Memo: Using Statistics to Assess Performance

 
 


Office of the Attorney General
Washington, D.C. 20530

    February 8, 1999

MEMORANDUM FOR HEADS OF DEPARTMENT COMPONENTS

FROM:                  THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

SUBJECT:             Using Statistics to Assess Performance
 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) remains firmly committed to full implementation of the Government
Performance and Results Act (the Results Act). This and similar statutes require that there be more
careful planning for the use of resources and that we be more accountable for specific program results.
Consistent with the requirements of the Results Act, we submitted to the Congress a strategic plan for
1997 to 2002, and a 1999 summary performance plan, along with individual performance plans from
every Department component. Our strategic plan provides a comprehensive DOJ mission statement and
establishes long range goals for each of our major core functions. The performance plans include more
detailed objectives for the current fiscal year. We are currently working to refine these objectives and
indicators for the 2000 performance plans, which are due to the Congress in February 1999.

I strongly support these basic steps toward improved program management. I believe that our
objectives should be expressed in specific, measurable form wherever possible. However, there
is the potential for abuse if certain statistical indicators are inappropriately used for measuring either
program or employee performance.

For program performance, this comes into play if we are pressed to set a target regarding a future
level of law enforcement activity--such as making numeric projections for indicators such as arrests,
indictments, convictions, or asset seizures--without sufficient consideration to the quality or impact of
those actions. In law enforcement, our foremost responsibility is to do what is just and to do so in a fair
and impartial manner. Serving justice is our ultimate standard of success. It does not necessarily
correspond to the number of arrests made, indictments brought, cases settled, or convictions won. In
fact, if circumstances warrant, the Government's decision not to take certain enforcement actions may
be more indicative of the successful pursuit of justice.

In addition, I am particularly concerned that the individual employee performance is not evaluated
based on these types of unqualified indicators. I am deeply concerned that the judgment and actions of
our personnel never be perceived as being influenced by striving to reach a targeted goal, or quota, for
its own sake, without regard to the activity's larger purpose. At the same time, I am determined that we
hold ourselves and our employees to the highest possible standards of performance and that we are able
to document specific results for actions taken and resources spent.

I urge all employees to work together to improve our performance measurement and accountability
systems. This includes setting meaningful goals with appropriate targets. In law enforcement, this is
likely to mean using intelligence and program analyses to assess current threats, identify priorities, and
establish specific investigative targets. DOJ will continue to collect and report, on a prior-year basis only,
on overall arrests, indictments, convictions, and asset seizures because they can provide valuable
context to the nature and level of activity in a jurisdiction. They also support trend analyses and overall
accountability.

In summary, I expect DOJ managers to continue using a range of performance indicators to meet our
program and employee accountability requirements. However, arrest, indictment, conviction, and asset
seizure data should not be used out of context or without appropriate qualification when assessing
program or employee performance. This policy will ensure that we remain true to the purpose of serving
justice in a fair and impartial manner.