Improvements Made but Additional Steps Needed to Strengthen Strategic Planning and Assess Progress

February 12, 2013

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has improved its Strategic Management Plan (SMP) by including additional strategic planning elements that were lacking from previous plans; however, the fiscal year 2012-2013 SMP still needs to incorporate some key information that would make it more useful for DOD decision makers as a guide for implementing business transformation efforts and for measuring progress. Improvements in the SMP include links between its business goals and DOD-wide goals, as well as milestone or target data that would enable DOD to better measure performance and assess progress in achieving SMP goals. However, the SMP does not fully describe the specific challenges the goals are intended to address and what the root causes of those challenges are. For example, the SMP states that the goal on strengthening DOD's acquisition processes is aimed at obtaining greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending, but the accompanying narrative does not describe what is causing acquisition-related cost growth and how the goal's initiatives may address those causes. The SMP also lacks sufficient context for why business goals and strategies were chosen or changed from prior plans, such as whether sufficient progress had been made to warrant their removal. Also, the SMP includes performance measures that do not fully reflect core activities needed to assess progress for some business goals. For example, the SMP identifies measures related to planning for contractor support, but does not address other core activities such as those related to providing contractor oversight. Refining the SMP to include this key information could help DOD better prioritize and target its reform efforts to address the underlying causes of its systemic business challenges and to achieve results.

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