Budget Officials to Agencies, Again: Show Us Your Programs Work

OMB memo seeks 'evidence and innovation' in fiscal 2015 budget requests.

The top team at the Office of Management and Budget on Friday directed all agency heads to be sure their fiscal 2015 budget requests include suggestions for strengthening the “use of evidence and innovation.”

As part of President Obama’s second-term management reform effort, agencies also must appoint representatives and prepare for a September series of technical workshops on interagency collaboration in use of evidence in measuring program outcomes.

Budget requests should include ideas for “strengthening agencies' abilities to continually improve program performance by applying existing evidence about what works, generating new knowledge, and using experimentation and innovation to test new approaches to program delivery,” said the memo from Sylvia M. Burwell, director of OMB; Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council; John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. “This is especially important given current fiscal challenges, as our nation recovers from a deep recession and agencies face tough choices about how to meet increased demand for services in a constrained resource environment.”

The memo comes 14 months after a similar memo from then-acting budget director Jeffrey Zients.

Agencies are to suggest approaches that yield credible evidence of program or policy impacts, “for example by utilizing randomized controlled trials or carefully designed quasi-experimental techniques,” the memo said. Agencies might reroute funds after modifying grant criteria or better disseminating information. The tools should also “address important policy questions and generate evidence that could be actionable.” A limited amount of new money will be available for implementation.

Participants in the search for tools are asked to consult “what works" clearinghouses already running at the Justice, Labor and Education departments as well as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Registry of Evidenced-based Programs and Practices.

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