Bipartisan Ryan-Murray bill provides evidence-based policy roadmap for agencies

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the bipartisan dynamic duo synonymous with a two-year budget deal following the 2013 government shutdown, have a new good-government project on their hands — tracking the effectiveness of federal agencies through data analytics.

The two lawmakers introduced legislation on Tuesday that would move a yearlong conversation around data-based public policy into practice. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act aims to “establish a more secure, transparent, and efficient data system that will help federal agencies better assess the effectiveness of their programs,” by requiring each agency to name a chief data officer and a chief evaluation officer.

The bill was introduced following the release of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking report in September, which looked at ways the federal government can take data it’s already collecting and putting it into metrics that track the progress of agency programs.

At a press conference marking the release of the report, Ryan and Murray both gave reporters updates on their effort to implement the report’s findings into an upcoming bill.

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“As lawmakers, we have to change our approach not only to how we make policy, but how we gauge its result,” Ryan said in a statement following the bill’s introduction on Tuesday.

The commission’s report was the result of a year-long study, and included 22 recommendations for agencies and Congress to follow, based on five guiding principles: privacy, rigor, transparency, The Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016, which was also jointly sponsored by Ryan and Murray, established the commission last year.

“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,” Murray said in a statement. “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.”

Among the report’s findings, the commission recommended the establishment of a National Secure Data Service, which could temporarily link existing data and provide secure access to agencies’ data and statistics — all without setting up a massive data warehouse.

The bill, if passed, would also require agencies to submit evidence-building plans, which would then be developed into a governmentwide strategy overseen by the Office of Mangement and Budget.

Katharine Abraham, the commission’s chairwoman, and Ron Haskins, the commission’s co-chair, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Sept. 12 to discuss the findings of their report.