Major Management Challenges and Program Risks

Departments of Defense, State, and Veterans Affairs Gao ID: T-NSIAD/HEHS/AIMD-99-104 February 25, 1999

This testimony is based on GAO's Performance and Accountability Series, which contains separate reports on 20 agencies, and its high-risk series -- a list of areas within the federal government that are particularly vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. GAO focuses on (1) management challenge that the Defense Department, the State Department, and the Department of Veterans Affairs must address to improve the efficiency of their support functions and (2) whether these departments are meeting performance and accountability goals and measurements required by the Government Performance and Results Act.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD has implemented a number of departmentwide reform initiatives that are intended to improve some of its processes along with key business practices; (2) despite DOD's military successes, many of DOD's programs and operations are still vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, and need improvement; (3) overcoming these challenges requires DOD to address the underlying causes, such as cultural barriers and service parochialism, that limit opportunities for change; (4) to address these problems, DOD must have an effective overall strategic plan for the agency and all levels of the organization that includes goals, performance measures, and timeframes for completing corrective actions; (5) the Results Act provides the framework for resolving high risk and other problems and for providing greater accountability in DOD's programs and operations; (6) however, DOD has not fully embraced the underlying principles in the Results Act; (7) in GAO's past and ongoing work at State, GAO has identified a number of performance and management challenges State faces in carrying out its mission, such as providing enhanced overseas security, upgrading its information systems, strengthening financial accounting and controls, enhancing controls over the issuance of visas, integrating other foreign affairs agencies' functions into the Department, and improving its strategic and performance planning; (8) State is making progress in addressing these issues; (9) for example, State is now devoting substantial resources to developing a strategy to enhance its information management capacity and security as well as its financial management systems; (10) State has also completed strategic and annual performance plans under the Results Act; (11) however, these plans had their strong points but often fell short on meeting Results Act requirements; (12) VA has made progress in developing a framework for managing and evaluating changes in health care service delivery, as required by the Results Act, however, much more needs to be done to achieve Results Act requirements; and (13) VA must improve its management information to help it ensure that veterans have equitable access to care across the country, that it maintains its capacity to serve special populations, and that it can meet enrolled veterans' demand for care.

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