The government produces petabytes of data every day and the administration is looking to strengthen the collection and analysis of that information and release more of it to the public.
Included in the president's 2016 budget proposal are several initiatives to increase access to data and improve the government's evidence-based decision making.
"The administration is committed to continuing cost-effective investment in federal statistical programs in order to build and support agencies' capacity to incorporate evidence and evaluation analyses into budget, management and policy decisions," the budget reads. "The 2016 budget includes a package of proposals that would make additional administrative data from federal agencies and programs legally and practically available for policy development, program evaluation, performance measurement and accountability and transparency efforts."
Overall, the president's budget offers a 2.5 percent increase for statistical programs, rising from $4.2 billion in 2015 to $5.2 billion under the 2016 proposal.
One of the largest data-producers in the federal government, the Census Bureau, would get an additional $10 million to continue building out its collection of datasets and the infrastructure that allows users to collate, analyze and share that data.
The funding would also be used to acquire new outside datasets, like state and municipal data.
The budget also includes an additional $2 million for GSA's E-Government initiative, raising the program's budget to $16 million. The funding increase is allocated for the expansion of the agency's Digital Analytics Program, an "integrated suite of common tools, practices, training and data services to managers of all customer-facing government services and transactions."
The program offers federal managers four analytic tools:
- Digital metrics guidance and best practices;
- Free web analytics;
- Implementation support; and
- Analysis and training support.
The Office of Government-wide Policy will be standing up its Office of Evidence and Analysis this year to help agencies make data-driven decisions. Under the president's proposal, that office would expand from eight to 10 employees, with a 221 percent funding increase, from $1.4 million to $4.4 million.
Along with specific agenda items, the administration "embraces" the creation of a legislative commission proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to examine ways to use government data to improve federal operations and support private research and industry.
The commission would be based out of the Census Bureau and funded through a line item in its budget.
The administration plans to release more specifics on funding for data-collection agencies when OMB issues its "Statistical Programs of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016" report later this year.
Aaron Boyd is an awarding-winning journalist currently serving as editor of Federal Times — a Washington, D.C. institution covering federal workforce and contracting for more than 50 years — and Fifth Domain — a news and information hub focused on cybersecurity and cyberwar from a civilian, military and international perspective.