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White House Outlines FY 2021 R&D Budget Priorities

On August 30, Acting Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Russell Vought, with Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a joint memorandum to federal agency and department heads on “FY 2021 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities.” The memo lays out five key White House priorities as agencies begin working on their budget submissions for the next fiscal year and five “high-priority crosscutting actions” for agencies to maximize success in the science and technology enterprise. This is the first set of R&D priorities released under the leadership of Dr. Droegemeier, who was confirmed as OSTP director in January.

The FY 2021 memo shares priorities with previous Administration guidance, including acknowledging the important role of science and technology to America’s global leadership and emphasizing national security, American energy and environmental leadership, medical innovation, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and space exploration as research and development priorities. While the priorities are similar to those included in the FY 2019 and FY 2020 memos, the FY 2021 memo includes more details about ongoing Administration activities, including The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan, and the Federal Data Strategy.

The memo also includes five actions for agencies to take in order to maximize success in the science and technology enterprise. These direct agencies to build and leverage a diverse, highly skilled American workforce; create and support research environments that reflect American values; support transformative research of high risk and potentially high reward; leverage the power of data; and build, strengthen, and expand strategic multisector partnerships.

Additional details can be found in the memorandum.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 3), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

OMB Releases First Set of Evidence Act Guidance

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued the first set of guidance related to implementing the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (or Evidence Act), legislation that builds on the recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking to formalize the use of data and evidence in informing the everyday work of federal agencies. The guidance provides detailed information for federal agencies on developing Learning Agendas, which identify the agency’s priority questions to be informed by evidence; sets out the requirements and responsibilities for the senior roles mandated by the legislation—Chief Data Officer, Evaluation Officer, and Statistical Official; and provides direction on creating evaluation plans, undertaking capacity assessments, and identifying data needs. The full guidance is available online. OMB will release additional Evidence Act guidance covering open data access and management, data access for statistical purposes, and program evaluation in the coming months.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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

Statistical Policy Directive No. 3 recommends Executive Branch employees refrain 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 avoid 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)

Comments Sought on Federal Data Strategy Best Practices

As recommended in the President’s Management Agenda released back in March, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been leading the development of a government-wide Federal Data Strategy to better manage the government’s data resources and improve the accessibility and usability of federal date for decision-making. The developers have finalized ten principles to guide the strategy across the themes of Ethical Governance, Conscious Design, and Learning Culture and are seeking comments on 47 aspirational best practices that are intended to “inform agency actions on a regular basis, to be continually relevant, and to be sufficiently general so as to broadly apply at all federal agencies and across all missions.” The practices are grouped according to five broad objectives: Govern and Manage Data as a Strategic Asset, Protect and Secure Data, Promote Efficient Use of Data Assets, Build a Culture that Values Data as an Asset, and Honor Stakeholder Input and Leverage Partners. Comments on the draft practices are due by November 16, 2018. Instructions for submitting feedback and the complete list of practices are available on the Data Strategy website.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 13), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

White House Outlines FY 2020 R&D Budget Priorities

On July 31, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney, with Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant Secretary to the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a joint memorandum to federal agency and department heads on “FY 2020 Administration Research and Development Priorities.” The R&D memo lays out key White House priorities as agencies begin working on their budget submissions for the next fiscal year.

The FY 2020 memo shares many priorities with the FY 2019 memo, including acknowledging the important role of science and technology to America’s global leadership and emphasizing national security, American energy dominance, and medical innovation as research and development priorities. The memo also adds new priorities including space exploration, artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, advanced communication networks, and agriculture. Specific science priorities for the Trump Administration in FY 2020 include research “to improve the security and resilience of the Nation and its critical infrastructure from natural hazards, physical threats, cyber-attacks, and emerging threats from autonomous systems and biological agents;” fundamental and applied artificial intelligence (AI) research; research to “safely and efficiently integrate autonomous driving systems and unmanned aircraft systems;” and basic medical research for personalized medicine, areas underserved by industry, disease prevention, and health promotion.”

Unlike the FY 2019 memo, the FY 2020 memo does not include specific language about federal funding for research and development playing a supporting role to that of industry. The memo does reiterate, however, the administration’s view that federal research and development dollars should be used primarily on basic and early-stage applied research.

Additional details can be found in the memorandum.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 7), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Office of Management and Budget Releases President’s Management Agenda

On March 20, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the President’s Management Agenda, which is a broad framework for bring additional efficiency to the federal government. Goals include accomplishing agency missions more effectively, better serving those receiving services from the federal government, and being better stewards of taxpayer dollars. To accomplish these goals, the Administration will first focus in information technology modernization across the government, data accountability and transparency, and modernizing the federal workforce. Progress on the President’s Management Agenda goals can be tracked online at performance.gov/PMA.  The President’s Management Agenda is expected to inform agency reorganization plans that will be released in the coming months.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 3), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Chief Statistician Seeks Information on Combining Data

The Chief Statistician of the United States has issued a Request for Information on how best to integrate data from multiple sources to inform the development of standards for using combined data for federal purposes. Specifically, the request is seeking information on: “(1) Current and emerging techniques for linking and analyzing combined data; (2) on-going research on methods to describe the quality of statistical products that result from these techniques; (3) computational frameworks and systems for conducting such work; (4) privacy or confidentiality issues that may arise from combining such data; and (5) suggestions for additional research in those or related areas.” More information can be found in the Federal Register notice. Information should be submitted by March 13, 2018.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 23), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Delay to Common Rule Implementation Likely

On January 4, the Department of Health and Human Services submitted a final rule for approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which would indefinitely delay implementation of revisions to the Common Rule, the set of regulations governing research involving human participants (see COSSA’s analysis of the changes, which were announced in the final days of the Obama administration). This rule replaces an earlier proposal to delay implementation that was submitted in October but never approved by OIRA (see COSSA’s discussion), which would have allowed certain “burden-reducing” provisions of the Rule to go into an effect as scheduled while delaying the remaining pieces of the revision for one year. The new rule would delay the entirety of the revisions to the Common Rule for an unspecified period of time.  The original implementation date for the revisions is January 18, 2018, so OIRA would need to approve the new rule by then in order to avoid the regulations taking effect. It is unclear what the impact would be if OIRA were to approve the delay after the January 18 deadline.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 9), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

White House Outlines FY 2019 R&D Budget Priorities, Emphasizes Role of Industry

On August 17, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney, with Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant Secretary to the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a joint memorandum to federal agency and department heads on “FY 2019 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities.” The R&D memo, along with an earlier memo released in July that outlines more general budget reforms, keeps with the practices of past administrations to lay out key White House priorities as agencies begin working on their budget submissions for the next fiscal year. Of course, the priorities within the memos can differ dramatically depending on the Administration, which is the case with this year’s guidance.

The FY 2019 R&D memo acknowledges the important role of science and technology to America’s global leadership, and particularly to issues of “national security, economic growth, and job creation.” However, there is some subtle, yet important language signaling possible shifts in this Administration’s priorities for science funding. For example, the memo states, “In spurring future advances, Federal funding of research and development programs and research infrastructure can play a crucial supporting role [emphasis added].” While it directs federal agencies to “continue, and expand where necessary, efforts to focus on basic research,” it directs agencies to reduce funding overlaps with private industry in later-stage research. It further states that “Working in tandem, the Government and the private sector can promote the nation’s economic growth through innovation, and create new products and services for the American people.”

The memo also outlines a number of priorities related to funding practices and accountability, including ensuring that “proposed programs are based on sound science, do not duplicate existing R&D efforts, and have the potential to contribute to the public good.” It further states that federal agencies should identify existing programs “that could progress more efficiently through private sector R&D, and consider their modification or elimination where Federal involvement is no longer needed or appropriate.”

Other key science priorities for the Trump Administration in FY 2019 include research “that can support the military of the future,” the development of “technologies necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, mitigate the effects of both natural and adversarial threats and hazards, and secure American borders,” and development of a domestic energy portfolio that includes “fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy sources.” As for biomedical (NIH) research, the memo calls for priority to be placed on programs “that encourage innovation to prevent, treat, and defeat diseases, and maintain America’s standing as a world leader in medicine.” Further, agencies should prioritize research addressing aging populations, drug addiction, and other public health challenges.

Additional details can be found in the memorandum.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 5), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

OMB’s FY 2019 Budget Guidance Calls for Major Funding Reforms

On July 7, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), led by Director Mick Mulvaney, issued a memorandum to federal departments and agencies with guidance on how to approach development of the fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget submission. According to the memo, “the FY 2019 Budget will provide an opportunity to present a comprehensive plan for reforming the Federal Government and reducing the Federal civilian workforce. It also will reflect the first impacts of the Government reorganization called for by Executive Order 13781 [issued in March].” Budget submissions are expected to continue proposals included in the FY 2018 budget. Initial FY 2019 budget proposals from the agencies are due to OMB by September 11, 2017, even though agencies will not yet know what their FY 2018 budgets will be (see related article).

As you may recall, the Trump Administration implemented a temporary federal workforce hiring freeze during its first few weeks in office and issued a “Comprehensive plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce.” Agencies’ FY 2019 budgets are expected to include “agency reform plans” that make proposals for eliminating activities, restructuring or merging, improving organizational efficiency and effectiveness, and workforce management.

Alongside submission of their budget proposals, agencies are also tasked with submitting draft strategic plans covering FY 2018-2022, a draft FY 2019 performance plan, and agency priority goals for FY 2018-2019. OMB will work with federal departments and agencies over the next several months to prepare the final FY 2019 budget request, which will be delivered to Congress in February 2018.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 25), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

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