EERE evaluation requirements are prefaced by the fact that attention to program evaluation is indicative of good management practice of public resources. Programs are required to follow applicable internal requirements from EERE, as well as external evaluation requirements for federal agencies and from Executive Orders and Congress.
Good management practice includes the critical action by the program manager to decide, preferably on his/her own initiative, to perform evaluations; followed by use of the findings/results.
Ideally programs should gather evaluation information as a matter of routine management practice because evaluation is a tool that can help programs achieve management excellence. Evaluation does this by serving two critical purposes – learning and improvement and accountability. Many evaluations are designed to serve both purposes.
Learning and Improvement
Evaluations help managers assess how well their programs are working by estimating the extent to which desired outcomes are being achieved and by identifying whether improvements are needed to increase effectiveness with respect to objectives. Evaluation activity helps program managers proactively optimize their programs' performance.
Evaluations provide actionable information on program activities that are not being performed as intended, outputs that are less effective than they were expected to be, customer needs or expectations that are unmet, and outcomes that are below projections.
Managers can use this information to request additional resources or to modify the program design to improve its effectiveness.
A program that undertakes evaluation activities to obtain timely information during the planning, budgeting, implementation, and other management cycles to make continuous improvements will achieve greater success than one that does not.
Evaluations help program managers demonstrate internal and external accountability for the use of public resources. This includes demonstrating fiscally responsible management, establishing evidence that goals are being met or services are being delivered as promised, and quantifying "realized" impacts of the program.
A program that can account for its public investments by demonstrating progress and results is more likely to be viewed as successful by the appropriators and stakeholders.
Programs that perform evaluation activities out of a desire to promote continuous improvement are motivated by the need for timely information to inform decisions and will automatically be able to answer calls for "public accountability" by Congress and stakeholders.
In addition to an office's own self-motivation for engaging in evaluation activity, there are sometimes internal requirements set by the agency, subagency, or operational divisions and external drivers for evaluation.
Internal and External Evaluation Requirements
Currently, EERE has internal evaluation requirements and expectations for In-progress Peer Reviews and Stage Gate or Go/No-Go reviews.
|Type of Evaluation||Current EERE Requirements or Expectations (As of January 2020)|
|Peer Review||EERE programs and key projects must be peer reviewed by independent subject matter experts, on average, every two years. Peer reviews should typically cover 80-90% of program funding.|
|Stage Gate or Go/No-go reviews|
These are expected to be performed on an as needed basis, determined by when a project portfolio is expected to reach a critical gate in the stage gating process.
Recent federal evaluation requirements are related to the Title 1 of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act), which directs Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Act agencies to develop a Learning Agenda, establish evaluation policies, build evaluation capacity, and carry out evaluations using Federal standard and practice guidelines. This is to be done initially in 2020 and annually thereafter.
The Evidence Act requires CFO Act Federal agencies, which includes DOE, to do the following at the agency-level. Non-CFO Act agencies, as well as sub-agencies, operational divisions, or bureaus of CFO Act agencies are strongly encouraged to take up activities stated in the Evidence Act.
Requirements of Evidence Act on Federal Agencies
|Provision||Bill Reference||Requirement on Agencies|
|Agency Evidence-Building Plan|
CFO Act agencies must develop an evidence-building plan every four years as part of their strategic plans. Plan identifies questions relevant to programs, policies, and regulations, includes a list of the data the agency intends to collect, use, or acquire or collect, and a list of challenges to accessing relevant data.Also see OMB M-20-12*
|Stakeholder Consultation||101(a) (§312)|
CFO Act agencies must consult with stakeholders (the public, agencies, State and local governments, and representatives of non-governmental researchers) in developing the Agency Evidence-Building Plan.Also see OMB M-20-12*
|Agency Evaluation Plan||101(a) (§312)|
CFO Act agencies must issue an evaluation plan concurrent with their annual performance plan describing evaluation activities for the subsequent year. The plan shall include key questions for each "significant" evaluation study the agency plans to begin and describe key information collections or acquisitions the agency plans to begin.Also see OMB M-20-12*
|Evaluation Officers||101(a) (§313)|
CFO Act agency heads must designate a senior employee as Evaluation Officer (EO) based on listed qualifications. The EO must continually assess the portfolio of evaluation and policy research, address agency capacity for evaluation, establish and implement an agency evaluation policy, and coordinate, develop, and implement the evidence-building plan and evaluation plan under section 312.Also see OMB M-20-12*
CFO Act agencies must conduct an assessment of the coverage, quality, methods, effectiveness, and independence of the statistics, evaluation, research, and analysis efforts of the agency, including capacity and other specified elements.Also see OMB M-20-12*
|Program evaluation standards and best practices||101(e) & OMB M-20-12|
CFO Act agencies must implement OMB guidance within 90 days of it being issued. The standards are detailed in OMB M-20-12. They are:
Notes: Source: Evaluation-specific provisions in Evidence Act, as summarized by the OMB Evidence Team * OMB Memorandum M-19-23, “Phase I Implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018.” ** OMB Memorandum M-20-12, “Phase 4 Implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018: Program Evaluation Standards and Practices.”
Additionally, over the years multiple other directives and guidance memorandum from the executive and legislative branches have encouraged evaluation and evidence-building in federal programs.
- Office of Management and Budget: Evidence and Evaluation
- GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 – each agency shall make available on its public website an update on its performance. Agency strategic plans must include "…a description of the program evaluations used in establishing or revising general goals and objectives," and Agency performance reporting has to "include the summary findings of those program evaluations completed during the period covered by the update."