Government Performance and Results Act: Brief History and Implementation Activities
CRS Report for Congress
Government Performance and Results Act:
Brief History and Implementation Activities
Genevieve J. Knezo
Specialist in Science and Technology
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
This report discusses implementation of the Government Performance and Results
Act (GPRA), P.L. 103-62 (107 Stat. 285). General Accounting Office reports,
congressional reviews, and Office of Management and Budget documents indicate that
while agencies are making progress in implementing the law, they encounter difficulties
when trying to use results-oriented goals, measures, and data. Interest is growing in
using results-oriented information in authorizations, oversight, and funding decisions.
The Bush Administration identifies budget and performance integration as one of five
government-wide initiatives to improve management. S. 837, H.R. 1227, H.R. 3826,
and S. 1668/H.R. 3213 would require use of performance measures. This report will not
be updated. For updated information see Federal Program Performance Review: Some
Recent Developments, CRS Report RL32671; Performance Management and Budgeting
in the Federal Government: Brief History and Recent Developments, CRS Report
RL32164; and A Sunset Commission for the Federal Government, CRS Report
Background. The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, P.L. 103-62,
also called “the Results Act,” or GPRA, encourages greater efficiency, effectiveness, and
accountability in federal spending, and requires agencies to set goals and to use1
performance measures for management and, ultimately, for budgeting. To facilitate
implementation, Congress phased in the law over seven years. Since 1997 agencies have
transmitted long-range strategic plans to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
and to Congress; these are to be updated every three years. Annual performance plans
have been required since preparation of FY1999 budgets. Federal agencies’ performance
reports, comparing actual performance to goals, have been submitted annually since 2000
(for FY1999). In statutorily required reports, OMB did not recommend changes to the
law, and the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported that agency implementation
1 CRS Report 97-70, Government Performance and Results Act, P.L. 103-62 Implementation Through 1996
and Issues for the 105th Congress, by G. Knezo; CRS Report 97-382, Government Performance and Results
Act: Implications for Congressional Oversight, by F. Kaiser and V.A. McMurtry (available from authors).
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
varied in quality, utility, and responsiveness, but that improvements could be made.2 The
policy research community is involved in assessing GPRA. The National Academy of
Public Administration’s Center for Improving Government Performance produced
guidance and OMBWatch has a performance website.3 OMB, GAO, and others have
discussed the difficulty of developing performance measures and data. (See below.)
The “Results Act” in the 105th Congress. (See also CRS Report 97-1028,
Government Performance and Results Act: Implementation and Issues of Possibleth
Concern, 105 Congress, available on request from the author.) The agencies’ first five-
year strategic plans, which were to be sent to Congress by September 30, 1997 and
updated every three years, were to include a mission statement, general goals and
objectives, a description of the resources needed to achieve the goals, the relationship
between the performance goals and general goals, key factors external to the agency that
could significantly affect the achievement of the goals, a description of program
evaluations used, and a schedule for future evaluations. A congressional majority
leadership report identified problems, including data systems inadequate for evaluating
outputs and outcomes, incomplete statements of resources and strategies needed to
achieve goals, and insufficient coordination with other agencies. It recommended that
committees assess agency goals in relation to policy objectives, specify performance
measurement requirements in legislation, and monitor how agencies measure4
performance. According to GAO, “progress is needed in how agencies...set...a strategic
direction, coordinat[e]...crosscutting programs, and ensur[e]...the capacity to gather and
use performance and cost data.” The chairmen of several House committees sought to
have agencies link FY1999 budget requests to goals in strategic plans.5 The agencies’
first annual performance plans were sent to Congress with FY1999 budgets. They were
to establish performance goals; describe goals in an objective, quantifiable, and
measurable form, in an alternative descriptive form, or to include a statement that it is
infeasible to express such goals; describe the resources required to meet goals; establish
performance indicators to measure outputs or outcomes; provide a basis for comparing
actual program results with performance goals; and describe how measures would be
verified and validated. Congressional expectations for performance plans were outlined
in a joint House/Senate majority leadership letter to OMB, December 17, 1997. In 1998,
the House majority leadership reported that the plans were “disappointing”; agencies did
not deal with major management problems, lacked reliable data to verify and validate
performance, did not link performance measures to day-to-day activities, and did not
coordinate across agencies. Effective implementation, it said, required a “culture
change”; congressional oversight and OMB leadership were crucial; committee chairmen
2 OMB, The Government Performance and Results Act, Report to the President and the Congress, May
1997, 31 pp. and GAO, The Government Performance and Results Act, 1997 Government-wide
Implementation Will Be Uneven, June 1997, GGD-97-109, 115 pp.
3 See [http://www.opm.gov/perform]; [http://www.performance.napawash.org]; and
[ h t t p : / / www. o m b wa t c h . o r g / g p r a ] .
4 The Results Act: It’s the Law, the November 1997 Report, by House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Sen.
Larry Craig, Chairman Dan Burton, Chairman Bob Livingston, and Chairman John Kasich.
5 GAO, Managing for Results. Agencies’ Annual Performance Plans Can Help Address Strategic Planning
Challenges, GGD-98-44, 1998, and House Science Committee, Agencies Told to Link Budget Requests to
Goals, Nov. 14,1997.
recommended corrective action to OMB.6 H.R. 2883 called for an annual integrated
government performance plan and linking of goals to statutory authorities. The House
passed the bill, the Administration opposed it, and no action occurred in the Senate. The
105th Congress included performance measure provisions in at least 45 public laws
(counting separately the nine bills in P.L. 105-277) and in 78 legislative reports.7
The “Results Act” in the 106th Congress. Following congressional evaluation
of FY2000 and FY2001 performance plans, in March 1999, the chairmen of the House
Government Reform Committee and of the House Appropriations Committee urged
agency heads to develop “measurable annual performance targets” for management and
to address these issues in appropriations hearings.8 In May 1999, the chairman of the
Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs wrote to Senate Committee, Subcommittee,
and House Committee chairmen, transmitting Agency Performance Plans: Examples of
Practices That Can Improve Usefulness to Decision-makers (GGD/AIMD-99-69), and
suggested that “agencies [be] accountable for their proposed ‘results.’ ” GAO’s report,
Managing for Results: Opportunities for Continued Improvements in Agencies’
Performance Plans, (GGD/AIMD-99-215), found that 60% of 35 FY1999 performance
plans did not explain how funding would be allocated to achieve performance goals and
recommended that “OMB...clarify the relationship between budgetary resources and9
results.” In a joint May 1999 letter, the chairmen of the Senate Governmental Affairs
Committee and Appropriations Committees asked the heads of 24 major agencies
“to...achieve a closer linkage between funding and performance goals....” OMB’s
Bulletin, Integrating the Performance Plan and Budget, June 6, 2000, instructed agencies
to align budget resources, outlay estimates, and performance results for their FY2002
budgets. In July 2000, the Senate Appropriations Committee issued Special Report on
the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, S.Rept. 106-347, which addressed
the quality of GPRA implementation and its utility to appropriations subcommittees.
Testimony at the July 2000 Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and
Technology’s hearing on “Seven Years of GPRA, Has the Results Act Provided Results?”
addressed using performance-related information in budgeting and appropriations. A
March 2000 House Rules Committee hearing examined the impact of GPRA on the
legislative process. The agencies’ first performance reports, for FY1999, were to describe
results relative to goals and actions an agency would take to achieve unmet goals.
Chairman Fred Thompson of the Governmental Affairs Committee reported that most of
the reports did not “inform Congress and the public about what agencies are doing and10
how well they are doing it.” In October 2000, Senator Thompson recommended how
6 Towards a Smaller, Smarter, Common Sense Government: Seeking Honest Information for Better
Decisions, Agency Performance Plans, Letter, June 9, 1998.
7 CRS Report 97-1059, Government Performance and Results Act: Performance-related Requirements
Included in Laws and in Committee Report Language During the 104th Congress, by G. Knezo and W.th
Heniff;“Performance Measure Provisions in the 105 Congress,” by G. J. Knezo and V. A. McMurtry, Jan.
7, 1999, 49 p. (CRS general distribution memo).
8 K. Saldarini, “House Chairs: Waste Not, Want Not,” Government Executive Daily, Mar.11, 1999.
9 Performance Budgeting: Initial Experiences Under the Results Act in Linking Plans With Budgets,
AIMD/GGD-99-67, p. 3.
10 Report of Senator Fred Thompson, Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee on Major
Management Challenges Facing Federal Departments and Agencies, Oct. 2000.
the new Presidential administration should use GPRA to improve governance.11 The
Mercatus Center has critiqued performance reports beginning with FY1999 and GAO has
assessed individual agency performance plans and reports.12 P.L. 106-531, the “Reports
Consolidation Act of 2000,” permitted agencies to combine annual performance reports
with financial reports required under the Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act, with the due
date to coincide with congressional consideration of agency budgets. It also required
assessment of the completeness and reliability of performance data agencies use (S.Rept.
106-337). P.L. 106-107, the “Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement
Act of 1999,” required federal agencies and non-federal entities that are recipients of
federal financial assistance to set annual goals and to measure compliance relating to
efficiency and coordination, delivery of services, and simplification of processing as part
of the agency’s compliance with GPRA. The “Federal Research Investment Act,” (which
passed the Senate in 1998 as S. 2217; in 1999, as S. 296; and in 2000, as part of S. 2046)
would have mandated the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to fund a
National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study on R&D performance reporting processes
and procedures used to terminate R&D programs rated unsuccessful and to work with
OMB on implementation. In 1998, P.L. 105-276 had permitted the OMB and OSTP to
fund an NAS study, but did not appropriate funds for it. The House Subcommittee on
Basic Research held a hearing on October 4, 2000 on “Benchmarking U.S. Science: What
Can It Tell Us?” A 1999 NAS report, Evaluating Federal Research Programs, listed
performance principles for basic research.
Debate continued about the quality of OMB leadership in guiding agencies’ GPRA
responses and whether GPRA reports would influence budgets and policy.13 Agencies’
implementation strategies ranged from “a narrow compliance approach” to broader
responses. Some saw GPRA as a way to “downsize government,”14 others as a tool to
increase performance and accountability.15 Recommendations to improve implementation
were made in Transitioning to Performance-based Government: Bipartisan Observations
and Recommendations to the New Administration and Congress from 140 Current and
Former Federal Officials, by the Reason Public Policy Institute and other professional
groups. Fifty enacted measures from the 106th Congress included GPRA-related
provisions, an increase over the two previous Congresses. (See CRS Report RL31678,
Government Performance and Results Act: Overview of Associated Provisions in the
11 Report of Senator Fred Thompson...on Management Challenges Facing the New Administration, 106th
Cong., 2nd sess., S. Print. 106-62, Pt. 3, “Results-oriented Governance.”
12 J. Ellig, Performance Report Scorecard: Which Federal Agencies Inform the Public?, May 3, 2000,
Mercatus Center; [http://www.gao.gov/]; Managing for Results: Using GPRA to Help Congressional
Decisionmaking and Strengthen Oversight, testimony before the Rules and Organization Subcommittee,
House Committee on Rules, Mar. 22, 2000; and Continuing Challenges to Effective GPRA Implementation,
before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, July 20, 2000.
13 B. A. Radin, “The Government Performance and Results Act: Hydra-headed Monster or Flexible
Management Tool?,” Public Administration Review, July-Aug., 1998; T.G. McSweeney, “Moving From
GPRA Outputs to GPRA Outcomes,” The Public Manager: The New Bureaucrat, Fall 1998; V. L. Thomas,
Restoring Government Integrity Through Performance, Results, and Accountability, Heritage Foundation
Backgrounder, June 26, 2000, and A. J. Beltz, The Role of the U.S. Congress in Implementing the
Government Performance and Results Act, Boston College MA Thesis, May 1999.
14 See A. Antonelli at [http://www://heritage.org/heritage/library/backgrounder/] and “U.S. Budget:
Domenici Proposes $13.1 Billion Cut in Taxes ....” Daily Report for Executives, Mar.17, 1999.
15 P. Lester, “Armey Blasts Agency Results Act Implementation: Kasich Says Agency Budgets Will Be
Cut,” OMB Watch, Nov. 5, 1997.
The “Results Act” in the 107th Congress. On January 17, 2001, leaders of the
Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and the GAO released the 21 reports in the
“GAO Performance and Accountability Series and High Risk Update.” Senators
Thompson and Voinovich called on agencies to develop performance goals to resolve
problems that were observed.16 The House adopted a rule requiring that “committee
reports include a statement of general performance goals and objectives, including
outcome-related goals and objectives for which the measure authorizes funding.”17 In a
letter to Congress, January 18, 2001, reporting as mandated by P.L. 103-62, OMB
declined to recommend to Congress that performance budgeting be required statutorily.18
The Clinton OMB also questioned the feasibility of performance budgeting, saying that
many agencies had not adequately defined goals, measures, and outcomes, or developed
cost accounting structures for performance budgeting that were acceptable to Congress
and the appropriations process.19 During May 2001, GAO reported that most federal
managers largely ignore performance information when allocating resources. The House
Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental
Relations held a hearing on “The Results Act: Has It Met Congressional Expectations?”
June 19, 2001. Compliance with GPRA was identified as a major management challenge
in Government at the Brink, Urgent Federal Government Management Problems Facing
the Bush Administration, released by Senator Fred Thompson, June 2001.
The Bush Administration has emphasized integrating performance results,20
management, and budgeting. The FY2002 budget stipulated that agencies should submit
performance-based budgets for selected programs in the FY2003 budget process, forcing
them to link spending decisions to performance goals (see pages 11-18). In a July 11,
2001 memo, the Administration charged agency deputy secretaries, as chief operating
officers, with responsibility for measuring results. The President’s Management Agenda,
announced in August 2001,21 stressed results-oriented management and included budget
and performance integration as one of five government-wide initiatives. The Agenda also
contained specific program activities, including outlines of performance goals, for
example, for Department of Energy applied R&D, U.S. overseas employee presence, and
food aid programs. Implementing the Government Performance and Results Act for
Research: A Status Report, May 2001, a follow-up to the NAS’s 1999 study,
recommended improvements by both federal agencies and users of research-related
performance documents. A January 2002 GAO report, Managing for Results: Agency
Progress in Linking Performance Plans With Budgets and Financial Statements, said that
3/4 of federal agencies were connecting performance planning, budgeting and financial
reporting at aggregated goal levels, but that more links were required at specific program
levels to assist in internal management and congressional decisionmaking. Performance
was an important theme in the FY2003 budget request. Agencies were scored (with red,
green, and yellow “traffic light” marks) on the five government-wide management
initiatives: human capital, e-government, competitive sourcing, improving financial
16 J. Peckenpaugh, “Senators to Bush: Get Tough on High-risk Problems,” Gov Exec.com, Apr. 3, 2001.
17 H.Res. 5 re: Rule XII, clause 3(c), [http://www.house.gov/rules/107rules_secsum.htm].
18 OMB, Report to the Hon. J. Dennis Hastert, from Jacob J. Lew, Jan. 18, 2001, np. and CRS Report
RS20938, Performance Management and Budgeting: Benchmarks and Recent Developments, by Virginia
19 Conversation with OMB official, May 2001.
20 See “Governing With Accountability,” FY2003 Budget.
21 The President's Management Agenda: A Brief Introduction, by V.A. McMurtry, CRS Report RS21416.
management, and integrating budget and performance. The Administration used
performance analyses to make funding decisions for over 100 federal programs across all
agencies. Performance criteria for basic and applied research investments were refined.22
During the hearing of the House Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial
Management and Intergovernmental Relations, February 15, 2002, GAO stressed the need
for congressional oversight of performance. OMB Circular A-11 (Part 6, June 2002)
required that agency annual plans include performance goals used in assessments of
program effectiveness, that agencies restructure their budget accounts and substitute
outputs and outcomes for the current lists of program activities in program and financing
schedules, and that agencies integrate performance and budget in performance plans. The
Administration developed a formal program assessment rating tool (PART) to evaluate
performance. This was intended, in part, to “...inform and improve agency GPRA plans
and reports, and establish a meaningful, systematic link between GPRA and the budget
process.”23 Subcommittees of the House Government Reform and Rules committees held
a hearing,“Linking Program Funding to Performance Results,” on September 19, 2002.
The “Results Act” in the 108th Congress. The Administration is continuing
to focus on developing appropriate performance measures and data. OMB Circular A-11,
issued July 25, 2003, integrates GPRA reporting and PART reporting and requires that
agencies submit a performance budget, if possible (Parts 26, 51, and 220). As it did for
the FY2004 budget, the FY2005 budget request includes separate information on
managing for results and performance and management assessment. The Administration
reported it has now conducted PART evaluations for 400 programs, estimated at 40% of
federal programs (Analytical Perspectives, FY2005 Budget, p. 9) and expects to have
evaluated 100% of federal programs this way by FY2008. It is continuing to work to
ensure consistency among assessments and to help agencies define goals and measures.
Some budget decisions were based on PART performance measures. Some say that the24
“subjectiveness” of performance measures may mislead budget decision processes. A
hearing on “Performance, Results, and Budget Decisions” was held by the House
Subcommittee on Government Efficiency and Financial Management on April 1, 2003.
Several bills would statutorily require use of performance measures in an attempt to
use such information to make decisions regarding streamlining or eliminating ineffective
programs. H.R. 1227, “Abolishment of Obsolete Agencies and Federal Sunset Act of
2003,”25 was introduced March 12, 2003. S. 1668/H.R. 3213, “Commission on the
Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies Act,” would among other things establish
a commission to review performance. The “Program Assessment and Rating Act,” H.R.
3826, would require OMB to evaluate federal programs at least once every five years; the
Committee on Government Reform approved it by voice vote on June 3, 2004. Some
critics allege this requirement could dilute congressional authority and enlarge OMB’s
control of federal programs.26
22 “Rigorous OMB Performance Measures Will Be Used To Frame Agency Budget Proposals for FY2004,”
Washington Fax, Jan. 23, 2002; and OMB/OSTP, “FY2004 Interagency Research and Development
Priorities,” May 30, 2002, [http://www.ostp.gov/html/ombguidmemo.pdf].
23 See OMB Memorandum M-02-10, July 16, 2002. This was applicable to FY2004 budgets.
24 S. Haley, “OMB Performance Pressures May Divert Agencies From Important Priorities, House Science
Committee Minority Asserts,” Washington Fax, Mar. 7, 2003.
25 See CRS Report RL31455, Federal Sunset Proposals: Developments in the 94th to 107th Congresses.
26 Spencer Rich, “Panel OKs OMB Review of Federal Programs Every Five Years, Govt. Exec.com, June