GAO report finds agencies’ use of performance information on the rise

The Government Accountability Office found 16 of 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies increased use of such data during 2020.
The facade of the GAO building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Cory Doctorow/Flickr)

Most agencies saw an uptick in their managers using performance information in decision making in 2020, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday.

GAO created an index in 2007 to measure federal managers’ use of performance information and found it increased at 16 of 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies compares to 2017.

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 requires agencies to increase use of performance information and other evidence in decision making, and this is the first year that use has increased since the index was created.

“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,” reads GAO’s report.


About 940 of the roughly 2,240 managers who responded to GAO’s survey reported being “somewhat” or “very” familiar with data-driven reviews of progress toward select goals, and those whose programs had been subject to such reviews scored higher on the index to a “great” or “very great” extent.

Agencies that trained their managers to use performance information and made that information accessible — by having projects report relevant data to a central repository for leadership review — also tended to score higher, according to the report.

One agency that improved its use of performance information was NASA, which previously had a history of its projects increasing in cost and being delayed.

Only the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Agency for International Development responded to GAO’s findings, the former touting its index score improved more than any other large agency’s.

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

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