This document was superseded by Stewardship and Oversight Agreement Implementation Guidance on 12/09/2013.
Stewardship/Oversight Task Force - Appendix B
Acknowledgement of FHWA Stewardship in FHWA Strategic Plan and Performance Plans
The U.S. Department of Transportation, through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is charged with the administration of the Federal highway programs. Section 101 (b)(1) of Title 49, United States Code, states the Department is to "ensure the coordinated and effective administration of the transportation programs of the United States Government". The current FHWA Strategic Plan identifies the business goals we hope to obtain with the "coordinated and effective administration" of these programs and the plan discusses that it is through the stewardship and oversight of the Federal highway programs that we achieve the identified business goals. The current plan does not discuss the important accountability role the FHWA staff has in administering these same programs.
A unique aspect of the Federal highway programs is that, by law, the FHWA shares the administration of these programs with our STA and Federal agency partners. The FHWA retains the ultimate responsibility for all activities funded with FHWA funds, with the STA or Federal agency partners frequently being the implementing entity. The degree that the STA or Federal Agency has assumed project approval authority varies with each STA and Federal Agency. The FHWA stewardship and oversight activities for each program and each partner vary in a direct relationship to the project approval authorities assumed by the STA or Federal Agency and the results of the implementation of the program. This project administration, program oversight relationship is analogous to quality control and quality assurance processes. The agency with the oversight responsibility needs to structure their activities in direct response to the quality control, process management activities, and capabilities of the implementing agency.
While everyone agrees that the FHWA has oversight and accountability responsibilities, there is the question of whether and how our oversight activities and our effectiveness and efficiency in conducting oversight should be reflected in the FHWA National Strategic Plan and Performance Plan. Currently, the National Strategic Plan has reflected the FHWA stewardship role in a paragraph discussing that the FHWA ability to achieve the identified goals is through our ability to influence other agencies since it is these other agencies that actually determine the priority of transportation needs, scope of improvements, etc. There is no direct connection or reference to the FHWA oversight role in the National Strategic Plan. The strength of this approach is that it conveys that our staff's stewardship responsibilities are intricately linked to the accomplishment of these business goals and the interrelationship of daily business and the agency strategic goals is important in implementing quality in an organization. The FHWA employees struggle with this approach because (1) a one paragraph reference to a thirteen page report does not convey a lot of importance, and (2) there are important activities in our daily business (i.e. program and project oversight activities) that are not linked to the improvement strategies and initiatives tracked as part of the Strategic Plan and Performance Plan processes.
Discussion in the FHWA Performance Plans offers some improvement in that there are efforts underway to include some related performance measures in the Department and Agency Performance Plans and some Divisions already include oversight activities in their Unit Plans.
FY 2001 Performance Plan
The Corporate Management Strategies section of this document identifies the actual corporate management strategies FHWA has adopted, based on the Malcolm Baldrige and President's Quality Award criteria, and initiatives to be implemented in FY 2001. Appendix II of this document provides information to align these corporate management strategies with the DOT "Organizational Excellence" strategic goal and the implementation of performance measures in the 2002 Performance Plan. Earlier drafts of this performance plan referenced the FHWA/STA Partnership Pilot that is underway currently. These references were deleted in the final document, although it is the Task Force understanding that the information provided from this pilot activity will be used in formulating the FY 2002 Performance Plan.
Division Unit Plans:
Some Division Unit Plans included references to "oversight" responsibilities, and in some of the plans it was clear to see a mixture of project actions and program actions was the effective way for the Division to accomplish all of its responsibilities with limited personnel resources. Not all unit plans clearly identified oversight responsibilities or oversight activities.
Options for Strengthening the Link between Oversight and the FHWA Strategic Plan:
The Task Force received consensus on the need for a stronger reference of the FHWA Oversight role in the FHWA Business Plan and the FHWA Performance Plans. There is a wide range of opinion on how to accomplish that stronger link and due to the range of opinion and the fact that major decisions regarding the structure and direction of FHWA National Strategic Plan will not be made at this time. The Task Force is comfortable in (1) recommending the Agency develop a stronger link between oversight and our business goals, and (2) presenting the discussion that has occurred to date in this report.
Options to create a stronger link include:
- Identify a FHWA Oversight business goal, with a starting point for the definition of this goal being 49 U.S.C. 101(b)(1) "ensure the coordinated and effective administration of the transportation programs of the United States Government".
- Identify a unique business goal to track oversight as a recognizable piece of our productivity goal.
- Identify a recognizable, measurable link between oversight and Organizational Excellence.
The Task Force discussions focused on identifying recognizable business goals as being the most beneficial link for the FHWA employees since this is the most visible, recognizable portion of the National Strategic Plan and it conveys to our employees that our Agency's success depends on our oversight effectiveness as well as our ability to achieve the identified business goals. The Task Force recognizes the conflict in asserting "oversight" in the same sense of the public benefit of mobility, productivity, etc., but offers the concept that oversight does provide the public benefits.
The Task Force recognizes that it is easier to develop direct links between oversight and FHWA Corporate Management Strategies/DOT Organizational Excellence. The downside of these links is the topic becomes split across the multiple strategies and this results in a lack of focus and priority.
Options for Strengthening the Link between Oversight and the FHWA Performance Plans:
Regardless of how oversight is discussed in FHWA Strategic Plan, there must be performance elements in the FHWA Performance Plan and in the Performance Agreements. The plans should set up the accountable for each FHWA unit office to analyze the status and risks of its programs and to develop its unit plans to manage risks, obtain benefits or high payoffs with the use of our resources, and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the programs. Performance measures should address compliance with program requirements with a few measures targeting efficiency and effectiveness of processes.
The agency's decisions regarding the current FHWA/STA partnership effort should be coordinated with the Stewardship/Oversight Task Force recommendations since both efforts provide parallel discussions of how FHWA programs are administered and the need for accountability. In order to allow the maximum buy-in at the unit level and to allow flexibility in working with our STA and Federal Agency partners, our recommendation is that there be a minimum number of measures that are uniform nationwide, and that the unit offices determine additional measures and target goals that are based on the program needs in its area of responsibilities.