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ORGANIZATION AND OPERATIONS OF U.S. FEDERAL STATISTICAL AGENCIES
In recent decades there has been considerable debate concerning the organization of the U.S. Federal Statistical System. The debate, which is summarized in Revolution in United States Government Statistics, 1926-1976, has focused on the degree to which the U.S. Federal Statistical System should be centralized or decentralized.
A discussion of the organization of Federal statistics is especially difficult since there are a wide variety of agencies and/or activities generating numerical series which are viewed by many users as “statistics." Certain Federal statistical series are used widely by persons with greatly varying information needs; these are frequently called general-purpose statistics. However, with a few exceptions such as the decennial census and the estimation of the national income accounts, most statistical programs are, in fact, special purpose in character; they focus on a particular function of Government and are designed primarily to aid in policymaking in clearly specified areas. The bulk of these statistics relate to specific Federal programs, and are essentially a byproduct of administering or monitoring these activities.
a time series or a continuing statistical report. For purposes of this discussion of the organization of U.S. Federal statistics, the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards has identified 38 agencies which have a key role in developing and using statistical inquiries. These agencies have been selected primarily on the basis of their impact on the statistical system using measures such as their budget level (generally $3 million or more), number of statistical personnel, and the volume of burden (generally 50,000 man-hours or more) which they place on the American public in collecting their statistical information. The 38 agencies are listed in Table 1.
TABLE 1: MAJOR AGENCIES IN THE
FEDERAL STATISTICAL SYSTEM
General Coordination Agency
Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards, Department of Commerce
Core Multipurpose Collection Agencies
Economics, Statistics, and Cooperatives Service
All executive requests for information, except for those of regulatory agencies, the Internal Revenue Service, a few bank regulatory agencies, and certain data collection activities in the health manpower field are subject to review and clearance by the Office of Management and Budget under authority of the Federal Reports Act of 1942. The agencies, when requesting clearance, classify their information requests by type. One category, "statistical reports, is defined as follows: "those used in obtaining general-purpose statistics, collected without primary reference to specific governmental needs.” In March 1976, 107 separate agencies were conducting information inquiries which they labeled as statistical. A subsequent review established that some of the inquiries were not actually statistical in character, but well over 90 agencies were undertaking or sponsoring statistical programs. A number of these agencies had only one or two reports included, and frequently the reports were not designed to yield
Subject Matter Multipurpose Collection Agencies
National Center for Education Statistics,
Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, Department of Justice
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Employment and Training Administration,
Department of the Treasury
Office of the Secretary, including Office of
Revenue Sharing and Office of Tax Analysis National Science Foundation U.S. International Trade Commission
Core Multipurpose Analysis Agencies
Economics, Statistics, and Cooperatives Service
The Basic Roles of Statistical Agencies
In the abstract, data needs for a particular program, subject matter, or functional area should be clearly identified by the decisionmaker who requires the information. Further, the needs of individual agencies should be closely coordinated before specific plans for collection are developed so that duplication will be minimized and so that a wide spectrum of needs will be addressed.
Program Collection and Analysis Agencies
Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health
After the needs for data are identified, alternative strategies should be considered for collecting the information through statistically acceptable data collection procedures designed to minimize cost and to minimize burden on the data providers. Centers staffed with statistical personnel should collect the data and prepare them for:
1. analysis by the statistical agencies; 2. policy analysis by governmental decision
makers; and 3. general distribution to the public.
To some extent, all statistical agencies are involved in defining and coordinating needs, collecting statistical information, and providing some analysis of that information. While it is true that all agencies are involved in each of these functions, the 38 agencies which have been selected for discussion in this section are classified into five basic groups. They are:
Center for Disease Control
Food and Drug Administration
Health Services Administration
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Education
Office of Education
1. General Coordination
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Human
Development Services Department of Housing and Urban Development
2. Core Multipurpose Collection 3. Subject Matter Multipurpose Collection 4. Core Multipurpose Analysis 5. Program Collection and Analysis.
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Community
Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
These groupings are described below.
The only General Coordination agency is the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards in the Department of Commerce. It is general in its Research in HUD concentrates on construction and housing and community development; the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration on criminal justice; and the Employment and Training Administration on labor statistics and national economic and business financial accounts.
governmentwide role for establishing statistical policy.
The first grouping of statistical agencies is called Core Multipurpose Collection. Core Multipurpose Collection agencies collect data of broad interest both across departments and across functional areas. There are only three such agencies. These are the statistical units in the Economics, Statistics and Cooperatives Service in the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of the Census in the Department of Commerce, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor. All three have data collection efforts as a major part of their overall programs, which are not limited to needs in a particular functional area. The budgets of these three agencies combined effectively equal nearly 50 percent of the total statistical budget for current programs and 100 percent of the total statistical budget for periodic programs.
The third grouping of statistical agencies is designated as Core Multipurpose Analysis. These agencies fulfill analysis needs in more than one functional area for more than one department. There are only five such agencies. These are: the economics units in the Economics, Statistics, and Cooperatives Service in the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the Department of Commerce, the Social Security Administration (the Office of Research and Statistics) and the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, both in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the Federal Reserve Board. For example, the Bureau of Economic Analysis analyzes data in the functional areas of prices and price indices, production and distribution, national economic and business financial accounts, environmental statistics, and income, wealth and consumption. One agency, the Research and Special Programs Administration in the Department of Transportation, is primarily involved in analysis in a specific subject matter area which is of interest across departments.
The last group encompasses the largest number of statistical agencies. They are the Program Collection and Analysis agencies. The 18 agencies in this category include the following:
In the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare:
The second grouping of statistical agencies is labeled Subject Matter Multipurpose Collection. There are two types of agencies which sponsor one or more major data collection efforts in a particular subject matter area of general interest, i.e., across departments, in one or two particular subject matter areas. There are seven agencies which do actual data collection and three which are primarily sponsors. The seven in the former category include the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in the Department of Energy, the National Centers for Education and Health Statistics in HEW (NCES and NCHS), the Bureau of Mines in the Department of the Interior, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the Department of the Treasury, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The three agencies which sponsor major collection efforts are the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research (PD&R) in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) in the Department of Justice, and the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) in the Department of Labor. The Energy Information Administration focuses on energy statistics, the National Center for Education Statistics basically concentrates on collection efforts in the education area; the National Center for Health Statistics on health and population; the Bureau of Mines on production and distribution of minerals and energy statistics; the FBI on criminal justice; the Internal Revenue Service on national economic and business financial accounts and income, wealth and consumption; the Environmental Protection Agency on environmental statistics; Policy Development and
The Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration
The Center for Disease Control
The Food and Drug Administration
The National Institutes of Health
The National Institute of Education
The Office of Education
The Assistant Secretary for Human Development Services
The Assistant Secretary for Housing and the Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and
and mission statements for the major statistical agencies are included in this chapter.
Several principles have been developed to serve as a basis for evaluating existing organizational arrangements. There appears to be wide agreement on these principles, yet they too are subjects for further review and refinement. For the present time, it is hoped that they will serve to stimulate evaluation of appropriate organizational settings for agencies which play a significant role in developing U.S. statistics. These operating and organizational principles are outlined below in relation to the major categories which have been described: Governing Principles for Statistical
Organization and Operations
Planning and Coordination Function
Development, both in the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, both in the Department of Transportation; the Office of the Secretary, including the Office of Revenue Sharing and the Office of Tax Analysis in the Department of the Treasury; and three independent agencies which are the National Science Foundation, the U.S. International Trade Commission, and the Veterans Administration.
All 18 collect and analyze data, usually in only one subject matter area. Only one of these agencies, the Veterans Administration, collects and analyzes data in more than two subject matter areas.
The foregoing discussion may leave the impression that each agency fits neatly into one of these five classifications. In fact, this is not true. Agencies have been classified by their major mission, even though they clearly may perform other missions, i.e., most collection agencies may well do analysis and analysis agencies do collect data.
Principles for Organization and Operations
of Statistical Agencies
The debate over centralization or decentralization of statistical activities oversimplifies the practical problems of effectively operating a national statistical program. It is clear that regular program administration requires an information base which will generate statistical information as a byproduct and that it would require excessive duplication to collect all such information in a central agency (unless those responsible for the day-to-day management of programs are to be forbidden the opportunity to collect administrative information concerning their programs). At the same time, however, it should be recognized that the U.S. Federal Statistical System is relatively concentrated, with over 50 percent of statistical activities (as defined in the fiscal year 1978 special analysis on Principal Federal Statistical Programs of The Budget of the U.S. Government when reimbursable budgets are assigned to the agency undertaking the work) being undertaken by three agencies. It is highly desirable to encourage such centralization of basic data collection since this makes it possible to control definitions and concepts and to develop samples from compatible sampling frames.
It is anticipated that the analysis of the roles and missions of the individual statistical agencies should be an ongoing activity with the goal of simplifying and improving the existing statistical organization of the United States Government. For this reason, role
1. The function of a central policy group which
coordinates various subject matter groups is critical to effective planning and coordination. This is presently the responsibility of the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards in the Department of Commerce. Under Section 103 of the Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950 this office has the govermentwide responsibility for arbitrating policy differences. It is assisted by the Statistical Policy Coordination Committee which is composed of the Cabinet, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and the Director of the Office of Management and
Budget. 2. There should be policy groups, often
interdepartmental, with responsibility for defining statistical needs and priorities in important subject areas. Program agencies should work through these coordination bodies to ensure that administrative and statistical data collection contributes as much as possible to multiple needs. Subject area coordination groups must work closely with the
overall coordinating unit described in 1. above. Statistical Centers