OMB Seeks Feedback on Length of Executive Branch Comment Prohibition for Release of Economic Indicators

Statistical Policy Directive No. 3 prohibits Executive Branch employees from commenting on the release of principal federal economic indicators for 60 minutes after their release. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is seeking public comment on whether that 60-minute window is still appropriate given the many changes in the information landscape since the policy directive was issued in 1985. OMB is not considering changes to the embargo on the release of any information or comment about federal statistics before their official release by the statistical agencies, only whether policy officials should be allowed to comment earlier than 60 minutes after their release.

The text under consideration is:

“Except for members of the staff of the agency issuing the principal economic indicator who have been designated by the agency head to provide technical explanations of the data, employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.”

The goal of this language was to draw a sharp distinction between “the release of the statistics and their accompanying explanation and analysis, on the one hand, and the more general type of policy-oriented comment which is a function of the official responsible for policy making, on the other.” However, given that statistical agencies can now publicly release their data on their own websites and disseminate them through social media, and that these releases can be reported on nearly instantaneously by the media, OMB is seeking guidance on whether 60 minutes is still the right length of time to prohibit comments from policy officials within the Executive Branch (or if the window is still necessary at all). It should be noted that it is the position of the White House Counsel that the President does not qualify as an “employee” of the Executive Branch, but any officials within Executive Branch agencies who disseminate his comments (retweeting him, for example), would be subject to these rules.

Full details on the request for comments are available in the Federal Register notice. Comments must be submitted by June 10, 2019.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 16), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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