GovExec has reported on GAO’s finding that Federal agencies don’t know enough about how well their emegency preparedness grants are performing. It includes a quote that really is applicable to every grant program on the face of the planet:
Federal, state and local governments should take several steps to
ensure that investments and projects are effective, Jenkins said. They
should develop strategic plans with clear goals, objectives and
milestones; set performance goals; collect and analyze relevant and
reliable data; assess the results; take action based on the results;
and monitor the effectiveness of those actions.
This is great but not-universally-implemented advice. One of my ongoing frustrations is the patchy ability for agencies to report on the real-world outcomes of their grant-making. OMB’s PART (Performance Assessment Rating Tool) goes some way to addressing that — and it’s also good that PART results are available publicly now — but even these fall short. I’d like to see hard statistics about what a program is intended to achieve and how it has performed over multiple years. I don’t think it’s shooting for the moon.
The reason I get frustrated about this is that government grant-making achieves wonderful outcomes. For example, the research that created Google was funded by NSF, NASA, and DARPA grants. This is American tax dollars being put to excellent use. Government should be crowing about this from the rooftops — but first it needs to collect the data to back it up.