Friday, December 17, 2010

Government Performance and Results Act II

Government Executive reports on Senate passage of an update to the GPRA, sponsored in part by Sen. Warner (has yet to pass the House and may not make it before adjournment). It sounds to me to be fairly reasonable, except as follows.  This paragraph struck me:
When developing or making adjustments to a strategic plan, the agency shall consult periodically with the Congress, including majority and minority views from the appropriate authorizing, appropriations, and oversight committees, and shall solicit and consider the views and suggestions of those entities potentially affected by or interested in such a plan. The agency shall consult with the appropriate committees of Congress at least once every 2 years.
Based on schoolbook theories of government, it would seem that Congress should be initiating reviews of such plans, rather than the agencies initiating the consultation. 

And my big concern is definition: it applies to "agencies", which if I understand means USDA, not NRCS and FSA.  Unfortunately, as Sec. Vilsack has no doubt learned by now, his control and oversight of subordinate agencies in the department is rather limited.  You have a puzzle: how does USDA do a plan which makes sense at the FSA level? 

I should note under the current GPRA FSA and the other components of USDA do their own plans.  Of course, FSA hasn't updated its webpage since July 2007, so one can assume the new administration isn't much relying on the plan to guide the agency.


Anonymous said...

It has always amazed me how little the USDA seems to "know" about what the FSA is doing, and how little the FSA seems to "care" about what the USDA wants, or about external "mandates" to make and publish its plans.

Bill Harshaw said...

FSA may not be that different than other agencies. Then again, it may be.

I remember hearing SCS and FmHA types expressing their envy of the Commodity Credit Corporation slush fund, as they may have termed it. Back in the middle 90's, or maybe before, Congress cracked down on FSA's use of CCC funds for IT. Having that flexibility must have enabled the agency to operate more freely than if they had to go to Budget&Finance (as it was then) and OMB for money.

Of course, in the beginning (in the 1930's), CCC was run by its board, which included the Secretary and various administrators. At the end of the 1960's there was still a permanent secretary for CCC who handled the board dockets and the meetings. My impression is that's entirely vanished, so the Secretary's authority seeped out to the agency.