OMB releases finalized data strategy and draft ‘action plan’

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At long last, the White House Office of Management and Budget has released the much-anticipated Federal Data Strategy.

The strategy, created by a cross-government team, is a deliverable of cross-agency priority goal No. 2 associated with the President’s Management Agenda: “Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset.” It also represents the administration’s plan for implementing the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, which President Trump signed in January.

The documents released Tuesday fall into two categories: finalized “practices” for federal data, and a draft Federal Data Strategy Action Plan for 2019-2020.

This second component is what is totally new here. The 16 distinct actions in the draft action plan are divided among three sections — one for “shared actions,” one for “community actions” and a third for agency-specific actions. Shared actions, the document states, will be led by one agency or existing group “for the benefit of all agencies and with available cross-agency resources.” An example of this is the creation of an OMB Data Council, an action OMB itself is responsible for carrying out within three months.

“Community actions,” meanwhile, are “actions are taken by a group of agencies around a common topic.” These include actions like “Improve Data Resources for AI Research and Development,” a somewhat vague directive first required by President Trump’s executive order on AI, signed in February. Another community action is “Improve Geospatial Data Standards.” The Federal Geospatial Data Committee is responsible for carrying this one out by August 2020.

Finally, the agency-specific actions include directives for agencies like “Identify Opportunities to Increase Staff Data Skills” and “Constitute a Diverse Data Governance Body.”

“Today’s Federal Data Strategy propels us forward to a new era for the way government manages data,” Federal CIO Suzette Kent said in a statement. “Unlocking untapped potential within federal data will help grow the economy, increase efficiency in government, and better address complex problems using data-driven approaches.”

Nick Hart, the CEO of the Data Coalition, told FedScoop that the draft Action Plan looks “really promising.” He acknowledged that “there are things that will be challenging for agencies to do” within the timeframes specified, but added that the coalition sees many of these things, like creating agency data governance boards, as critical to success.

The Department of Commerce on Tuesday published a notice to the Federal Register seeking comments on the draft Action Plan. Comments are due by July 5.

The other components of the strategy — the principles and practices — should look mostly familiar. OMB first released a request for comment on draft principles, high-level value statements, in early 2018. By October 2018, the principles had been finalized and OMB published a request for comment on 47 draft practices — “aspirational goals that, when fully realized, will continually challenge and guide agencies, practitioners, and policymakers to improve the government’s approach to data stewardship and the leveraging of data to create value.”

The final list of practices, updated Tuesday, is just slightly paired down at 40 practices.

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Federal Data Strategy, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), President's Management Agenda (PMA), Suzette Kent
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