Over the past decade, the Federal Government has increasingly tied agency budgets to the impacts of their programs. The 2014 Economic Report of the President argued:
“Evaluating Federal programs and interventions to understand their impact, and developing the infrastructure within agencies to support a sustained level of high-quality evaluations, is an Administration priority.”
By rigorously testing which programs and interventions are most effective at achieving important goals, the government can (a) improve its programs; (b) scale up the approaches that work best; and (c) discontinue those that are less effective.
Even so, Federal agencies' capacity for evaluating their programs–and effectively using the results of these evaluations–remains uneven. In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office showed that only 7 of 24 surveyed Federal agencies had central leaders responsible for evaluation. Perhaps more concerning is that 7 other agencies reported having had no recent evaluations of their performance goals.