Skip to Main Content

Federal CDO Council Talks Growth, RFI in First Public Meeting

The council discussed recent achievements around data ethics and training programs, but it’s calling on industry for more input on future data goals.

7m read
Written by:
Abstract dash dot line background flow wave pattern.
Photo Credit: filo/iStock

The Federal Chief Data Officers Council presented its priorities, accomplishments and a new request for information seeking feedback on its mission and activities during its first public meeting last week.

The Federal Data Strategy established in late 2019 called for federal agencies to appoint CDOs and form a Federal CDO Council, which first met in January 2020. Since then, the group has formed various working groups and taken on a variety of projects to meet requirements of the Federal Data Strategy and Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act.

Focus Areas and Working Group Activities

CDO Council Chair Ted Kaouk, former CDO at Department of Agriculture and recently appointed CDO of the Office of Personnel Management, said that since early 2020 the council has been focused on four main areas of work: workforce data skills, data sharing, data inventories and stakeholder engagement. The council established a working group to address each area, and the groups have introduced respective solutions and activities to the federal data community.

Department of Commerce CDO Thomas Beach, who heads the Data Skills and Workforce Development Working Group, said his group established an implementation tool kit to help agencies with building data programs, acquisition, structure, data governance and more based on their maturity and data skills.

Beach added that the group also formed the CDO Playbook, which Beach said can help CDOs cultivate relationships to partner on solving mission problems with data, promote data sharing, dissolve silos, build a data-driven culture at agencies and form a mission-focused data and analytics strategy to improve business strategy.

“Some of the key highlights that we’ve learned through this playbook approach was to listen and hear how other organizations — large, small and different in mission — realized value,” Beach said of the playbook development. “What are some of the first early steps that they did? How did they play the long game as it were to realize value?”

The CDO Council’s Data Inventory Working Group is headed by Department of the Interior CDO Tod Dabolt, whose group has been working to create a comprehensive list of data inventory use cases across agencies, document inventory challenges and opportunities, as well as identify solutions to maximize data inventories while minimizing compliance burden.

“Why do inventories matter?” Dabolt said. “The important reason is to make those informed decisions in a transparent manner and have the reproducibility for our citizens to understand why the government made a decision in the way it did.”

While Dabolt’s team is working on guiding agencies forward with their data inventory, Department of Transportation CDO and Council Vice Chair Dan Morgan highlighted that the Data Sharing Working Group he leads is looking to overcome challenges and opportunities to share data more effectively across the government. He highlighted the importance of this amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed agencies to quickly find ways to share data to form a national response.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation CDO Melanie Carter presented the Operations Working Group goals of supporting the core operations of the CDO Council, as well as the various activities the group has undergone and is currently undergoing. While the group has already stood up bylaws, communication channels and a CXO Fellowship Program, it is now looking to strengthen leadership and networking opportunities across the CDO community. In the future, the group is hoping to establish further public meetings and establish goals for the council in 2022.

Kaouk highlighted other accomplishments the council has realized, such as:

  • A Data Ethics Framework
  • Federal CDO data skills training program case studies
  • A data scientist subject matter expert qualifications assessment
  • Work for the COVID-19 Data Sharing Work Group, and
  • The Wildland Fire Fuels project and Federal Cross Agency Dashboarding Process.

“Overall, we’re really excited about those individual projects and the work today,” Kaouk said. “We’re really excited about the level of collaboration and excitement around the council and the overall operating model we’ve created for collaboration across agencies. And we know that these projects and activities represent some of just the early forays of the council, and we know we need your help to better understand how we can do them better.”

The Council’s RFI

The council is looking to receive input from the public as to how it can improve its mission and focus areas.

Through a new request for information, the council wants to know how to improve upskilling programs and continuous learning, how federal data can be incorporated into data science and skills training programs, and what data inventories matter internally to agencies.

Amid these various areas are three cross-cutting themes: value and maturity, equity and ethics, and technology.

“A lot of our agencies are working on their data strategies or have just recently published their data strategies, and they’re definitely looking for ways to communicate the value of this data work that we’re taking up,” Morgan said. “We want to hear from you all about meaningful approaches to defining the value of data itself and data work, and how we communicate the work of data to different stakeholders for different purposes.”

Morgan added that with the White House’s prioritization of equity, the CDO Council is also looking to bolster its activities around data equity and ethics.  For instance, the council is seeking avenues to improve its Data Ethics Framework.

“We want to hear from you about how the Data Ethics Framework might need to evolve to address racial equity and support for underserved communities,” Morgan said. “Does it have enough principles and practices in place, or should we bolster it? And as we think about adopting an ethics framework, how can we bring best practices to bear to help us to help our agency leaders work at the intersection of data, ethics and diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility?”

For technology, the council is seeking frameworks that agencies should be using to evaluate their existing data infrastructure and how to develop modernization strategies that will help break down organizational silos. This area, he added, will be key for helping the CDO Council realize its data-sharing goals.

From the contractor perspective, the council is also looking to hear about opportunities to use data inventories to advance agency operations or to support federal data analysts. Morgan said the group also wants to know how data inventory standards might be more useful in domains beyond core open-data catalogue use cases.

The RFI will be open for response until Nov. 15. It is available on the website and Federal Register, and those looking to provide input should respond on

Woman typing at computer

Stay in the know

Subscribe now to receive our curated newsletters

Related Content
Woman typing at computer

Stay in the Know

Subscribe now to receive our newsletters.