OMB asks for evidence-based budgeting

Agencies should base their fiscal year 2014 budget requests on evidence of programs' effectiveness, with an eye toward spending less, OMB says.

Agencies are to use evidence in submitting their fiscal year 2014 budget requests, according to a new Office of Management and Budget memo released May 18. "Evidence," in this case, means using rigorous evaluations of programs' performance as part of the budget-setting process.

"Agencies should demonstrate the use of evidence throughout their Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget submissions. Budget submissions also should include a separate section on agencies' most innovative uses of evidence and evaluation," the memo reads. "Many potential strategies have little immediate cost, and the Budget is more likely to fund requests that demonstrate a commitment to developing and using evidence. The Budget also will allocate limited resources for initiatives to expand the use of evidence."

The memo invites agencies to propose new evaluations, adding some specific suggestions:

  • Low-cost evaluations using administrative data or new technology;
  • Evaluations linked to waivers and performance partnerships;
  • Expansion of evaluation efforts within existing programs;
  • Systemic measurement of costs and cost per outcome.

"OMB invites agencies to identify areas where research provides strong evidence regarding the comparative cost-effectiveness of agency investments," the memo reads. "The research may pertain to the allocation of funding across agency programs (e.g., research showing that some funding streams have higher returns on investments) or within programs (e.g., research showing that some types of grantees or programmatic approaches have higher returns)."

Another memo issued the same day pertains to the higher-level budgeting approach OMB wants agencies to take, with evidence-based budgeting fit into the larger context, part of an effort to cut the federal deficit with reduced spending. That memo details the reduced spending that the administration is looking for. "Unless your agency has received different guidance from OMB, your overall agency request for 2014 should be 5 percent below the net discretionary total provided for your agency for 2014 in the 2013 Budget," it reads.

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