Date: February 15, 2019
The President Signs H.R. 4174,
“Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018”
On January 14, 2019, the President signed H.R. 4174, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which became Public Law 115-435. The bill passed the House, as amended, on November 15, 2017. The Senate then passed the bill with additional amendments by unanimous consent on December 19, 2018. The House agreed to the Senate amendment by a vote of 356 to 17 on December 21, 2018, clearing the measure for the President.
The new law expands upon prior open Government policy initiatives and public access to agency data assets by requiring federal agencies to develop evidence-based policy and evaluation plans and designate Evaluation Officers, Statistical Officials and Chief Data Officers to support and implement those new requirements.
H.R. 4174, as enacted, includes the following provisions of interest to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Title I - Federal Evidence-Building Activities
Agency Evidence-Building Plans
- Requires the head of each agency1 to include a “systematic”plan within its strategic plan to identify and address policy questions relevant to its programs, policies and regulations. The systematic plan must include:
- A list of policy-relevant questions for which the agency intends to develop evidence to support policymaking;
- A list of data the agency intends to collect, use or acquire to facilitate the use of such evidence in policymaking;
- A list of methods and analytical approaches that the agency may use to develop evidence to support policymaking;
- A list of any challenges (i.e. statutory or other restrictions to accessing relevant data) the agency may face in developing evidence to support policymaking;
- A description of the steps the agency will take to accomplish parts (1) and (2); and,
- Any other information required by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
- Requires the head of each agency to issue an “evaluation”plan in conjunction with its performance plan that describes the activities it plans to conduct under the systematic plan for the following fiscal year (FY). The evaluation plan must include:
- A description of key questions for each significant evaluation study that the agency plans to start in the next FY;
- A description of key information collections or acquisitions the agency plans to begin in the next FY; and,
- Any other information required by the Director of OMB.
- Requires the head of each agency to designate2 a senior employee as its Evaluation Officer.
- Requires the Evaluation Officer, to the extent practicable, to:
- coordinate activities with other agency officials to continually access the coverage, quality, methods, consistency, effectiveness, independence, and balance of the portfolio of evaluations, policy research, and ongoing evaluation activities of the agency;
- assess the agency’s capacity to support the development and use of evaluation;
- establish and implement an agency evaluation policy; and,
- coordinate, develop, and implement the systematic and evaluation plans.
- Requires the head of each agency to designate the head of any statistical unit3 as a Statistical Official that advises on statistical policy, techniques, and procedures.
- Requires the designated Statistical Official to serve as a member of the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy under the direction of the Director of OMB.
Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building
- Requires the Director of OMB, or his or her designee, to establish an Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building chaired by the Chief Statistician and other members appointed by the Director of OMB—including individuals who serve as an agency’s CFO, Chief Privacy Officer, Chief Performance Officer, Chief Data Officer, and Evaluation Officers.
- Advisory Committee members will not be compensated and will serve for a term of 2 years, or if filling a vacancy created when a member leaves before the expiration of his or her term, for the remainder of the predecessor’s term. The Committee shall terminate not later than two years after the date of the first meeting.
Title II – Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act4
Making Federal Data Available by Default
- Amends existing federal strategic information resources management plan requirements5 to include additional agency record keeping and public asset data requirements6, including open-government data assets7 that must be available annually to the public on the agency’s website.
- These provisions are effective 1 year after enactment.
Data Inventory and Federal Data Catalogue
- Requires the head of each agency, in consultation with the Director of OMB, to develop and maintain a comprehensive data inventory that accounts for all data assets8 an agency creates, collects, controls, directs or maintains, to the maximum extent practicable.
- Requires the head of each agency to update the comprehensive data inventory no later than 90 days after identification or creation of a data asset.
- Requires the General Services Administration to maintain a single public interface online, known as the Federal Data Catalogue, where agency data assets are shared with the public.
Chief Data Officers
- Requires the head of each agency to designate an employee9 as the agency’s Chief Data Officer. The Chief Data Officer is responsible for the provisions10 provided above under the OPEN Government Data Act. Additionally, the Chief Data Officer will serve as a member of OMB’s newly established Chief Data Officer Council.
- Requires the Chief Data Officer to submit a report to Congress11 on his or her agency’s compliance with the OPEN Government Data Act requirements.
Chief Data Officer Council
- Establishes a Chief Data Officer Council in OMB, whose purpose includes establishing government-wide best practices for data creation, use, protections and sharing, and promoting data sharing agreements between agencies.
- Requires the Council to submit a biennial report to the Director of OMB and Congress.12
Title III – Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency
- Requires the Director of OMB to coordinate and oversee confidentiality and disclosure policies for executive agencies or organizational units13 identified, or as designated by the Director of OMB, as statistical agencies and units.
- Requires the head of each agency to provide reports and other information as requested by the Director of OMB.
Title IV – General Provisions
Rules of Construction
- Nothing in this Act may be construed to require disclosure of information or records exempt from disclosure under 5 U.S. Code § 552; or affect the authority of the Federal agency regarding use, disclosure or licensing of data assets restricted from disclosure under a contract or binding agreement.
Use of Existing Resources
- Requires the head of each agency, to the extent practicable, to use existing procedures and systems to carry out agency requirements and select existing employees for appointments.
- Except as otherwise provided above, the provisions in this Act are effective 180 days after enactment.
1 An agency is defined under this legislation as those having a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) as required under 31 U.S. Code § 901, including SSA.
2 The Evaluation Officer is appointed or designated without regard to political affiliation and done based on demonstrated expertise in evaluation methods.
3 In the case where an agency does not have a statistical unit, the agency can designate a senior agency official with appropriate expertise to this position.
4 These provisions expand and codify prior Open Government policy initiatives and public access to agency data assets currently available from Data.gov.
5 Pursuant to 44 U.S. Code § 3506(b) strategic information resources management plans continue to be developed in accordance with OMB guidance.
6 Amends 44 U.S. Code § 3502
7 This is defined as machine-readable, available (or could be made available) in an open format, not restricted due to intellectual property rights and based on an open standard maintained by a standards organization.
8 Director of OMB to provide agencies criteria to determine which data may not be publically available, including disclosures withheld under the Privacy Act (5 U.S. Code § 552). Excludes any data asset contained on a national security system pursuant to 40 U.S. Code § 11103.
9 Non-political appointee.
10 In order to comply with statistical laws, the Chief Data officer may delegate its responsibilities to the agency’s statistical official.
11 The Chief Data Officer submits the report to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
12 The Council submits the report to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
13 Statistical agency or unit defined when activities are predominantly the collection, compilation, processing, or analysis of data for the purpose of describing or making estimates concerning the whole or relevant groups or components within, the economy, society, or the natural environment. Includes the development of methods or resources that support those activities, such as measurement methods, models, statistical classifications, or sampling frames.