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Memorandum Calling for an Evaluation of Current Federal Programs

May 25, 1970

Memorandum to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

In my budget for Fiscal Year 1971 and in my Federal Economy Act Message, I have taken or have requested of the Congress 57 specific actions to save money by reducing, terminating or restructuring Federal programs. These actions were necessary because of our stringent budgetary position and because we regard it as our responsibility to make the best possible use of every tax dollar.

Every Federal program--including those of very low priority--is of special concern to some special interest group. Such groups are now resisting our economy actions even though these actions are clearly in the interest of the general public. As I said in my March 19 memorandum to you, each department and agency must now do all it can to make a strong, cogent case for the Administration's economy measures--both to the public and to the Congress. We must exert at least as much--and sometimes even more--effort to save the taxpayer's money as we do to spend it.

To make the most effective possible use of every tax dollar, we must also institute a vigorous examination of every current program--large and small--to uncover those which can and should be modified or eliminated by executive action, and those which should be altered by the Congress.

Program evaluation is one of your most important responsibilities and is key to this effort. As the President's Advisory Council on Executive Organization has emphasized, each agency must continually evaluate its own internal programs while the Bureau of the Budget gives special attention to the evaluation of interagency programs. In addition, the Bureau of the Budget stands ready to provide your department or agency with any assistance in systems analysis and program evaluation that you may need.

In general, the kind of program evaluation for which I am calling involves three steps:

First, critical examination of the objectives of the program. Is the objective valid today? What is the relative priority of the objective?

Second, an analysis of the effectiveness of the program. Does the program adequately serve its target population? Does the program achieve its objectives in an economical manner?

Third, consideration of alternative approaches to achieving the objective which would produce the same or greater benefits at the same or lesser costs.

I am requesting that each of you initiate an intensive program evaluation effort and submit to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, not later than July 1, 1970, a report on your findings. This report should:

1. Identify and briefly describe each activity that is relatively ineffective or of low priority;

2. Suggest corrective action, including the administrative or legislative steps necessary to obtain the desired results; and

3. Estimate the outlay and budget authority savings that could be realized for the fiscal year in which the change is proposed, and the full year savings expected under the recommended action.

Your suggestions and others will be carefully considered as the Fiscal Year 1972 budget is prepared. I will expect the Budget Director to keep me informed on the results of these actions as we proceed through the budget formulation process.

The present outlook for the 1972 budget is one of continued stringency. If we are to keep expenditures down--and yet free sufficient funds for new initiatives--we must all make a very tough evaluation of current programs. I request your full cooperation in this very important effort.


Richard Nixon, Memorandum Calling for an Evaluation of Current Federal Programs Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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