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Working Together to Achieve More Mission for the Money

Shelley Metzenbaum discusses a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the Administration’s first-ever set of Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Goals.

“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses,
or the problems of modern society.”

-Vince Lombardi

Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the Administration’s first-ever set of Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Goals. This study is the first of many GAO is conducting on the Administration’s implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) Modernization Act of 2010 and we greatly appreciate GAO’s strong interest in this area, its recognition of our progress, and its recommendations. Cross Agency Priority Goals reflect the Administration’s commitment to reduce duplication, fragmentation, and waste across agencies. They also reflect the Administration’s decision to tap the power of goals, measurement, and frequent data-driven reviews as critical change-driving tools to deliver more value to the American people. These goals aim to tackle one of the most difficult challenges the Federal government faces: solving national problems for which multiple Federal departments and agencies share implementation responsibilities. 

In some instances, reorganizing the structure of government offers the greatest promise for fixing duplication and fragmentation problems. That’s why on February 16, 2012, the President sent to Congress the Consolidating and Reforming Government Act of 2012 to allow the President to put forward for fast Congressional action proposals to consolidate government and eliminate wasteful duplication. In other instances, and until Congress acts on the Administration’s proposed legislation, smarter management approaches that bring together expertise, resources, and skills from across the Federal Government can advance opportunities and fix problems.

The FY2013 Federal Budget announced 14 Cross Agency Priority goals that cut across multiple Federal agencies. These complement the 103 ambitious, implementation-focused priority goals set by individual agencies. CAP Goals are an important development in Federal governance, recently hailed by one expert as “a quiet revolution.” Congress recognized this when it required the Administration to establish CAP Goals in the Modernization Act.  

These 14 goals reflect the President’s commitment to strengthening areas critical to economic growth and job creation: exports, STEM education, entrepreneurship, broadband infrastructure, and job training. One Cross-Agency Priority Goal for example, is to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014, and another is to increase Federal services to entrepreneurs and small businesses. They also aim to serve our returning veterans in their transition to civilian jobs, strengthen the sustainability and cybersecurity of Federal operations, and boost the productivity of the Federal Government’s back-office functions. In each of these 14 areas, success requires a synthesis of effort and investments among and across multiple Federal agencies. 

The CAP Goals do not attempt to reflect every priority of the Administration. They instead reflect the area where we felt progress would be greatly accelerated by designation as a goal with focused cross-agency engagement, a clearly identified goal leader, and regular data-driven follow-up. Other areas, such as the Administration’s national security efforts, are also a top priority but already get sustained, focused, and coordinated attention and did not require CAP Goal designation. To choose the goals, OMB, supported by the Performance Improvement Council (PIC) which was established in law by the Modernization Act, ran a goal-setting process that engaged senior officials across the White House. Each of these historic goals is now being led by a senior White House official, designated a Cross-Agency Priority Goal Leader, accountable for success on the goal. These Goal Leaders are supported by the PIC, which gives them access to expertise in performance measurement and management.

In its report, GAO recognizes the importance of the CAP Goals and looks at each cross-agency goal announced with the President’s 2013 Budget to identify, from its prior work, additional departments, agencies, and programs that could potentially contribute to the goals. Using a collaborative inter-agency process, we are reviewing those suggestions carefully to inform and refine the action plan for each goal, a process GAO describes as a positive development. We greatly appreciate GAO’s suggestions and its constructive review.

To see the full list of CAP Goals, I invite you to visit the Clear Goals page on

Shelley Metzenbaum is Associate Director of Performance and Personnel Management