Performance Improvement 2000. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation


MISSION: To provide analytical support and advice to the Secretary on policy development and assist the Secretary with the development and coordination of department wide program planning and evaluation activities.

Evaluation Program

The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) functions as a principal advisor to the Secretary on policy development and, in this capacity, conducts a variety of evaluation and policy research studies on issues of national importance. ASPE also is responsible for department wide coordination of legislative, planning, and evaluation activities. In its evaluation coordination role, ASPE has the following tasks:

  • Provide annual guidance to all HHS agencies and staff offices regarding evaluation priorities, procedures, and review requirements.
  • Review evaluation priorities proposed by HHS agencies, providing advice about the focus or method of proposed projects and identifying opportunities for collaboration, and effective use of resources.
  • Prepare planning and summary reports on evaluation activities as required by Congress.

Through the departmental evaluation planning process, ASPE has the capacity to identify crosscutting program or policy issues of particular concern to the Secretary and specific program and policy areas not covered by the HHS Agency evaluation plans. In these instances, ASPE initiates evaluations or collaborates with the agencies to conduct evaluations or policy assessments. For example, in recent years, ASPE has initiated projects to develop cost estimates for health financing issues in general, and specifically for the Medicare and Medicaid programs; the effects of managed care expansion on public health infrastructure; welfare-to-work approaches; long-term care alternatives; and studies evaluating alternative services for children at risk of harm from drug abuse, crime, child abuse, and other pathologies.

Another continuing evaluation objective of ASPE is to support and promote the development and improvement of data bases that HHS agencies and ASPE use to evaluate health care programs and health trends. For example, ASPE has been the major initiator in collaboration with the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the first comprehensive survey of people with disabilities in the United States. The first component of these new data was completed in FY 1996, and national prevalence data on disability are now available. The ASPE co-chairs and provides support to the HHS Data Council, which is charged with integrating key national surveys, such as linking health status indicators with indicators of well-being. The Department needs more comprehensive data sources to assess anticipated transformations in health and human services.

Finally, ASPE uses evaluation funds to promote effective use of evaluation-generated information in program management and policymaking. The latter is accomplished through the dissemination of evaluation findings and other activities, such as providing technical assistance to agencies in the development of performance measures.