OMB Releases Long Awaited Federal Data Strategy and Draft Action Plan

Published: June 06, 2019

Big DataInformation TechnologyOMBPolicy and Legislation

OMB releases the finalized version of the Federal Data Strategy and the draft of the Year One Action Plan, both instrumental to the federal government’s improvement of data accessibility and security.

Promised in January but delayed by the government shutdown and other causes, OMB has published the finalized Federal Data Strategy for all executive departments and agencies as well as the Draft Action Plan, where agencies will implement both to measure progress in their data management and activities. Starting in July 2018, the federal data strategy team incrementally developed the principles and practices that make up the data strategy, incorporating recent policies and statutes and issuing drafts for public feedback. The team is now doing the same with the draft action plan, accepting comments by July 5 from all stakeholders. Agencies are expected to adhere to the Federal Data Strategy and Action Plan, with progress assessed by OMB through existing oversight mechanisms.

Federal Data Strategy

Comprised of a set of data principles and best practices, the Federal Data Strategy’s mission is to “leverage the full value of Federal data for mission, service, and the public good by guiding the Federal Government in practicing ethical governance, conscious design, and a learning culture.” Ultimately, the strategy will enable agencies to manage federal data responsibility, transparently and securely.

The principles are a set of guidelines designed to be general and applicable in all federal data management activities. The principles are organized into three categories, each with a subset of instructions:

  1. Ethical Governance: stresses the importance of data stewardship and governance while endorsing transparency for the public good.
  2. Conscious Design: promotes the quality and integrity of data and encourages stakeholders to identify, prioritize, plan for and reuse data in their frameworks.
  3. Learning Culture: encourages a knowledgebase of learning both with and about the data, and boosts the cultivation of data leadership and its value towards agency mission and service.

The practices encourage increasing data value and solutions for federal agencies. Although the practices are not program requirements for agencies, they serve as applications of use according to specific missions and programs. The practices cover a range of settings, from how to use and prioritize data, to data access and meeting stakeholders’ needs. According to the strategy’s site, “the Practices represent aspirational goals that, when fully realized, will continually challenge and guide agencies, practitioners, and policymakers to improve the government’s approach to data stewardship and the leveraging of data to create value.” Unlike the 47 in the draft, 39 practices become part of the final strategy, also organized into three categories:

  1. Building a Culture that Values Data and Promotes Public Use (practices 1-10)
  2. Governing, Managing, and Protecting Data (practices 11-26)
  3. Promoting Efficient and Appropriate Data Use (practices 27-39)

Draft Year-1 Action Plan

Once finalized, which is currently expected by August, the Federal Data Strategy Action Plan aims to outline the fundamental steps agencies must take to implement the data strategy in the first year and thereafter. Further, the goal of the action plan is to “align existing efforts and establish a firm basis of tools, processes, and capacities to leverage data as a strategic asset.” The draft contains 16 action steps, each with a description of the action and desired outcome, the responsible party for the action, the associated Federal Data Strategy practice, the metrics for measuring progress and success, and a timeline for completion. The plan is comprised of three categories of action: shared, community and agency-specific. With the exception of Actions 1 and 5, funded with resources from the PMA, actions that become part of the final plan are expected to be completed using agency funding:

Shared: Government-wide Data Services

  1. Create an OMB Data Council
  2. Develop a Curated Data Science Training and Credentialing Catalog
  3. Develop a Data Ethics Framework
  4. Develop a Data Protection Toolkit
  5. Develop a Repository of Federal Data Strategy Resources and Tools
  6. Pilot a One-stop Standard Research Application
  7. Pilot an Automated Inventory Tool for
  8. Pilot Standard Data Catalogs for

Community Actions: Cross-Agency Collaboration

  1. Improve Data Resources for AI Research and Development
  2. Improve Financial Management Data Standards
  3. Improve Geospatial Data Standards

Agency-Specific Actions: Agency Activities

  1. Constitute a Diverse Data Governance Body
  2. Assess Data and Related Infrastructure Maturity
  3. Identify Opportunities to Increase Staff Data Skills
  4. Identify Data Needs to Answer Key Agency Questions
  5. Identify Priority Datasets for Agency Open Data Plans