Major Management Challenges and Program Risks

A Governmentwide Perspective Gao ID: OCG-99-1 January 1, 1999

This publication is part of GAO's performance and accountability series which provides a comprehensive assessment of government management, particularly the management challenges and program risks confronting federal agencies. Using a "performance-based management" approach, this landmark set of reports focuses on the results of government programs--how they affect the American taxpayer--rather than on the processes of government. This approach integrates thinking about organization, product and service delivery, use of technology, and human capital practices into every decision about the results that the government hopes to achieve. The series includes an overview volume discussing governmentwide management issues and 20 individual reports on the challenges facing specific cabinet departments and independent agencies. The reports take advantage of the wealth of new information made possible by management reform legislation, including audited financial statements for major federal agencies, mandated by the Chief Financial Officers Act, and strategic and performance plans required by the Government Performance and Results Act. In a companion volume to this series, GAO also updates its high-risk list of government operations and programs that are particularly vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.

GAO noted that: (1) many agencies continue to struggle with the basic tenets of performance-based management; (2) challenges for federal agencies include: (a) defining appropriate results-oriented goals and measures; (b) aligning organizations and programs in response to current and emerging demands; (c) rationalizing crosscutting federal program efforts; (d) creating performance-based intergovernmental partnerships; and (e) developing the capability to gather and use program performance information to make decisions; (3) the federal government's performance has been limited by a failure to manage on the basis of a clear understanding of the results that agencies are to achieve and how performance will be gauged; (4) agencies' effectiveness has been undermined by outmoded organizational and program structures; (5) organizational issues also are of concern in program areas where responsibilities are shared among two or more agencies; (6) a challenge for agencies is to ensure that modern information technology management practices are consistently defined and properly implemented; (7) while progress is being made in designing and implementing information technology investment management strategies, current federal practices fall short of the statutory expectations; (8) federal decisionmakers must have reliable and timely performance and financial information to ensure adequate accountability, manage for results, and make timely and well-informed judgments; (9) major challenges must be overcome, both at the agency level and for the U.S. government as a whole in preparing reliable financial statements; (10) human capital planning must be an integral part of an organization's strategic and program planning; (11) while every agency GAO examined has made progress in becoming more performance-based, the pace and degree of that progress has been uneven across agencies; and (12) agencies need to recognize that implementing performance-based management is not a one-time occurrence but must become the routine basis for how agencies do business and respond to current and emerging challenges.

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