Data Advocacy Update

2017 has brought a great deal of change to Washington, with a new Administration and Congress. With so many new faces and political developments, it can be hard to keep up. There are a few important developments that you need to pay attention to.

The “skinny budget” proposed by the Trump Administration contains a series of substantial cuts to federal statistical agencies. This budget provides $1.5 billion, an increase of more than $100 million, for the U.S. Census Bureau to continue preparations for the 2020 Decennial Census. This additional funding prioritizes fundamental investments in information technology and field infrastructure, which would allow the bureau to more effectively administer the 2020 Decennial Census. However, the Census Bureau will require significant increases in its budget to prepare for and administer the rapidly approaching Census.

The proposed budget consolidates the mission, policy support, and administrative functions of the Economics and Statistics Administration within the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Department of Commerce’s Office of the Secretary. It will also reduce funding for USDA’s statistical capabilities, while maintaining core Departmental analytical functions, such as the funding necessary to complete the Census of Agriculture.

Keep in mind that Congress has the power of the purse and that the drastic cuts proposed by the President are only proposals. A full budget will emerge later in the spring with more details, and this is when the real decisions will be made about the FY 2018 budget. It is increasingly likely that the FY 2017 budget will be a continuing resolution, effectively extending funding at current levels until the end of the fiscal year.

There are also important decisions to be made regarding leadership for the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Census Bureau Director John Thompson’s five-year term expires at the end of 2017, while Bill Wiatrowski is serving as Acting Commissioner of the BLS following the end of former Commissioner Erica Groshen’s term. It is important that President Trump appoint quality leaders who understand the importance of these agencies.

There are several other legislative priorities to consider with regard to federal statistics. While there is less support for making the American Community Survey voluntary, which would dramatically reduce response rates, there are other concerning developments. The Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), could limit data available for Department of Housing and Urban Development geospatial data. There are concerns that the Census could become politicized by the inclusion of questions of immigration status in the survey.

C2ER is working hard to ensure that these valuable data resources are protected and supported in Congress. We will continue to monitor these developments and educate policymakers about the critical importance of federal statistics to C2ER members.