Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Evidence-Based Decision Making in the Department of Defense: Are We There Yet?

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 8:30 AM
Foster I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Wendy Ginsberg and Moshe Schwartz, Congressional Research Service
Evidence-Based Decision Making in the Department of Defense: Are We There Yet?

In FY2015, the budget of the Department of Defense (DOD) exceeded $560 billion. DOD obligates more money on contracts ($284 billion in FY2014) than all other government agencies combined.  Over the last few years, senior officials in DOD have emphasized the need to transition to a more data-driven decision-making process. DOD has also invested billions of dollars trying to build information technology systems to drive a more data-driven, evidence-based decision making process. Despite these efforts, many major policy decisions—from economic development programs in Afghanistan to choosing the weapon systems of the future—lack reliable data upon which to conduct evidence based testing.

This paper will explore the extent to which DOD has succeeded in building an IT infrastructure to support evidence-based decisions, how reliable those data are, and the extent to which DOD had been successful in implementing a culture of evidence-based decision making. The paper will include background on DOD’s current use of datasets to assist its policymaking. It will then provide an overview of DOD’s efforts to improve these data and its applications to the policy arena. Through a series of case studies, this paper will examine the existing hurdles for DOD in using data to assist in evidence-based policymaking. Finally, the paper will offer selected policy options that could improve DOD’s data collection, data accessibility, and – ultimately – policy choices.