Guidance from the Office of Management and Budget released July 10 established new data governance structures within federal agencies as a new data management law is set to take effect.

The law, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, is an effort to strengthen federal data management and streamline open data. The legislation mandated the creation of three data-oriented positions at federal agencies.

The 24 affected agency heads must have named a chief data officer, along with an evaluation officer and statistical official, by July 13. The CDO will oversee the agency’s data management lifecycle. Broadly, evaluation officers will conduct assessments of agency programs. The statistical official will be the agency “champion” for data quality and data collection.

The CDO will also oversee the implementation of the agency’s Open Data Plan, a second step in the Evidence Act to increase government data transparency. OMB guidance is expected on open data is forthcoming.

The OMB guidance also established an official interagency chief data officer council to facilitate interagency data sharing and share best practices for the protection and use of federal data.

According to OMB, the CDO council will:

  • Meet regularly to establish government-wide best practices for the use, protection, dissemination, and generation of data;
  • Promote and encourage data sharing agreements between agencies;
  • Identify ways in which agencies can improve upon the production of evidence for use in policymaking;
  • Consult with the public and engage with private users of Government data and other stakeholders on how to improve access to data assets of the Federal Government; and
  • Identify and evaluate new technology solutions for improving the collection and use of data.

The CDO of each agency will also be the chairman of an agencywide “Data Governance Body,” a new requirement from OMB that must be in place by Sept. 30. The governance body will coordinate data management responsibilities, set agency data policy, oversee strategic plans and learning agendas. It will also coordinate the implementation of the Federal Data strategy, which will be finalized later this year.

OMB also directs federal agencies to develop “learning agendas” to identity how to use data to answer short- and long-term strategic questions about agency functions. OMB said learning agendas are critical to agencies prioritization of resources and risk management.

“A learning agenda is a systematic way to identify the data agencies intend to collect, use, or acquire, as well as the methods and analytical approaches to facilitate the use of evidence in policymaking,” the guidance reads.

To build the learning agenda, OMB writes that agencies should consult with stakeholders both in government and industry and include priority questions that impact agency functions and performance. The learning plan must span four years and corresponds with the four-year strategic plan.

Agencies must submit documentation of progress in their learning plan development with their fiscal year 2021 budget submission in September. The final learning plans must accompany the submission of agency strategic plans in February 2022.

The OMB memo also gives agencies direction on how to complete the Annual Evaluation Plan mandated under the Evidence Act.

“At a minimum, the plan shall describe evaluation activities for the subsequent year, including the key questions for each planned ‘significant’ evaluation study, as well as the key information collections or acquisitions the agency plans to begin,” the memo reads.

There are three more phases awaiting guidance from OMB:

Phase 2: Open Data Access and Management

Phase 3: Data Access for Statistical Purposes

Phase 4: Program Evaluation

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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