the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

Search form

Discovering What Works

Summary: 
Good morning, OMBlog readers. Beginning today, I am serving as Acting Director until Jack Lew is confirmed as OMB Director – and I’ll be guest blogging here.

Good morning, OMBlog readers. Beginning today, I am serving as Acting Director until Jack Lew is confirmed as OMB Director – and I’ll be guest blogging here.

As many of you know, I also serve as the Chief Performance Officer of the US Government, and what we know is that determining which programs work and which do not is critical to discovering whether government operations are doing what they are supposed to do in a cost-efficient manner.

Yet too many important programs have never been formally evaluated. And when they have, the results of those evaluations have not been fully taken into the decision-making process, at the level of either budgetary decisions or management practices. For an organization as large as the Federal Government, with as many priorities and obligations as it has, the fact that we have rarely evaluated multiple approaches to the same problem makes it difficult to be confident that taxpayers’ dollars are being spent effectively and efficiently.  Running rigorous evaluations takes money, but investments in rigorous evaluations are a drop in the bucket relative to the dollars at risk of being poorly spent when we fail to learn what works and what doesn’t.

That’s why as part of the President’s Accountable Government Initiative, OMB on Friday issued guidance to Federal agencies about conducting high-priority evaluations.  Agencies may request additional funding to conduct these evaluations and assess whether they are carrying out their mission as efficiently and effectively as possible. OMB is allocating a small amount of funding for agencies that voluntarily demonstrate how their FY 2012 funding priorities are subjected to rigorous evaluation, with an emphasis on evaluations aimed at determining the causal effects of programs or particular strategies, interventions, and activities within programs. In addition, we are working with agencies to improve and coordinate the use of existing evaluation resources.

Finding out if a program works is common sense, and the basis upon which we can decide which programs should continue and which need to be fixed or terminated. This guidance will help us do just that.