othe r hand, said Congress "must be reasonable" in its expectations since "a lot of this is dependent upon our ability to predict the future."
Barry Hill, GAO associate director of energy, resources and science issues, reported that, overall, Interior "made a good faith effort" in developing its performance plan. But some changes are in order, such as making the plan more "user-friendly" and focused, he said. The approach the department took appears to have come from the bottom-up, instead of from the top-down, which would have offered agencies more guidance, Hill said.
John Berry, assistant secretary of Interior for policy, management and budget, said he is "proud" of the department's approach, saying it involved more than 1,000 hearings with officials, employees and the public, and seemed the best way to go with eig ht bureaus handling separate duties. Still, "we plan to address many of the issues [GAO] raised in the next versions of our strategic and annual plans," including making the plans more readable and shorter, Berry testified. In addition, the department int ends to improve interagency coordination and include ecosystem restoration plans, such as the Florida Everglades and California Bay-Delta which involve multiple agencies, in future plans, he said.
Sources: Environment & Energy Weekly; House Science Committee website
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by Catherine Runden, David Applegate, and Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs
Last updated April 24, 1998
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