The Big Congressional Data Grab Is Underway

This article is reposted here from Truth in American Education with permission from the author, Shane Vander Hart.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Foundations for Evidenced-Based Policymaking Act today which will create a national data clearinghouse that includes student data. Co-sponsors of the legislation also include House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX), and U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).

This bill follows the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking’s final report who recommended what Ryan argued for “a transparent, efficient, and well-designed data system that is both accessible by federal agencies and secure for those who contribute.”

The key takeaways from the report are:

  • Security, Privacy, and Confidentiality: The report outlines recommendations for improving access to data that protects peoples’ privacy without sacrificing the information sought in the process. The commission also outlines protections to modernize the process. This means Americans enrolled in government programs can maintain their privacy while benefitting the greater goal.
  • Modernizing Data Infrastructure: The commission recommends building upon and enhancing the expertise and infrastructure to ensure secure record linkage and data access. This would increase transparency and better enable policymakers—and the public—to hold government programs accountable.
  • Strengthened Capacity: Privacy and accessibility are key, but so is ensuring the evidence-building community has the manpower it needs. By establishing administrative and program requirements within the federal government, evidence-based efforts will become a central part of both evaluating current programs and policies of the future.

Below is the summary for the bill:

Summary: The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act

Title I, Federal Evidence-Building Activities

  • Requires federal agencies to submit an evidence-building plan, which will be consolidated into one government-wide plan by the Office of Management and Budget
  • Requires federal agencies to appoint/designate a Chief Evaluation Officer to coordinate evidence-building activities within the agency
  • Establishes an advisory committee on data for evidence building

Title II, OPEN Government Act

  • Ensures maximum data availability while respecting privacy and national security concerns
  • Requires federal agencies to appoint/designate a Chief Data Officer
  • Instructs federal agencies to establish a data inventory and federal data catalogue

Title III, Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency

  • Expands access to data while improving privacy standards

Jane Robbins warned about what was coming down the pike in March:

The vehicle for imposing expanded citizen surveillance is a new federal panel called the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. The Speaker worked with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) on the legislation to create the Commission, which “is charged with reviewing the inventory, infrastructure, and protocols related to data from federal programs and tax expenditures while developing recommendations for increasing the availability and use of this data in support of rigorous program evaluation.”

The appeal of this Commission to “conservatives” is that it will recommend ways to evaluate federal programs and see which ones work and which are a waste of money We need a commission for this? If we just assume all federal programs are a waste, we’ll be right at least 95 percent of the time. And the federal government routinely ignores research, such as the massive evidence that Head Start is useless, that doesn’t support its preferred policies.

But “program evaluation” is the excuse. And the basis of the Commission’s work will be expanded sharing of personal data on American citizens. In a free society, that’s a price too high to pay.

The bill gives lip service to privacy and security, but in the same breath says it will expand access to the data it collects.

“Privacy and security” I don’t think means what they think it means.

The Big Congressional Data Grab is underway

About Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart is one of the administrators and frequent writer at Truth in American Education and an advocate with this network of grassroots activists this website represents.   He is the editor of Caffeinated Thoughts, a popular conservative Christian multi-contributor website based in Iowa that focuses on state and national politics, culture, current events, and faith.  He is cofounder of Iowa RestorEd, a grassroots group that wants to restore Iowa’s place at the top U.S. K-12 education.  Shane also is the online communications director for American Principles Project.  Feel free to follow Shane on Facebook, Twitter, or on Google Plus.


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