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OMB: Agencies should let evidence guide budget requests

Jul. 30, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY Staff writer   |   Comments
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Agencies need to strengthen their ability to improve program performance 'by applying existing evidence of what works, generating new knowledge, and using experimentation and innovation to test new approaches to program delivery,' Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell said in a July 26 memo. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Agencies should seek funding only for programs that work in their 2015 budgets and be able to back up their requests with evidence, Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell told agency heads in a new memo.

In pursuit of President Obama’s goal of “a smarter, more innovative and more accountable government,” agencies need to strengthen their ability to improve program performance “by applying existing evidence of what works, generating new knowledge, and using experimentation and innovation to test new approaches to program delivery,” Burwell said in a July 26 memo.

That approach is particularly important given the current fiscal climate, Burwell added, as agencies face “tough choices’ in meeting “increased demand for services in a constrained resource environment.” Agencies should also come up with new evaluation tools or ideas for developing evidence that can be used to improve existing programs.

Toward this end, Burwell said officials from the National Science Foundation and the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments are jointly developing “common evidence guidelines” to improve the quality of government studies.

In another effort, the Housing and Urban Development Department is sharing data with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to better grasp how housing policy may affect the way elderly residents of publicly subsidized dwellings use health care, Burwell said in the memo.

In recent years, OMB officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of evidence in shaping budget decisions. This fall, OMB and White House policy councils are also planning at least five workshops for agencies on such themes as:

■How agencies can conduct rigorous program evaluations and data analytics on a tight budget.

■How they can turn a traditional competitive grant program into one that is innovative and “evidence-based.”

■How they can use behavioral and social science research findings to improve program results at low cost.

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