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 U.S. Postal Service to set rates or by the U.S. Department of Defense to test weapons (see National Research Council, 1998b, 2002b, 2003b, 2006d, 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 their research may be based on information gathered by statistical means, and they may also sponsor important surveys, as do, for example, the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and other agencies in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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 U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. 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 (e.g., produce reports on trends in after-tax income or child care arrangements of families). 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 U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the 1980s and authorized in statute in the 1995 reauthorization of the Paperwork Reduction Act. The ICSP is chaired by OMB and currently includes representation from a total of fourteen agencies and units, which are housed in nine cabinet departments and three independent agencies (see Appendix A):

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis (Commerce Department)

  • Bureau of Justice Statistics (Justice Department)

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (Labor Department)

  • Bureau of Transportation Statistics (Transportation Department)

  • Census Bureau (Commerce Department)

  • Economic Research Service (Agriculture Department)

  • Energy Information Administration (Energy Department)



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