A Framework and Checklist for Evaluating Soil and Water Conservation Programs

PAD-80-15: Published: Mar 31, 1980. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 1980.

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As a part of its continuing oversight assistance, GAO developed a checklist of questions for Congress to use in the oversight of the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) soil and water conservation programs. These questions and guidelines provide a systematic framework which can be used by USDA in conducting evaluations and for reporting information which is relevant in determining that soil and water conservation programs are meeting needs in an effective and efficient manner. Although this framework was developed with particular programs in mind, it is believed that this approach can be applied to other USDA programs and to programs of other departments and agencies.

The evaluation framework lays out questions and guidelines for identifying program purposes and objectives based on the problems which the programs are intended to solve. The questions and guidelines are intended to be based upon decisions that must be made regarding soil and water conservation programs by Congress and its committees, the Office of Management and Budget, USDA, and other groups and individuals who must decide whether to install or adopt a conservation practice. Ideally, the guidelines and any answers would first be used for program management and then in the budget process. The questions and guidelines were designed to establish a long-term framework for evaluating the performance of soil and water conservation programs. Because the questions are so complex, the framework will have to be adopted gradually, after a systematic analysis of the value and validity of each question. This analysis should determine what data is required, how it will be gathered and used, and how much the data-gathering system will cost.

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