Evaluation in the Federal Government: Lessons Learned and Lessons Unlearned

Session Number: 1718
Track: Government Evaluation
Session Type: Panel
Tags: Evaluation capacity building, Evaluation Policy, evaluation use, federal evaluation, Government, government evaluation, performance management system, Program monitoring and evaluation
Session Chair: Kathryn Newcomer [George Washington University]
Discussant: Joe Wholey [University of Southern California]
Presenter 1: Nicholas Hart [George Washington University / U.S. Office of Management and Budget]
Presenter 2: Stephanie Shipman [US Government Accountability Office]
Presenter 3: Yvonne M Watson [US EPA]
Presentation 1 Additional Author: Kathryn Newcomer [Professor - George Washington University]
Time: Nov 12, 2015 (07:00 AM - 07:45 AM)
Room: Columbian

Abstract 1 Title: Change and Continuity: Lessons Learned from the Bush and Obama Administrations' Experiences with Evaluation and Performance Measurement
Presentation Abstract 1: Calls for "evidence‐based policy" and for assessing how well government programs work have been around for many years. The George W. Bush and Barack Obama Administrations both espoused support for the generation and use of evidence to guide and improve government management. The two presidents brought very different professional experiences, political views, and policy advisors to the job as Chief Executive of the federal bureaucracy, yet their “President’s Management Agendas” established similar expectations about the use of evaluation and performance data. The paper outlines how the two Presidential Administrations centrally approached “evidence‐based policy” and “performance management,” with emphases on program evaluation and performance measurement, respectively. We highlight the many similarities across the Administrations, the interesting differences, and the intriguing ways in which some lessons that could have been “learned” were not.
Abstract 2 Title: Recent Governmentwide Surveys on U.S. Federal Evaluation Capacity
Presentation Abstract 2: Stephanie will discuss recent trends in federal agency conduct and use of evaluation in decision making based on a couple of recent surveys conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). GAO surveyed both individual managers on how they use evaluation, and separately, senior agency officials on the enabling environment for use of evidence generally, as well as their agency’s evaluation expertise, organizational support, and varied uses of evaluation in decision making. Despite the increased attention paid by the White House to strengthening the use of evidence and evaluation in agency decision making, evaluation capacity – and its growth – varies widely among the federal agencies. Stephanie will share lessons learned from the agencies themselves about what helped them build their agencies’ ability to conduct and use evaluations.
Abstract 3 Title: Are We There Yet? U.S. EPA’s Efforts to Implement Performance Management Initiatives
Presentation Abstract 3: Donald Moynihan (2008) views the 21st century as the era of government by performance management – because most public sector reforms that occurred over the last three decades were related to government performance (federal and state). The vast array of statutes, initiatives and executive orders requiring the collection and reporting of performance information and the conduct of program evaluations reflects our nation’s interest with an efficiently run and answerable government. For the past 15 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), Evaluation Support Division has been responsible for building the capacity of the agency to evaluate its programs and has worked with counterparts in the Office of Chief Financial Officer to implement and comply with various Administrations’ performance management agendas. The presenter will provide an agency-level perspective on the successes, challenges and opportunities associated with implementing “select” initiatives; discussing internal and external factors that support and hamper these efforts.
Audience Level: Advanced

Session Abstract: 

In recent years, increased calls for government accountability, learning, and improved program performance in the United States transformed how the Federal government implemented so-called “performance management” systems. These broad systems generally emphasize the acts of goal-setting, performance measurement, reporting, and related assessment, with a consistent goal of improving government effectiveness and service delivery.  Evaluation activities within the Federal performance management systems, including performance monitoring, received considerable attention among policymakers in both the Legislative and Executive Branches over the past decade.  Yet over this period the supply and demand of evaluation varied widely across Federal agencies and policy areas.  This panel will feature experts in government evaluation policy to address two main questions:  (1) how have the trends in the Federal demand for and use of evaluation and measurement activities evolved over the past decade and (2) what promising practices can be identified from past efforts to inform future initiatives.