Evidence-Based Policy Bill Would Require Chief Data Officers for All Agencies


A bipartisan bill pushes for more data to make decisions—and some new federal roles.

A bipartisan effort to back federal policy with facts and figures is underway.

Rep. Paul Ryan, D-Wisc., introduced the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act Tuesday, which would direct federal agencies to use data to evaluate the effectiveness of its programs. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced a companion bill to the Senate.

According to a summary, under the legislation:

  • The Office of Management and Budget would stitch agencies’ ideas together into one governmentwide guide for evidence building.
  • Agencies would be required to appoint or designate chief data officers and chief evaluation officers.
  • Federal agencies would have to inventory their data sets.
  • A new commission on evidence-based data would be formed.

The bill also absorbs elements of the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act, or the OPEN Government Data Act, sponsored by Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas., and Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb. That legislation would require agencies to make their nonsensitive data sets accessible to the public in a machine-readable format.

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The new legislation incorporates some of the recommendations the White House’s Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking made in September in its inaugural report, according to a statement from Murray.

That report recommended the creation of a National Secure Data Service and that agencies appoint a chief evaluation officer as a point person for data programs who would also be responsible for securing data and assessing privacy laws.

“Traditionally, increasing access to confidential data presumed significantly increasing privacy risk,” the report said. Arguing instead that agencies should de-identify data about government benefits and their impact on citizens, part of an effort to understand how to improve those benefits, “[t]he commission rejects that idea.”