Ideas. Action. Results.

FACT SHEET: Trump’s Management Agenda Proposes Data as a Strategic Asset

By Nick Hart

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Trump administration’s President’s Management Agenda, released on March 20, 2018, recognizes that analyses of high quality data can advance the economy and improve government effectiveness. The management agenda calls for the development of a data strategy to specifically use government’s data as a “strategic asset” for improving government operations and engaging in evidence-based policymaking. Unlike similar management agendas from past presidents, the Trump agenda specifically highlights the role data have in building evidence for improving government programs. The design of the Trump agenda also provides an overarching framework that will be useful to monitor progress and evaluate achievements moving forward.  

What is a Presidential Management Agenda? 

Presidential management agendas (PMAs) are an administration’s outline of its priorities and goals for improving how government operates.  The agenda describes how the administration plans to make government operations work more effectively on behalf of the public. As described in a recent technical paper by the Bipartisan Policy Center, regardless of whether from a Republican or Democratic president, PMAs have historically held many similarities in the types of activities they address, including assessing the breadth of government’s activities, prioritizing resources, and modernizing government infrastructure. The Trump administration’s PMA continues this trend with some similarities to previous administrations. 

What are the priorities described in the Trump administration’s PMA for reforming government? 

The Trump administration’s PMA describes a long-term plan for instituting an effective and efficient government through three key components:  

  • Government must be given necessary resources and then held accountable for delivering results 
  • The public deserves a positive customer experience when interacting with government 
  • Taxpayer funds must be effectively used, including to maximize the investment of resources  

How does the Trump PMA relate to evidence-based policymaking? 

The Trump PMA signals how the administration plans to prioritize the use of data for government decision-making. Specifically, it describes data as a strategic government asset, recognizing the analyses of high quality data can advance  the economy and improve government effectiveness. Data are an essential element for generating evidence that can be used to inform policy decisions. The PMA proposes to develop a federal data strategy that will support improvements to accountability and program effectiveness.  

Why does the Trump administration describe data as a “strategic asset?” 

The Trump PMA describes that the use of data must support government activities that will improve how government operations serve the American public. The administration’s agenda suggests that for government to modernize for the 21st century, described as a “data-driven world,” improvements must be made to the country’s data infrastructure to enable better use of data.  

What will the Trump administration federal data strategy include? 

The PMA describes four key components of a federal data strategy: data governance, data access, data use, and data commercialization.  

  • Data Governance: The data governance aspect of the strategy will set priorities around data policies and responsibilities for managing data after government collects them, including for protecting confidential data. Improved governance could also address data coordination within agencies and across government.  
  • Data Access, Use, and AugmentationThe data access element will specifically emphasize leveraging approaches to accessing government data, such as providing better information about data definitions that improves the ability to use them. Improved data access also includes improving the availability of less sensitive data for the American public. 
  • Decision-making & Accountability: The use of data will encourage improving the timeliness of information to support evidence-based policymaking within government, including through the use of better performance measures and encouraging secure researcher uses of confidential data.  
  • Data Commercialization, Innovation, & Public UseThe data commercialization component aims to make government data available for use by private sector entities, including researchers, states, and firms. 

The administration’s PMA announces that the data strategy will cover policies, personnel, processes, and technological applications to address the components of the strategy. 

How does the data strategy relate to the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking’s recommendations? 

The PMA’s four key components of a federal data strategy align with aspects of the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking’s recommendations in 2017 about the use of data. The commission broadly recognized the need for improved access to government data, strengthened privacy protections, and the capacity to support the work. Each of these three themes is also embodied in the structure of the data strategy.  

In particular, the PMA’s description of the data strategy highlights examples of federal statistical agencies already engaged in promising practices for accessing and releasing certain types of data, while protecting the confidentiality of data subjects. The commission also encouraged the dissemination of privacy-protective approaches that are similarly acknowledged in the strategy outline. Finally, the specific goals to engage in data use for the generation of evidence to inform policy actions, such as oversight, continuous learning for improvement, or accountability fall within the scope of the intent of the commission’s vision. 

How will the administration develop its detailed federal data strategy? 

The PMA does not provide specific details about how the strategy will be developed. But the PMA does describe the data strategy as part of a cross-agency priority goal to support continued leadership and implementation of the strategy. The Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration, White House Office of Management and Budget, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are listed as joint leaders for developing the plan to use data as a strategic asset.  

How quickly will the federal data strategy be developed? 

The Trump PMA described a plan to create a data strategy, but does not articulate a detailed timeline. The administration notes that development and implementation “will take time,” suggesting a longer-term process. 

The PMA describes government reorganization activities, how will those plans affect the data strategy? 

Following an executive order issued by President Trump in 2018, government agencies have been reviewing how they may increase organizational efficiencies. The PMA highlights one potential area under review relates to “streamlining federal statistical functions across multiple federal agencies.” The PMA does not describe in detail what such streamlining may entail, though the administration would likely consider such plans in proposing the data strategy as it relates to federal statistical agencies.  

KEYWORDS: COMMISSION ON EVIDENCE-BASED POLICYMAKING, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, EVIDENCE-BASED POLICYMAKING INITIATIVE, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, U.S. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION