The Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 was perceived by many in Congress as needed because of the failure of the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, which sought to improve the efficiency of federal agencies and which the 2010 Act sought to improve upon, had proven ineffective at streamlining government practices and reducing costs.
Both the initial 1993 Act and the amended 2010 version were designed to facilitate improvements in how federal agencies conceptualize their missions and carry out their responsibilities. The requirements set forth in both Acts involved the preparation of reports by each agency that were to define their responsibilities and articulate their strategies for setting goals and objectives and, most importantly, for measuring progress in meeting those goals and objectives. Members of Congress wanted the agencies to vastly improve how they measure performance, usually through creation of metrics that would reflect goals and progress toward their attainment.
There is no question that federal agencies can and should improve their operations. To suggest that requiring additional labor-intensive reports that would ultimately be read by only a handful of Members of Congress and their staffs would be helpful, however, was a little duplicitous. When congressional committees are at a loss as to how to dictate changes in how federal agencies function, they invariably require reports to be submitted by those agencies describing strategies for improvement. Those report requirements rarely amount to much in practice other than to tie up personnel in their preparation.
In addition, congressional committees routinely require Congress's investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (formerly the General Accounting Office, or GAO) to research and write reports on government activities in order to highlight deficiencies in how agencies operate. While GAO reports are usually well-done and provide useful information, and while their recommendations often provide the basis for legislative provisions intended to improve government, it all usually amounts to nothing. For fifty years, Congress has required improvements to how the Department of Defense purchases equipment, and for decades special commissions have been formed to study problems and suggest recommendations, yet all the reports, hearings, and bills intended to fix the problems have amounted to little. Consequently, the ramifications of not carrying out the Act's provisions are minimal to nonexistent.