2021 Federal Data Strategy Highlights Importance of Agency Workforce Development, Data Leadership

Federal Data Strategy

2021 Federal Data Strategy Highlights Importance of Agency Workforce Development, Data Leadership

Last week the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the Federal Data Strategy (FDS) 2021 Action Plan, an interagency effort meant to coordinate and leverage data as a strategic asset across the Federal government. Building upon the FDS 2020 and stakeholder engagement, the newly released strategy places emphasis on workforce development and data leadership within agencies.

Part of the Executive Branch’s management agenda, the FDS is a 10-year plan to establish best practices for ethical data governance, management, and use. The FDS is an iterative process, with each Action Plan intended to incorporate lessons learned from agencies the prior year, public comments, and takeaways from conversations with data professionals from both government and non-government stakeholders –– such as the forum hosted last year by Data Coalition. 

OMB identified major successes from Year 1 regarding the formation of agencies’ planning, governance, and data infrastructure foundation. For example, praise for the establishment of the interagency Federal Chief Data Officer (CDO) Council, the creation of a data upskilling pilot, and improvements to data inventories within Data.gov.

Learning from Year 1’s successes, and identified challenges –– such as the need for more statutory requirements, published guidance on timelines, and additional interagency working groups –– the 2021 FDS lays out 11 action categories of 40 practices for agencies to implement going forward. Year 2 seeks to offer agencies more flexibility in achieving the Action Plan milestones in hope to meet agencies where they are in their foundational activities from FDS 2020. 

Five out of 11 actions require specific interagency councils to identify pilot projects or government-wide services, highlighting the necessity of collaboration among data leadership. Some Year 2 practices include making public non-classified AI use case inventories, improved linkage and governance of wildfire fuel data, and creation of a data-skills training playbook. The 2021 FDS also reiterates goals from 2020, such as continued assessment of data to answer agency questions as well as maturation of data governance and infrastructure.

Although the Data Coalition members appreciate the Year 2 strategy’s focus on workforce development and the role of data leadership within agencies, there are still many barriers to the next steps of implementation of improved data practices across the Federal government. On November 9, Data Coalition will be hosting a public forum to discuss key takeaways from the Action Plan, seek feedback to the Federal CDO Council’s recent Request for Information, and gather additional information on how to best assist in a collaborative effort to realize the full benefits of the evidence-informed policy in practice.