Evidence-Based Policy Principles Take Legislative Form

House Speaker Paul Ryan said: "Ensuring our programs work is just common sense—and what American taxpayers deserve." House Speaker Paul Ryan said: "Ensuring our programs work is just common sense—and what American taxpayers deserve." J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In a follow-through on one of the 115th Congress’s rare bipartisan initiatives, key House and Senate members on Tuesday unveiled a bill to implement recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, which issued its congressionally mandated report on Sept. 7.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who had championed the 2016 legislation creating the 15-member commission, said they were aiming “to establish a more secure, transparent, and efficient data system that will help federal agencies better assess the effectiveness of their programs.”

Among the commission’s specific recommendations in its 130-page report are creation of a new National Secure Data Service, improved legal protections of privacy and greater coordination of agency data sets by the Office of Management and Budget. The data service, to minimize cybersecurity and national security threats, is envisioned as a service rather than a centralized warehouse, the commission stressed.

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“This is an exciting day,” Ryan said. “Patty and I have long advocated for a way to better measure the federal government’s effectiveness—and this bill puts those efforts into action. As lawmakers, we have to change our approach not only to how we make policy, but how we gauge its results. Ensuring our programs work is just common sense—and what American taxpayers deserve.”

Murray, on introducing the Senate version, said, “No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we should all agree that government should work as efficiently as possible for the people it serves. …This bill will begin to put the recommendations of the bipartisan Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission we created into action by improving how the federal government gathers and uses data and evidence to inform decision-making, as well as ways to strengthen the privacy and increase the transparency around this information.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill Thursday. The full text is not yet available, but according to a summary, it would:

  • Require agencies to submit an evidence-building plan, which the Office of Management and Budget will consolidate into one governmentwide plan;
  • Require agencies to appoint/designate a chief evaluation officer to coordinate evidence-building activities within the agency;
  • Establish an advisory committee on data for evidence-building;
  • Require agencies to appoint/designate a chief data officer;
  • Instruct agencies to establish a data inventory and federal data catalog; and,
  • Expand public and agency access to data while improving privacy standards.
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