Despite partisanship and gridlock in Washington D.C. in other policy areas, there has been a growing movement, championed by both Democrats and Republicans, to strengthen program results and get more “bang for the buck” from federal spending. The movement is called the evidence-based policy agenda or simply the evidence agenda.
In his new report “Strengthen results-focused government: Strategies to build on bipartisan progress in evidence-based policy,” (PDF) Brookings Visiting Fellow Andrew Feldman argues the new administration should leverage President Trump’s business background and make a bold new push on evidence-based policy in order to improve government performance.
Out of the spotlight of the national political debates, Feldman says, there are hundreds of federal programs that serve American citizens everyday—programs that represent hundreds of bilions of dollars in taxpayer investment. Taking a page from the private sector and using data-driven, evidence-based management to more effectively run these government programs would positively impact millions of Americans, across a variety of areas, including creating more opportunity and upward mobility.
Feldman outlines five suggestions for the administration to build on the bipartisan evidence-based policy movement. They are:
- Put the Office of Management and Budget director in charge of performance improvement initiatives and create a Results Team within OMB, combining existing complementary resources to reduce the current silos within OMB between evidence and performance efforts
- Launch an intergovernmental reform initiative led by a high-level champion: the Vice President
- Strengthen OMB’s focus on evidence and innovation, given its role not only in the budget process, but also in helping agencies to adopt more innovative and evidence-based approaches using existing authority.
- Amend or replace the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act to make it a meaningful driver of results, since today it has largely become a compliance exercise.
- Reform the Paperwork Reduction Act as it relates to rigorous program evaluation. Today, the PRA is known as the biggest barrier to evidence-building within agencies due to the significant time delays it creates for evaluations and therefore for agencies’ abilities to learn what works
Feldman also suggests three more radical bipartisan restructuring ideas that drive evidence and innovation even deeper into federal agencies: integrating evidence into large formula grant programs; embedding an innovation fund into every large social program or portfolio of related programs; and allowing broader use of waivers in social programs to encourage state and local innovation, while requiring rigorous evaluation of the results. Read the full report here.