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Research Service in the Department of Agriculture). Once established, many statistical agencies engage in all these functions to varying degrees.

This definition of a federal statistical agency does not include many statistical activities of the federal government because they are not performed by distinct units, or because they do not result in the dissemination of statistics to others—for example, statistics compiled by the Postal Service to set rates or by the Department of Defense to test weapons (see, e.g., National Research Council, 1998b, on statistics and testing for defense acquisition). Nor does it include agencies whose primary functions are the conduct or support of problem-oriented research, although much of the research may be based on information gathered by statistical means, for example, by the Department of Energy's national laboratories and by the National Institutes of Health.

Finally, this definition of a statistical agency does not usually include agencies whose primary function is policy analysis and planning (e.g., the Office of Tax Analysis in the Department of the Treasury, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services). Such agencies may collect and analyze statistical information, and statistical agencies, in turn, may perform some policy-related analysis functions for their department. However, to maintain credibility as an objective source of accurate, useful information, statistical agencies must be separate from units that are involved in developing policy and assessing policy alternatives.

The work of federal statistical agencies is coordinated through the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP), created by the 1995 reauthorization of the Paperwork Reduction Act. The ICSP currently includes representation from 10 principal statistical agencies and from the statistical units in the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Security Administration (see Box II-1).

Throughout the federal government, the Office of Management and Budget recognizes more than 70 units and agencies that are not statistical agencies but that have annual budgets of $500,000 or more for statistical activities (U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 2000). Many of the considerations in the principles and practices presented here may be pertinent to these agencies. Similarly, the principles and practices may be relevant to statistical units in state and local government agencies, and international audiences may find them useful as well.

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