Evaluating Federal R and D Programs

Published: Jun 7, 1977. Publicly Released: Jun 7, 1977.

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GAO has been involved in evaluation of research and development (R and D) at four levels: (1) review by the President and Congress directed toward achieving national policy goals; (2) review by management to determine if the mission has been fulfilled; (3) assessment of specific program objectives; and (4) review of projects which make up these programs. GAO is developing guidelines on methods for reviewing and evaluating programs under existing law. Four facets of the planning phase were cited: to define the problem and to formulate objectives clearly in measurable terms; to determine a basis for comparison; to determine what will happen if the program is successful in order to assess alternative approaches; and to establish, from the beginning, an independent evaluation team. Examples illustrating failure of Federal agencies to perform one or more of these functions were Federal short takeoff and landing transport programs, the National Institute of Education's Experimental Schools Program, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Operation Breakthrough Program, and the National Science Foundation's Science Education Materials Program. These cases indicated inadequate policy guidance from higher levels of management. The basic principle stated was that program evaluation should begin with program planning and continue throughout the duration and following the completion of the R and D.

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