The Structure of the Federal Statistical System
Click here for PDF assistance
The U.S. has a highly decentralized statistical system, spanning 125 agencies spread across the Government, all of which are engaged, to some degree, in collecting data and producing statistics.
Principal Statistical Agencies
A Federal statistical agency is an agency or organizational unit of the Executive Branch whose activities are predominantly the collection, compilation, processing, or analysis of in¬formation for statistical purposes.1 A substantial portion of our official statistics is produced by the 13 agencies that have statistical work as their principal mission. Excluding funding for the decennial census, approximately 38 percent of overall funding for Federal statistical activities provides resources for these 13 agencies. The principal statistical agencies are the: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Bureau of Justice Statistics; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Census Bureau; Economic Research Service; Energy Information Administration; National Agricultural Statistics Service; National Center for Education Statistics; National Center for Health Statistics; National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics; Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics (SSA); and Statistics of Income (IRS).
Other Statistical Programs of Federal Agencies
The remaining 62 percent of total resources allocated to statistical work in the U.S. Government is carried out by about 115 programs in the Executive Branch that conduct statistical activities in conjunction with another program mission, such as providing services (for example, medical care benefits for the elderly and the poor) or enforcing regulations (for example, with respect to the environment, transportation, or occupational safety). These statistical programs are components within a Federal department or other agency. Thus, a broad set of centers, institutes, and organizations are represented in addition to the 13 principal statistical agencies.
Additionally, there are other Federal agencies whose statistical activities are excluded because they are not part of the Executive Branch. These agencies include the Congressional Budget Office, which develops and applies projection models for the budgetary impact of current and proposed Federal programs; the Federal Reserve Board, which compiles the widely used Flow of Funds report and other monetary statistical series and periodically conducts the Survey of Consumer Finances; and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which develops statistical data in evaluations of government programs.
The Office of Management and Budget
In addition to other responsibilities under the Paperwork Reduction Act, OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) coordinates the Nation’s decentralized Federal statistical system. The 1995 reauthorization of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 and other legislation give OMB the responsibility of approving agency information collection requests, including those for surveys and other statistical information. OIRA’s Statistical and Science Policy (SSP) Office, headed by the U.S. Chief Statistician, coordinates the activities of the Federal statistical system to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the system as well as the integrity, objectivity, impartiality, utility, and confidentiality of information collected for statistical purposes.2 To achieve these goals, SSP establishes statistical policies and standards, identifies priorities for improving programs, evaluates statistical agency budgets, reviews and approves Federal agency information collections involving statistical methods, and coordinates U.S. participation in international statistical activities.
The U.S. Chief Statistician also promotes integration across the Federal statistical system by chairing the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP), which enables OMB to obtain more direct participation from agencies in planning and coordinating Federal statistical activities. The ICSP, which meets monthly, began operating informally in the late 1980s and was authorized by statute in 1995. It is comprised of the heads of 13 principal statistical agencies and the Environmental Protection Agency’s and OMB’s Chief Statisticians, spanning nine cabinet departments and four other agencies. Because the members have management responsibility for statistical programs in their respective agencies, their advice and cooperation are essential for effective implementation of OMB statistical policy decisions and for planning improvements in Federal statistical programs. Moreover, the ICSP is an efficient vehicle for coordinating statistical work, particularly when activities and issues cut across agencies; for exchanging information about agency programs and activities; and for providing advice and counsel to OMB on statistical matters.
As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act, the U.S. Chief Statistician’s office annually is¬sues the Statistical Programs of the United States Government, which outlines the funding proposed for Federal statistical activities in the President’s budget and describes major interagency activities throughout the Federal statistical system. It also prepares a chapter each year in the Analytical Perspectives volume of the President’s budget, which provides a cross-cutting description of the budget requests for the principal statistical agencies.3
1 Title V of the E-Government Act of 2002. Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA), PL 107-347, Section 502(7).
2 Statistical Policy Directive No. 4: Release and Dissemination of Statistical Products Produced by Federal Statistical Agencies; Notice, http://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/omb/fedreg/2008/030708_directive-4.pdf.