OMB Official Says Evidence Act Implementation Guidance May Come in Early 2021
Two Office of Management and Budget officials discussed the guidance at the first meeting of the Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building.
An official from the Office of Management and Budget couldn’t pin down a specific date for the release of implementation guidance required under the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act at a meeting for a federal advisory board, but indicated the guidance will be released in the coming months.
OMB’s Shelly Wilkie Martinez briefed members during the first meeting of the Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building Friday on the agency’s efforts to implement the Evidence Act. When asked by a committee member when guidance for implementing the Evidence Act would be released, Martinez suggested early 2021.
A recent Government Accountability Office Audit found OMB is behind schedule on releasing some of the required implementation guidance for Title II of the Evidence Act in particular. That portion of the bill—the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary Government Data Act—took effect in July 2019. But GAO found OMB still hasn’t released implementation guidance or conducted required reports on agency performance. The first biennial report was due in January of this year.
Martinez said OMB is currently working on this guidance, known as Phase 2 implementation guidance. Martinez indicated at least three regulations and several guidance documents are in the works. She added OMB is also working on Phase 3 regulations, which deal with data access for statistical purposes.
“I am confident that they will all come out for public comment during the life of this committee, I would hope in the front end,” Martinez said. “We are at the moment kind of describing the three regulations as three distinct ones but that will probably go out kind of as a set in early .”
Dominic Mancini, the deputy administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the acting U.S. chief statistician, added the guidance is a “priority” for OMB. Mancini chairs the advisory committee.
“I can guarantee we’re actively working on discussing them internally,” Mancini said.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing delays, but OMB is working diligently on the guidance, according to a senior administration official.
OMB did not provide comment to GAO regarding the report, which was published earlier this month. The missing guidance is meant to help agencies establish comprehensive data inventories.
The advisory committee meeting was the first in a series of monthly forums where committee members—a mix of federal and state officials as well as professionals from academia and industry—will provide recommendations around data sharing, linkage and privacy techniques in annual reports. The committee is housed under the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The committee is mandated in the Evidence Act, and one of the chief policy recommendations it is set to consider is the idea of a national secure data service. The service idea came out of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, for which Martinez served as the executive director.
That commission’s report, published in 2017, formed the basis for the Evidence Act. The bill included roughly half the report’s recommendations, but did not include the data service.
Beyond briefings on the Commission’s work and the Evidence Act, the first meeting of the advisory board mostly featured discussion around how the board should proceed. Members, some of whom served on the Commission, discussed subcommittees it may form as well as questions to pose to the public for feedback.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to include a comment from OMB.