Data Snapshot

Agencies' declining use of performance data

The Government Accountability Office last week released an analysis of 24 agencies' use of performance information, based upon its survey findings from 2007 and 2013, and the results show that many agencies' use of performance data has not improved across the seven year period of time.

Managers were asked to rate the extent to which they believed their agency engaged in the use of "performance information activities" on a 5-point scale -- where a response of 1 reflected "to no extent" and a 5 reflected "to a very great extent." The survey's questions focused on ways in which agencies might enhance and facilitate the use of performance information within their department, including:

  • Aligning agencywide goals, objectives, and measures.
  • Improving the usefullness of performance information.
  • Developing agency capacity to use performance information.
  • Demonstrating management commitment.
  • Communicating performance information frequently and effectively.

Four agencies have been identified as having a significant decrease in their use of performance information -- including NASA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The only two agencies that exhibited a significant improvement in their use of performance information were the Office of Personnel Management and Department of Labor.

The following chart presents the GAO's findings on the above-mentioned agencies, which exhibited a statistically significant difference between 2007 and 2013.


Comparison of Federal Agencies' Use of Performance Information 2007 & 2013
Statistically Significant Breakdown
2007 average score 2013 average score Statistically significant increase / decrease between 2007 and 2013*
OPM 3.38 3.66 0.28 (+)
Labor 3.37 3.58 0.21 (+)
VA 3.71 3.49 0.22 (-)
NASA 3.71 3.49 0.22 (-)
Energy 3.52 3.34 0.18 (-)
NRC 3.70 3.32 0.38 (-)
Government-wide 3.46 3.41 0.05 (-)

*An item was considered to be statistically significant by the GAO, when "there [was] less than a 5 percent chance that we would observe a change, difference, or association as large as we observed if such a change, difference, or association did not exist."


GAO's 2007 and 2013 surveys each explored the degree to which federal managers use performance information to facilitate informed decision-making and address challenges within their department. Through the effective application of performance information and a focus on results-oriented management, GAO believes agencies might more readily reach their goals and reduce their risk of failure.

With that said, GAO has not made any official recommendations for agencies to act upon in response to this report's findings; however, several of agencies -- including the Treasury and NASA -- have put forth concerns regarding GAO's findings and the surveys' design.

SOURCE: Managing For Results: Agencies' Trends in the Use of Performance Information to Make Decisions (GAO) & PDF (hosted locally).

About the Author

Jonathan Lutton is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him at jlutton@fcw.com

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