Providing evidence for funding will challenge agency thinking

 Now that the Office of Management and Budget wants to see more use of analysis and evaluation in agency budget request -- evidence-based budgeting -- agency officials have to be diligent about gathering the evidence they offer in support of their programs, according to a veteran of the federal budget process.

OMB’s evidentiary demands force officials to look far into the future to determine a program’s costs and benefits—a feat that takes a lot of internal and at least some external reviews, said Ray Bjorklund, vice president and chief knowledge officer at Deltek.

If officials don’t give OMB a full picture, they can open themselves up to criticism about poor planning and suspicious evidence, he said.

The evidence requires a degree of intellectual honesty about the cost and benefits of a program. It also requires holistic thinking, he said. Officials should consider getting outside opinions to gather as much various input to develop evidence with as few holes as possible. Bjorklund suggested seeking the opinion of the agency’s inspector general or even a public consultant.

OMB issued two memos on May 18 outlining a new emphasis on evidence in budgeting. Agencies are to reduce their costs and support their requests with data that shows why the programs to be funded deserve to be. The evidence can determine what funding an agency may potentially receive.

“Where evidence is strong, we should act on it. Where evidence is suggestive, we should consider it. Where evidence is weak, we should build the knowledge to support better decisions in the future,” Jeffrey Zients, acting OMB director, wrote in the memo.

The memo invites agencies to propose new evaluations, adding some specific suggestions. Officials can consider low-cost evaluations using administrative data or new technology or systemic measurement of costs and cost per outcome. The overall goal of the OMB guidance is to create smaller budgets that justify their expenditures.

“These are important and noble goals, but at the same time, challenging,” Bjorklund said.

Kevin Plexico, vice president of federal information solutions at Deltek, said the overall guidance builds on what OMB issued last year. OMB told agencies to cut their budgets by 5 percent and then identify programs where they needed increases. But the additional detailed guidance on evidence-based budgeting is a new wrinkle.

He said it’s interesting that OMB is asking for data that’s specifically relevant to a given challenge, and that demonstrates a connection between the data provided and the outcome.

“That said, it’s hard to see it having a meaningful impact on the outcome given the political landscape we are in today,” he said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Tue, May 22, 2012 Paul

I just wonder how much money they put on a person's life. I've had to do some cost benefit justifications before but I always get frustrated when asked to cost justify something that is simply the right thing to do, especially with our soldiers.

Mon, May 21, 2012 Mark

isn't the PART by anonther name still the PART?

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group