Updated March 6, 1998
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Government Performance and Results Act:
Implementation During 1997 and Issues of Possible
Concern, 105th Congress, Second Session
Genevieve J. Knezo
Specialist in Science and Technology
Science, Technology, and Medicine Division
On September 30, 1997, federal agencies submitted to Congress strategic plans
mandated by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, P.L. 103-62, also
called the “Results Act,” and GPRA. A government-wide performance plan was
submitted with the President’s FY1999 budget. The required performance plans and
measures will be transmitted to Congress sometime after the President’s FY1999 budget
is submitted. Congressional hearings have been held on implementation of GPRA, and
the General Accounting Office and congressional groups have assessed initial activities.
Most strategic plans have been criticized for not conveying required analyses of the
linkage between strategic goals and annual goals and measures, of resources needed to
achieve goals, of data systems capabilities, and of interagency coordination on similar
programs. Congressional attention to the Results Act has continued in the second
session of the 105th Congress in response to leadership calls that committees ensure that
agencies under their jurisdiction implement GPRA properly. H.R. 2883, marked-up on
March 5 at the full committee level, proposes technical amendments to P.L. 103-62.
The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, P.L. 103-62, also called “the
Results Act,” and GPRA, encourages greater efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability
in federal spending, and requires agencies to set goals and to use performance measures
for management and, ultimately, for budgeting.1 To give federal agencies time to develop
implementation procedures, Congress phased in the law over a 7-year period (see the
For historical information, see Congressional Research Service, Government Performance
and Results Act, PL. 103-62 Implementation Through Fall 1996 and Issues for the 105th
Congress, by Genevieve J. Knezo, Report 97-70 SPR, 24 December 1996: 93 pp; See also
Congressional Research Service, Government Performance and Results Act: Implications for
Congressional Oversight, by Frederick M. Kaiser and Virginia A. McMurtry, Report 97-382, 24
March 1997: 39 pp.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
attached Timetable). Federal agencies initiated over 75 performance planning pilot
projects, estimated to cover $50 billion worth of federal programs. After analyzing
problems with the pilots, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) established
interagency groups to share information and urged agencies to begin implementation as
soon as possible to develop procedures needed to meet the law’s mandates. OMB
modified Circular A-11 to require agencies to accelerate using performance and outcome
measures in budgets and to give agencies precise instructions to use when developing
strategic plans and performance plans. OMB reported to Congress in May 1997 on
implementation of the pilot projects, but did not recommend any changes in the statute.2
In June 1997, the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported to Congress on agency
readiness for full-scale implementation beyond the pilot project phase.3 It concluded that
federal agencies’ implementation activities varied in quality, utility, and responsiveness to
the law, but that it was possible for agencies to make improvements.
During FY1997, agencies developed strategic plans and, while preparing them, were
to solicit information from stakeholders and consult with Congress. Final strategic plans,
that were sent to Congress on September 30, 1997, were to include
(1) a comprehensive mission statement covering the major functions and operations of
(2) general goals and objectives, including outcome-related goals and objectives, for the
major functions and operations of the agency;
(3) a description of how the goals and objectives are to be achieved, including a
description of the operational processes, skills and technology, and the human, capital,
information, and other resources required to meet those goals and objectives;
(4) a description of how the performance goals included in the plan... shall be related
to the general goals and objectives in the strategic plan;
(5) an identification of those key factors external to the agency and beyond its control
that could significantly affect the achievement of the general goals and objectives; and
(6) a description of the program evaluations used in establishing or revising general
goals and objectives, with a schedule for future program evaluations.
Early in the 105th Congress, the House majority leadership created an organizational
structure to help Congress interact with the agencies to implement the law. To oversee the
work, the leadership named the chairmen of the Appropriations Committee, the Budget
Committee, and the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Staff from those
committees have met regularly with the 24 bicameral and bipartisan agency-specific
congressional staff teams (based on Chief Financial Officers Act agencies) that were
Office of Management and Budget, The Government Performance and Results Act, Report
to the President and the Congress From the Director of the Office of Management and Budget,
Washington, 19 May 1997: 31 pp., plus attachments.
General Accounting Office, The Government Performance and Results Act, 1997
Government-wide Implementation Will Be Uneven, Report to Congressional Committees, June
1997, GAO/GGD-97-109: 115 pp.
formed to consult with agencies and to review their strategic plans and other activities.
P.L. 103-62 required GAO to take an active role in overseeing the implementation. The
agency has produced numerous reports and testimony that deal with such issues as
guidance to agencies about implementation, guidance to congressional staff about
assessing agency implementation, specific reports on funding and research assessment,
analyses of agencies’ strategic plans, and guidance about assessing performance plans.4
The law required agencies to transmit to OMB annual plans and performance goals,
beginning with the FY1999 budget request. OMB submitted a government-wide
performance plan to Congress as part of the FY1999 budget; subsequently, individual
agency plans are supposed to be delivered to Congress. In March of the year 2000,
agencies will provide Congress with performance reports comparing actual performance
to goals. In March 2001, OMB will report to Congress on the results of performance
budgeting pilots and recommend whether or not performance budgets should be required
statutorily. In May 1997, OMB told Congress that it would postpone the required
performance budgeting pilots for a year (they were to begin with the FY1998 budget)
because agencies were focusing on strategic and performance plans and because agency
cost-accounting systems were inadequate. Now, performance budgeting pilot projects will
cover FY1999 to FY2000. OMB also said it was changing the law’s implementation
schedule so “the required alternative budget presentation on performance budgeting would
now appear in the FY2000 President’s budget, rather than the FY1999 budget.”5
Joint hearings on implementation of the Results Act were held in the 104th Congress
by the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology of the
House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight together with the Senate
Committee on Governmental Affairs. During the 104th and 105th Congresses, hearings
dealing with implementation issues or with implementation in particular agencies have been
held by the House Committee on Science, the House Committee on Government Reform
and Oversight, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs together with the Senate
Appropriations Committee, and other committees. In testimony before the House
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight on October 30, 1997, House Majority
Leader Armey said that at least 23 hearings were held on the Results Act since February
1997. The Chief Financial Officers Council,6 the National Academy of Public
Administration, and the Congressional Institute7 have produced guidance and initiated staff
Most of these reports and testimony are available on the Internet, via searches of GAO’s
webpage at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/gpra/gpra.htm and at http://www.gao.gov/special.
Letter from Franklin D. Raines, Director, Office of Management and Budget to The
Honorable Fred Thompson, Chairman, Committee on Government Affairs, U.S. Senate, May 20,
Available at http://pula.financenet.gov:80/financenet/fed/cfo/gpra/gpra.htm.
Available at http://server.conginst.org/conginst/results/.
Potential Issues of Concern During the 105th Congress, Second Session
The joint House/Senate majority leadership issued an interim report in September
1997 that assessed the quality of federal agencies’ draft strategic plans.8 The ratings of the
draft plans indicated that most did not meet the six basic statutory requirements.9 The
draft plans received an average grade of 29.9 out of 100. In November, the congressional
majority leadership released a report evaluating the final strategic plans (The Results Act:
It’s the Law; the November 1997 Report.10) The report concluded that most agencies had
improved their strategic plans, with reports receiving an average grade of 46 and ranging
from 28 to 75. All plans were evaluated as being minimally compliant with the Results
Act, although some “just barely comply.” Problems included agency data systems
inadequate for evaluating outputs and outcomes, incomplete statements of resources and
strategies needed to achieve goals, and insufficient coordination with other agencies
engaged in similar work.
H.R. 2883, introduced in 1997, marked up in committee, and scheduled for House
floor action in March 1998, amends the Results Act by, among other things, requiring
departments and agencies to prepare another strategic plan by September 1998; to link
goals to legal and statutory authorities; to submit separate strategic plans for component
agencies; and to report on coordination activities, the full costs of programs covered by
GPRA performance standards, and selective Inspector General reviews of performance
data. The Administration opposes the bill.11
Some believe that the act is being perceived improperly as a threat to “downsize
government,” and that it should be viewed instead as a tool to increase performance and
accountability.12 There is also the view that in 1998 Congress should focus on discussing
the policy goals inherent in strategic goals and performance measures. In 1997 Congress
House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Towards a Smaller, Smarter,
Common Sense Government: Results Act; It Matters Now: An Interim Report; Issued by House
Majority Leader Dick Armey; Senator Larry Craig, Chairman, Senate Republican Policy
Committee; and Chairman Dan Burton, September 1997: 16 pp.
Some say the plans were unfairly judged on factors not required in the law. In the report
Members and congressional staff rated the plan on 10 factors. Factors 8 and 9 were not
specifically mentioned in the law or OMB circular, but appear to have been included based on
GAO and majority leadership interpretation: “(1) Mission statement, (2) general (strategic) goals
and objectives, (3) strategies to achieve general goals and objectives, (4) relationship between
general goals and annual performance goals, (5) external factors, (6) program evaluations, (7)
treatment/coordination of cross-cutting functions, (8) data capacity, 9) treatment of major
management problems/high-risk areas, and (10) congressional and stakeholder consultations.”
Issued by House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Senator Larry Craig, Chairman, Senate
Republican Policy Committee, Chairman Dan Burton, House Government Reform and Oversight
Committee, Chairman Bob Livingston, House Appropriations Committee, and Chairman John
Kasich, House Budget Committee, available at: http://freedom.house.gov/results.
See Government Performance and Results Act: Proposed Amendments, by Frederic A.
Kaiser and Virginia McMurtry, Report 98-224 G, 6 March 1998.
See for instance: Patrick Lester, “Armey Blasts Agency Results Act Implementation:
Kasich Says Agency Budgets Will Be Cut,” OMB Watch, 5 November 1997.
focused primarily on technical compliance in strategic plans. The November 1997 majority
report recommended that congressional committees should take the following steps to
ensure full compliance with the Results Act:
view the submission of inadequate strategic plans by agencies as an invitation to clarify
that agency’s mission and goals through reauthorizations, funding and legislative
now engage in a committee-by-committee effort to determine whether the identified
goals are the appropriate function of that agency, or of the federal government
focus on some priority areas to seek improvements as expeditiously as possible, i.e.
fighting a more effective war on illegal drugs, reforming the IRS, addressing the 25
GAO high risk areas for programs most apt to be vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse,
entitlement fraud, education reform, improving the coordination involved with fighting
terrorism, and other priority areas;
insert increasing numbers of performance-based measurements in their legislative
anticipate upcoming financial audit reports as required by the Chief Financial Officers
Act of 1990 (CFO Act) and be prepared to actively demand better performance from
agencies that fail their financial audits.13
Attention to GPRA during the second session is expected to be directed to the
government-wide performance plan submitted with the budget and to the individual agency
performance plans to be made available thereafter to the Congress. Some agencies may
provide more detail about their strategic goals in the annual performance plans. The
authorizing and appropriations committees, as well as the congressional staff teams, are
likely to focus on the individual performance goals and measures in the plans. They may
review the policy content of the goals and measures — i.e., do the measures coincide with
strategic plan goals and does the Congress agree with what the agencies enunciate as their
goals and measures? Attention might also be directed to how those measures are reflected
in budget presentations and to “cross-walks” between budget function data and
performance data. The chairmen of several House committees sent letters to the
Administration requesting agencies to link FY1999 budget requests to the goals the
agencies had identified in their strategic plans.14 The Congress might seek to ensure that
OMB initiates the delayed performance budgeting pilot projects and that agencies develop
cost accounting systems needed for them. Some committees may address the five
recommendations for congressional action made in the joint majority leadership report on
the Results Act issued in November 1997. Oversight may also focus on the costs and
benefits of performance measurement systems; OMB policies about acceptable
performance measurements, both quantitative and nonquantitative; efforts to link Results
Act implementation to the everyday work of program managers; and steps that agencies
could take to improve cross-agency coordination and utilization of similar performance
measures for similar functions.
The Results Act, It’s the Law, part 3.
House Science Committee, Agencies Told to Link Budget Requests to Goals, Press release,
14 November 1997.
Timetable for Implementation of GPRA
Inception of Pilot Projects—October 1993. At least ten agencies were to be designated as pilot
projects for performance plans and reports (FY1994, 1995, and 1996). Twenty-one agencies and
53 programs were picked as first-round pilots. Six additional agencies and 18 programs were
picked in a second round. After more changes beginning in January 1995, there were 75 ongoing
pilot projects as of June 1995. Agencies doing pilot projects also developed performance plans for
FY1995. FY1996 plans were due April 14, 1995. The last event in the performance pilot project
phase — that is, submission to OMB of program performance reports for FY1996 — was due by
March 31, 1997.
Managerial Waiver Pilots—October 1994. At least five agencies (selected from those with
ongoing pilots) were to be designated as pilot projects for managerial accountability and flexibility
waivers (FY1995 and 1996). OMB now says that those will not be conducted, since many
management changes have been made already, precluding testing of waivers.
OMB Report—May 1, 1997. OMB reported to the President and Congress on the results of the
pilot projects; it did not recommend changes in the law.
GAO Report—June 1, 1997. GAO reported on agency readiness to begin full implementation.
Performance Plans to OMB—September 1997. Agencies were to provide OMB with annual
plans setting performance goals for FY1999. They are to be linked to strategic goals and, with
some exceptions, are to be expressed in an “objective, quantifiable, and measurable” form.
(Thereafter, submissions are to recur for each fiscal year.)
Strategic Plans—September 30, 1997. Each agency was to have completed a 5-year strategic
plan and submitted it to OMB and Congress. Such plans required consultation with Congress and
consideration of stakeholders’ views and are to be updated at least every 3 years.
Performance Budgeting Pilots—October 1997. At least five agencies were to be designated as
performance budgeting pilots for FY1998 and FY1999; agencies are to present the different levels
of performance that would result from different budgeted amounts. OMB wrote a letter to
Congress in May 1997 requesting postponement so that the performance budgeting pilots would
begin in FY1999 for FY1999 and FY2000.
Government-Wide Performance Plan—February 1998. OMB submitted to Congress a federal
government-wide performance plan (based on agency plans) as part of the President’s FY1999
budget. This is to recur for each fiscal year thereafter. The legislative history (S.Rept. 103-58)
instructed agencies to provide Congress and the public with copies of their annual performance
plans after the government-wide performance plan is presented.
Performance Reports—March 31, 2000. Agencies are to submit annual performance reports for
FY1999 to the President and Congress. These are to compare actual performance with stated
goals, to explain why performance goals that were not met, and to give future plans and a schedule
for meeting each goal. The submission is to recur for each fiscal year thereafter. Performance data
for FY1999 are to be included. For each subsequent year, agencies are to include performance data
for the year covered by the report and the three preceding years.
OMB Recommendation on Performance Budgeting—March 2001. OMB is to report to the
President and Congress on the results of all the performance budgeting pilots and is to recommend
whether or not performance budgeting should be required and if changes are recommended for the