Strategic Plan 2010 - 2015: Serving the Congress and the Nation


Start: 2010-10-01, End: 2015-10-30, Publication: 2010-07-16


As a legislative branch agency, we are exempt from many laws that apply to the executive branch agencies. However, we generally hold ourselves to the spirit of many of these laws, including the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA). This strategic plan provides what we consider to be information equivalent to that supplied by executive branch agencies in their GPRA-required strategic plans. Key Performance Measures: GAO uses a balanced scorecard of 15 agencywide measures to assess our performance and ensure we fulfill our mission and deliver results to benefit the nation. These measures focus on four key areas: Results: Focusing on results and the processes needed to achieve them is fundamental to accomplishing our mission. GAO uses four annual measures—financial benefits, nonfinancial benefits, past recommendations implemented, and new products containing recommendations—to evaluate the impact of our past work. Client: Used to judge how well we are serving our congressional clients, GAO’s client measures include the number of times GAO was invited to testify on its current and past work, addressing issues that congressional committees are examining through the hearing process. We also outreach to congressional clients to ensure GAO’s products are provided in the time period agreed to by GAO and our client for particular engagements. People: As our most important asset, our people define our character and capacity to perform. A variety of data sources, including an internal survey, provide information to help us measure how we are attracting and retaining high-quality staff and how well we are developing, supporting, using, and leading staff. Internal operations: GAO’s mission and people are supported by internal administrative services, including information management, building management, knowledge services, human-capital, and financial management services. An annual customer satisfaction survey is used to gather information about how well these internal operations help employees get their job done and improve employees’ quality of work life. Performance targets for all of the measures are set each year. They are based on what we have been able to do in the past—for example, we consider 4-year rolling averages for some measures, as well as discussions by the agency’s top executives with teams and offices about what must be accomplished. The most recent 4-year averages for selected measures are shown in table 3. Two of GAO’s results measures bear particular attention here: Financial benefits: As illustrated in figure 48, GAO’s recommendations can produce measurable financial benefits for the federal government after they are acted on by the Congress or agencies. Funds can then be reallocated to other areas or made available to reduce government expenditures. Nonfinancial benefits: Many benefits produced from implemented GAO recommendations cannot be measured in dollars. In fiscal year 2009, GAO documented 1,315 nonfinancial benefits that covered a wide variety of crucial issues, such as enforcing border security and immigration; strengthening the federal government’s preparedness for an influenza pandemic; and reforming how the government stores, shares, and tracks information on contractors’ performance. Some 620 of these nonfinancial benefits reflected improved core business practices at agencies or in government reforms. (See fig. 48.) We use GAO’s performance and accountability report, issued shortly after the end of each fiscal year, to publicly report on all of our performance measures. See for our latest report.

Statutory Responsibilities -- With the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the Congress established GAO with the broad role of investigating “all matters relating to the receipt, disbursement, and application of public funds” and to “make recommendations looking to greater economy or efficiency in public expenditures.” Since World War II, the Congress has clarified and expanded the original charter in the following ways: The Government Corporation Control Act of 1945 provided GAO with the authority to audit the financial transactions of government corporations. The Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950 assigned GAO responsibility for establishing accounting standards for the federal government and carrying out audits of internal controls and financial management. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 expressly authorized GAO to conduct program evaluations and analyses of a broad range of federal activities. The General Accounting Office Act of 1980 reiterated GAO’s authority to obtain agency and other records needed for its investigations and evaluations and added the authority for GAO to enforce its access rights in court. The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 and the Government Management Reform Act of 1994 authorized GAO to audit agencies’ financial statements and annually audit the consolidated financial statements of the United States. Numerous statutes authorize or require GAO to audit the annual financial statements of federal departments, agencies, and other entities. Several statutes also specifically authorize or require GAO to review a broad range of activities related to the financial management of federal departments, agencies, and other entities. the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which provided for GAO review of reported or unreported impoundments; the Inspector General Act of 1978, which provided for GAO-established standards for the audit of federal programs and activities; and the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984, which provided for GAO review of protested federal contracting actions. GAO received authority and responsibility for oversight and reporting under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which together authorized over $1 trillion to stabilize the financial system, support economic activity, and stem job loss during a sharp downturn in the U.S. economy. In addition, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010, GAO is responsible for conducting evaluations and providing reports related to the administration of a number of federal health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. At GAO, we implement our statutory responsibilities by engaging in a range of oversight, insight, and foresight activities that span the full breadth and scope of federal activities and programs. We publish hundreds of reports and other documents annually and provide a number of other related services. By making recommendations to improve the practices and operations of government agencies, we contribute not only to the increased effectiveness of and accountability for federal spending, but also to the enhancement of the taxpayers’ trust and confidence in their federal government. We also look at national and international trends and challenges to anticipate their implications for public policy. Strategies and Means -- To achieve our strategic goals, we develop and present information in a number of ways, including: evaluations of federal programs, policies, operations, and performance; audits to determine whether public funds are spent efficiently, effectively, and in accordance with the law; investigations of potential illegal or improper activities; analyses of the financing for government activities; engagements in which we work proactively with agencies to help guide their efforts toward achieving positive results; legal decisions and opinions to determine whether agencies are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations; policy analyses to assess needed and proposed actions; and additional assistance to the Congress in support of its oversight, appropriations, legislative, and other responsibilities.


Name:Owen Ambur


Name:United States Government Accounability Office


GAO is an independent, nonpartisan professional services agency in the legislative branch of the federal government. Commonly known as the audit and investigative arm of the Congress or the “congressional watchdog,” we examine how taxpayer dollars are spent and advise lawmakers and agency heads on ways to make government work better. GAO, a relatively small agency, depends almost totally on one type of resource to achieve its strategic goals and objectives: its people. GAO’s approximately 3,300 staff work within 14 research, audit, and evaluation teams, as well as in staff offices and mission support units (see fig. 47). Because achieving GAO’s strategic goals and objectives also requires GAO to coordinate with other organizations with similar or complementary missions, GAO: uses advisory panels and other bodies to inform our strategic and annual work planning and maintains strategic working relationships with other national and international government accountability and professional organizations, including the federal inspectors general, state and local audit organizations, and other national audit offices. These two types of strategic working relationships extend our institutional knowledge and experience, leverage our resources, and in turn improve our service to the Congress and the nation. Our Strategic Planning and External Liaison office leads our work with external partner organizations, while our research, audit, and evaluation teams lead with most of the issue-specific organizations.


  • Gene L. DodaroActing Comptroller General of the United States