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Letter to OMB on Interagency Data Interoperability

Today, we sent a letter to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget suggesting ways that that federal agencies can use data to work more closely and maximize their efforts on behalf of the American public.

Different social services programs, overseen by different agencies, often perform similar functions or have similar goals. For instance, many programs distribute financial assistance to reduce poverty or homelessness, or administer services aimed at enhancing access to health care or education. These social services programs also often serve or interface with overlapping populations. The efficacy and cost-effectiveness of these programs is hard to assess for a number of reasons, including that multiple programs contribute to the same output (for instance, better health or educational outcomes).

However, one of the main reasons that evaluations and comparisons are difficult is because of insufficient or incompatible data. Data from one program may not be compatible with data from another, or a program may not collect information that evaluators of that program or other programs would find useful. Improving data collection and interoperability would enhance the government’s ability to evaluate the success of these programs, both individually and comparatively. These evaluations, in turn, can inform funding allocations to help better ensure that funds are spent where they return the greatest benefit.

Our letter offers ideas and recommendations on how to overcome these kinds of problems and use data to improve government spending.