Performance survey gives low grades to Interior, FEMA, Forest Service

GAO survey shows use of performance data

The Interior Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Forest Service were the bottom three federal agencies in a survey of whether managers are using performance management data, the Government Accountability Office reported today.

Interior, FEMA and the Forest Service ranked 27th, 28th, and last place, respectively, of 29 federal agencies and departments reviewed in terms of their use of performance information for management functions in the most recent GAO survey in 2007, according to a report.

At FEMA and Interior, GAO found that managers were inconsistent in using performance information to make key decisions. Some FEMA managers encouraged the use of performance information, while others did not. FEMA managers also did not align common goals effectively and lacked analytic capacity for the performance data, the report published today said.

Interior and its National Park Service managers reported that they were confronted by many performance measures that were not relevant to day-to-day management even though they served a purpose for department-level accountability.

Managers at the park service and Interior's Bureau of Reclamation said the costs of performance reporting, in terms of time and resources, did not make up for limited benefits.

“While both FEMA and Interior have taken some promising steps to make their performance information both useful and used, these initiatives have thus far been limited,” GAO concluded.

FEMA and Interior officials generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations, but FEMA executives disagreed with the recommendation to develop an interim performance measurement plan.

Federal agencies have moved toward more performance-based management for more than a decade, including the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. The Bush administration created the Program Assessment Rating Tool. The Obama administration named Jeffrey Zients as chief performance manager.

Highly ranked agencies were NASA; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the Social Security Administration; the National Science Foundation; the General Services Administration; and the Energy, Housing and Urban Development,  Education, Treasury,  and Veterans Affairs departments.


About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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