Members of the data community urged the Office of Management and Budget to include data infrastructure funding in its fiscal 2022 budget proposal in a letter sent by the Data Coalition.
In the letter, the coalition called for the reissue of a national data strategy similar to the Federal Data Strategy (FDS) and routine coordination on information management between the different parts of OMB and other agencies.
An FDS Year 2 Action Plan is overdue, leaving the group wondering how committed the Biden administration is to data-driven decisions — irrespective of its recent memo on restoring evidence-based policymaking.
“The Data Coalition appreciates the efforts from the Biden-Harris administration to date in elevating and encouraging the central role of data and evidence in decision-making,” reads the letter sent to OMB Deputy Director Shalanda Young on Tuesday. “Following through on promises and bold statements will require sustained engagement and leadership from all levels of the administration.”
OMB should further have the federal chief statistician chair the Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building like Congress intended and task the body with determining how data sharing can improve economic mobility, social inequalities, climate change, and COVID-19 pandemic response.
OMB did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act requires agencies to develop evaluation plans, but only a few agencies, like the National Science Foundation, have made theirs public. A web portal should be developed as soon as possible for that purpose, according to the letter.
OMB can quickly comply with recent data laws by publishing the presumption of accessibility authority as an interim final rule, issuing open data guidance with the Chief Data Officers Council, developing data standards for grantees with the Department of Health and Human Services, and accelerating use of artificial intelligence.
The Evidence Commission recommended the creation of a national secure data service within NSF, which needs funding in the fiscal 2022 budget to launch and begin improving analysis of things like racial, ethnic and gender disparities across government programs, according to the letter.
OMB should use its budget proposal to expand access to the National Directory of New Hires and certain tax data useful for analyzing benefit program eligibility and the impacts of employment and training programs, the letter adds.
Privacy-preserving technology pilots should be funded over the next year, especially for high-value data assets agencies are reluctant to share, according to the Data Coalition.
OMB also has the opportunity to streamline Paperwork Reduction Act implementation; update data standards for public health and financial reporting during the pandemic, as well as race and ethnicity; and promote government spending data transparency in its budget work.
Lastly the letter recommends OMB use Office of Personnel Management data to identify data workforce gaps, provide CDOs with $50 million for their accountability and transparency efforts, and set aside Evidence Incentive Funds for agencies that require additional money.
“Our country needs good data to support useful evidence for decision makers,” reads the letter. “OMB has a central role in fostering a cohesive data and evidence ecosystem.”