In a cruel and unusual case of government accountability, federal law requires executive departments like USDA to report each year on whether they have met their main goals and objectives. For example, USDA must explain its progress toward meeting a key outcome stated in eloquently plain language: "reduce hunger and improve nutrition." For fiscal years 2002 and 2003, USDA declared that its targets for this objective were "met" even though food insecurity was rising in those years. Basically, the department quantified its progress toward its target by measuring its success in delivering food assistance program benefits rather than actually reducing hunger (see here for my critique of that approach). In the new accountability report for fiscal year 2004, released last month after USDA confessed yet another year's increase in food insecurity, the department says its self-evaluation under "Objective 4.1.1" is "deferred" due to lack of data. Perhaps, the department can find the data it needs to assess its progress in an earlier post on this weblog.