Thompson Assesses Performance of Federal Agencies

Washington, DC – Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Fred Thompson (R-TN) testified today before the House Subcommittee on Government Efficiency regarding the status of performance management in the federal government. Thompson categorized performance reports? shortcomings in four different areas: the inability to assess an agency?s performance; the inability to compare programs across government; poor or inadequate data on performance; and an unwillingness among agencies to set goals to resolve long-standing problems in federal programs.

Senator Thompson told the Subcommittee, “While the FY 2000 reports submitted this year show modest improvement over the FY 1999 versions, I think both rounds of performance reports suffer from major shortcomings that prevent them from being nearly as informative and useful as they need to be.” He continued, “Obviously, the Results Act hasn?t come close to reaching its potential as a tool to improve government performance.”

Thompson discussed some specific details about the 2000 Performance Reports, drawing comparisons between good and bad reports, and highlighting several agencies that showed marked improvement. HHS, for instance, reported that FDA made significant progress in getting the public prompt access to safe and effective drugs. Although GAO found performance data was unavailable for most of FDA’s goals last year, this year?s report shows that FDA met or exceeded most of its performance targets. Thompson also singled out the Labor Department for praise, pointing out that this year’s report shows significant progress in transitioning individuals from welfare dependency to self-sufficiency,.

However, Thompson also gave numerous examples of poor, and even deceptive, reporting. Thompson criticized reporting by the Energy Department, especially in cases where the reported performance did not match actual performance. For example, although Energy reported meeting a measure to complete cleanup at two sites, it noted that additional work remained to be done at one of those sites. Thompson also criticized the Defense Department, which reported performance that “did not always hold up to scrutiny.” For instance, in its report, Defense states that it met its target cycle time for average major defense acquisition programs. Unfortunately, DOD?s cycle time was actually 2 months longer in 2000 than it was in the previous year.

Thompson ended his testimony before the House Subcommittee on an optimistic note: “I?m very encouraged that our leaders in the Executive Branch are committed to turning things around. OMB Director Mitch Daniels reaffirmed recently that making real use of the Results Act is a top priority for the Administration. I will continue to do everything I can to make this a reality. I challenge my colleagues to do likewise.”

Pursuant to the Government Performance and Results Act (Public Law 103-62), agencies are required to report to Congress and the American people each year on the extent to which they are achieving their annual goals. The stated purpose for the Results Act was “to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Federal programs by establishing a system to set goals for program performance and to measure results.” Results are to be reported to Congress by March 31st of each year.

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