The Results Act

Observations on VA's August 1997 Draft Strategic Plan Gao ID: T-HEHS-97-215 September 18, 1997

The Government Performance and Results Act requires federal agencies to clearly define their missions, set goals, measure performance, and report on their accomplishments. One of the act's major milestones--submission to Congress of strategic plans that define agency missions and set goals--is set to take place on September 30, 1997. With a fiscal year 1996 budget of more than $38 billion, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a host of benefits to the nation's veterans, ranging from medical care to home loans to burial assistance. This testimony discusses VA's progress in developing its strategic plan and the challenges the agency faces in implementing the Results Act.

GAO noted that: (1) VA has made substantial progress in its strategic planning, based in part on consultations with the Congress; (2) however, as with many other agencies, VA's process of developing a plan that meets the requirements of the Results Act is an evolving one that will continue well after the September 30, 1997, deadline for submitting its first strategic plan to the Congress and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); (3) the August 15, 1997, draft that VA submitted to OMB for review is an improvement over the June 1997 version, because it is easier to follow, places more emphasis on results and less on process, and fills in some major gaps in the June 1997 draft; (4) however, the latest draft strategic plan continues to lack some of the key elements expected under the Results Act; and (5) as with the June 1997 draft, the August 15, 1997, draft lacks results-oriented goals for several major VA programs, lacks a program evaluation schedule, and contains inadequately developed discussions of external factors and the need to coordinate with other federal agencies.

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