OMB to release initial guidance on evidenced-based policy law later this spring

The Office of Management and Budget is putting the finishing touches on the initial guidance agencies will receive to implement a government transparency law that will install chief data and evidence officers, as well as statistical officials at most large agencies.

Jeff Schlagenhauf, OMB’s associate director for economic policy, said the agency expects to release the first piece of its guidance, focused on prioritizing “cross-office collaboration” later this spring.

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, which President Donald Trump signed in January, has “really accelerated” work on the goals outlined in the President’s Management Agenda, Schlagenhauf said during a speech at the Bipartisan Policy Center on Friday, and has marked a “significant opportunity to fundamentally change the way that government does business.”

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“Performance management at its core was all about measuring how efficiently and effectively the government shoveled money out the door,” he said. “Evidence-based policy-making, on the other hand, is deciding whether the money we shoveled out the door has been shoveled out and put in places that will make a positive difference for people in the United States, and that we can streamline and make programs more effective.”

OMB, Schlagenhauf added, aims to avoid a “one-size-fits-all-type” approach to the guidance, recognizing that some agencies have a data-driven culture, while others will have a steeper learning curve in adopting a data-centric culture.

“We think that the guidance needs to be flexible enough, and it needs to recognize that we have some agencies around government that have taken the notion of using evidence very seriously,” Schlagenhauf said. “We have others to which it is, shall I say, an alien concept.”

The Labor Department on Wednesday stood up its chief data officer role and data board, which is meant to help the department improve how it manages, uses and makes its data accessible to the public.

An agency spokesperson told Federal News Network that Scott Gibbons, a program manager for data analytics within Labor’s chief evaluation office, will serve as acting chief data officer until the agency hires a career official to take over the role.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, in a statement Wednesday, said the CDO will serve as the chair of the data board, and will “transform our data infrastructure and capacity.”

Labor joins a handful of other agencies — including the Defense Department, Air Force, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — that already have CDOs.

Diana Epstein, OMB’s evidence team lead, said chief data and evidence officers and agency statistical officials will need to work together to build a data-centric culture at agencies.

“You have to have high-quality data in order to do evaluation well, and that is going to take multiple stakeholders throughout the agency working together to make sure that data is high quality, and that it’s available and accessible,” she said.

Epstein added that agency chief evaluation officers will meet on a regular basis to “support and build” on best practices.

Susan Jenkins, the director of the Office of Performance and Evaluation, within the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living, said agencies may at first view performance metrics as a threat.

“There’s a lot of fear that evaluation is going to end up in money being taken away, and sometimes that happens, or there may be fear that an evaluation will shine a bad light on a program,” Jenkins said.

However, Mary Hyde, the director of the Office of Research and Evaluation at the Corporation for National Community Service, said her office has helped measure results and manage expectations for the rest of the agency.

“This position has helped bring the best information to bear for critical questions and questions about the agency’s mission and critical decisions that the agency’s making every day, which essentially add up to our ability to implement our mission and to deliver on our goals,” she said.

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