Advances in computer and information technology are changing the way we live and work. While the private sector has set the pace using new technology to improve performance, government lags behind. The failure to adopt these best practices makes government agencies and programs less efficient in delivering service to Americans and less cost-effective for taxpayers.
To begin to address this problem, I recently introduced a bipartisan bill with Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, to start putting in place the building blocks necessary to bring 21st century data and technological advancements of the private sector to the federal government.
H.R. 3339, the Standard Data and Technology Advancement Act, or the Standard DATA Act, will establish consistent requirements for the electronic content and format of data used in the administration of key human services programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, and unemployment insurance.
I am chairman of the House Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Human Resources, which has reviewed a number of the human services programs in our jurisdiction that are woefully behind the private sector in applying data standards to improve performance. During a hearing in March, witnesses confirmed programs within the subcommittee’s jurisdiction are siloed from each other and communication is limited by the way they track their data. They also testified that the use of data matching could yield impressive results.
Data standardization and matching will improve customer service, increase program integrity, and achieve taxpayer savings. In order to do this, data must be interoperable, meaning it can be used by a variety of information technology platforms, including a wide range of state systems, many of which are antiquated.
Human services and assistance programs often serve similar populations. Unfortunately, from an information technology standpoint, they rarely operate consistently across programs or attempt to coordinate information. The first step of the Standard DATA Act is to establish standard elements for individual items of information.
Second, we must define, in predictable ways, how these elements relate to one another. It sounds simple, but this is not happening right now. These standardization activities will promote transparency, flexibility, and consistency across a wide variety of information technology platforms established by federal and State agencies.
H.R. 3339 is not a silver bullet, but it is a necessary step toward better data coordination. Standardizing data and reporting mechanisms will help to achieve three important goals: better prevent and identify fraud and abuse; increase the efficiency of administrative resources to serve eligible beneficiaries; and produce savings for U.S. taxpayers.
We must start to apply the efficiencies of private sector best practices to improve the operation of government programs and ensure taxpayer dollars are being effectively and efficiently used.
The Standard DATA Act will begin to put the building blocks in place to take advantage of what the private sector has already proven to work.