House Unanimously Passes Evidence-Based Policymaking Bill

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (H.R. 4174), which is based on the findings of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (the Commission), and seeks to improve the use of data in making decisions pertaining to agency operations, ostensibly shifting policymaking increasingly toward a data-driven approach to evaluating program success.

The Commission was established under a law signed by President Obama and the ensuing legislation was ultimately championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

Regarding passage of the legislation, Ryan said, “We are requiring federal agencies to prioritize evidence when measuring a program’s success. Take poverty. Instead of measuring success based on inputs, on how much money we spend, let’s measure success by outputs, by outcomes. Is it working? Are people getting out of poverty? By directing agencies to do this, no longer will ‘we don’t know’ be an acceptable answer when asked if a program is working.”

In an environment of growing partisanship 1. Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016 (Public Law 114–140, March 30, 2016). in the country, it is notable that this legislation was embraced by legislators on both sides of the aisle and enacted without dissent.

The report continues, “The American people want a government that solves problems. This requires that decision makers have good information to guide their choices about how current programs and policies are working and how they can be improved. While the Federal government has already taken steps towards developing an ‘evidence culture,’ much remains to be done. A particularly important barrier to government’s further progress is lack of access by researchers outside of government and by individuals within government to the data necessary for evidence building, even when those data have already been collected.”

However, despite the unusually bipartisan nature of the initiative, skeptics say the legislation still doesn’t go far enough in bringing the federal government into the modern era.

In Government Executive, Linda M. Springer argued that, under the current reform effort, “based on the ‘evidence’ gathered, modifications would be implemented to improve service under the current delivery model. And that’s precisely the problem. The evidence-based approach does not focus on using this data, combined with other trends and anticipated behaviors, to inform the design of delivery models for the future. The result is a false sense of comfort about service delivery by improving programs that may actually be headed for obsolescence.”

She goes onto suggest that the shortfall can ultimately be overcome by focusing on predictive analysis, concluding, “Over a century ago, forward thinkers embraced the opportunity to focus on developing the automobile rather than wasting valuable resources on improving the horse and carriage. Let’s hope the government has as much foresight. The people it serves are depending on it.”


Posted in General News

Tags: House of Representatives


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