Streamlining Government: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen OMB's Approach to Improving Efficiency Page: 33 of 73
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it was an output- rather than an outcome-level measure. According to
Forest Service documents, factors beyond its control affect watershed
conditions, and it is difficult to demonstrate the impact of program
activities on watersheds and try to determine the most cost-effective way
to improve the outcome. The agency's ability to improve the condition of
watersheds depends on many factors, including what percentage of the
land affecting the watershed is privately owned as opposed to owned by
the Forest Service and past impacts-for example, an official said that
lands that were previously mined may be more difficult to restore.
Officials said that the cost of trying to improve some watersheds would
exceed available funds, and in some cases passive restoration, or doing
nothing and letting natural processes return, could improve conditions as
rapidly as any program interventions could. Forest Service officials said
they reached agreement with OMB to develop an outcome-oriented
efficiency measure based on the cost of improving or maintaining the
condition of watershed acres. According to a 2008 report prepared by the
Forest Service,49 in order to be able to relate costs to outcomes, program
officials explained that they will need to develop a consistent approach for
assessing watershed condition and a system that would enable them to
track changes in watershed conditions and relate these changes to Forest
Service management activities. Following implementation of this
approach, the agency would be able to track improvements in program
outcomes and relate changes to cost.
Achieving Required Annual OMB's PMA and PART guidance required programs to set annual
Improvement Targets for improvement targets for their efficiency measures. We previously reported
Efficiency that in some programs, long-term outcomes are expected to occur over
time through multiple steps, and that it can take years to observe program
results. For these programs, it can be difficult to identify performance
measures that will provide information on annual progress toward
Along these lines, some program officials we interviewed told us it was not
reasonable to expect annual improvements in efficiency for some
programs because it might take several years for an increase in efficiency
to be realized as a result of some intervention or investment, or because a
49USDA Forest Service, Conceptual Framework for Determining and Tracking Changes
in Watershed Condition on Lands Managed, revised February 13, 2008.
GAO-10-394 Streamlining Government
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Streamlining Government: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen OMB's Approach to Improving Efficiency, report, May 7, 2010; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302236/m1/33/: accessed May 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.