Federal Data Strategy Deadlines Shift Due to COVID-19

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The team prioritized some items for the pandemic response but extended other deadlines.

The coronavirus pandemic is taking its toll on all aspects of federal work, including delaying aspects of major policy pushes like the Federal Data Strategy, in its first year of implementation.

The Federal Data Strategy was finalized in late December 2019 with the release of 20 specific deliverables for individual agencies and governmentwide bodies under the 2020 Action Plan, which included several deadlines under each action item, all due in calendar 2020.

With the COVID-19 crisis closing federal buildings and requiring mass telework for most agencies, the data strategy team opted to push some deadlines while adding focus on areas that could help fight the virus.

While some deliverables have been delayed, the vast majority of the work is expected to remain on schedule. In total, the team opted to move deadlines for three agency action items—shifting them each one month out—and for one shared solution item—extended by three months.

The Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology, made up of representatives from agencies across government, has several deliverables in the 2020 Action Plan, including Action 19, which calls for the group to develop guidance on measuring and reporting data quality. The first milestone under that action—a report on best practices for assessing the quality of data outputs—was pushed three months, from June 30 to September 30.

The other deadline extensions apply to all federal agencies.

The first altered deadline is for Action 2, which requires agencies to stand up independent data governance bodies. Agencies should have established their governance boards by the end of January, however, the plan gave them until the end of September to assign full-time staff to support the board. That deadline has been moved to October 31.

The first deliverable under Action 3: Assess Data and Related Infrastructure Maturity is for agencies to pick the maturity model to use as a baseline for assessments. Agencies were required to have that choice made by June 30; the deadline is now July 31.

In order for agencies to use data better, department staff must be data literate. The fourth action item calls for increasing staff data skills, which is difficult when the staff is no longer in the building. In acknowledgment of this, the data strategy team pushed the deadline for assessing staff’s current skill levels out one month, from June 30 to July 31.

While some deadlines were pushed, other areas where data can help in the fight against the pandemic were pushed up “to include their COVID-19 response as their highest priority,” according to a note on the strategy website.

Those include a milestone under Action 5 to publish open data plans publicly outlining data assets and sharing priorities, which has now been amended to specifically call out “data assets that support COVID-19 response.”

Similarly, under Action 6, the team put additional focus on updating data inventories “for overall completeness” and to prioritize COVID-19 response data.

The data strategy team only made targeted tweaks to the Action Plan schedule but reserved the right to reassess if the current situation continues longer than expected.

“The Federal Data Strategy team will continue to monitor the pandemic’s impact on agencies and welcome conversations with them about specific concerns they may have in the coming weeks,” the team said.