House Passes the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017

On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, the House passed H.R. 4174, the “Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017,” under suspension of the rules, which is a fast-track procedure that bars amendments and requires a two-thirds vote for approval. 

The bill, introduced in the House by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and in the Senate by Patty Murray (D-WA), draws on recommendations from a final report issued by the bipartisan Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and aims to improve data use in the federal government.

“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,” Senator Murray said. “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 Commission was established to study how best to expand the use of data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and tax expenditures and was tasked with studying data inventories, data infrastructure, and statistical protocols across the federal government, and to make recommendations on how to incorporate outcome measurements, randomized controlled trials, and rigorous impact analyses into program design. The Commission was composed of 15 members appointed by the President, Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader.

 Specifically, the House bill:

  • Requires federal agencies to create evidence-building plans for identifying and addressing policy questions relevant to the programs, policies, and regulations of the agency;
  • Establishes Chief Evaluation Officers to continually assess the coverage, quality, methods, consistency, effectiveness, independence, and balance of the portfolio of evaluations, policy research, and ongoing evaluation activities of the agency; and
  • Creates an advisory committee, comprised of representatives of state and local governments among others, to study the Commission’s recommendation to create a National Secure Data Service (NSDS).

Speaker Paul Ryan said, “Let’s measure success based on results. No longer will ‘we don’t know’ be an acceptable answer when asked whether or not a program is working.”

Tracking effectiveness of federal agencies through data analytics should help policy makers at all levels of government make informed decisions, save taxpayer dollars, and enhance program success. This legislation is an important step towards incorporating data use as a routine part of government operations and policymaking.