A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that agencies are using performance information for decision making much more than in previous years.

Both the GPRA (Government Performance and Results Act) Modernization Act of 2010 and the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 included requirements for the Federal government to bolster its use of performance information in decision making. GAO periodically reports on the progress made on these requirements, but this year is the first it has seen an increase in the use of performance information.

“GAO’s 2020 survey of Federal managers showed that the reported use of performance information in decision-making generally increased across the Federal government compared to prior surveys,” the report says. “For example, on an index that approximates such use with a single score, GAO estimates with 95 percent confidence that the 2020 government-wide result was statistically significantly higher than each prior score since GAO created the index in 2007.”

Specifically, GAO’s index to measure managers’ reported use of performance information was 3.64 in 2020, compared to 3.46 in 2007, 3.41 in 2013, and a low of 3.39 in 2017.

GAO also found that “key practices continue to be positively associated with greater reported use of performance information.” For example, managers reported increases related to leading practices that use performance information, such as providing training and sharing performance information.

“Our 2020 survey results reinforced our prior findings that managers whose programs were subject to data-driven reviews reported greater use of performance information, leading practices that promote such use, and leading practices for effective data-driven reviews,” the report says.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) index score improved more than any other large agency and it responded positively to GAO’s findings.

VA attributed its index score to “leveraging our existing best practices in evidence use/evaluation, disseminating them widely, and providing a robust support structure to actively promote wide adoption.

“VA also conducted enterprise-wide surveys of evidence/evaluator practitioners to provide their direct feedback to areas needing further improvement,” the agency’s response to the report says. “VA continues to augment our robust governance approaches to embed evidence-based decision making more firmly in our framework.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.