Results Act

Observations on EPA's Draft Strategic Plan Gao ID: RCED-97-209R July 30, 1997

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the draft strategic plan submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as required by the Government Performance and Results Act.

GAO noted that: (1) EPA's draft strategic plan does not yet contain all the elements required by the Results Act; (2) the draft plan provides a mission statement, general goals and objectives, approaches and strategies, and an identification of key external factors; (3) it communicates the agency's planned activities, and its goals and objectives are generally results oriented and measurable; (4) the draft plan does not include two of the elements required by the Results Act: (a) the relationship between the goals and objectives and the annual performance goals; and (b) program evaluations used to develop the plan and a schedule for future evaluations; (5) on the basis of its review of relevant legislation, GAO believes that the: (a) activities defined in EPA's draft plan are supported by legislation; (b) draft plan reflects EPA's major legislative requirements; and (c) linkages that EPA provides between goals, objectives, and strategies and potential statutory authorities help the reader to understand the plan; (6) EPA's draft plan does not discuss interagency coordination for crosscutting programs, activities, or functions that are similar to those of other federal agencies; (7) EPA's draft strategic plan recognizes major management challenges that GAO has previously identified and discusses the agency's plans to act on them but provides limited details on how these long-standing problems will be resolved; (8) these challenges include setting priorities, making effective use of nonregulatory approaches to supplement traditional "command and control" regulations, improving working relationships with the states, and ensuring the quality and completeness of the scientific research on which the agency bases it decisions; (9) EPA is currently developing an agencywide information system to track performance and report on results; (10) however, this system will depend on data from various other systems and sources that currently do not provide the reliable information that EPA needs for measuring results; (11) effort is still needed to identify, develop, and reach agreement on a comprehensive set of performance measures for the agency; (12) particularly needed are additional environmental measures or indicators to link EPA's activities to changes in health and environmental conditions; and (13) EPA needs to improve its financial data by correcting internal control weaknesses that have been identified by the agency's Office of the Inspector General.

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