OMB fills chief statistician vacancy after 2 years

Karin Orvis is tasked with ensuring the government has high-quality, actionable data to inform policy decisions.
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
The Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Wikimedia)

Karin Orvis last week started her tenure as the new U.S. chief statistician.

Orvis will oversee the decentralized Federal Statistical System, ensuring the government has high-quality, actionable data to inform policy decisions around issues like the pandemic, inflation, employment and education.

Her appointment comes after the role at the Office of Management and Budget remained vacant for more than two years.

OMB reposted the chief statistician job opening in October, after failing to fill the position when Nancy Potok left in January 2020 and missing deadlines for two Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act regulatory actions as a result.


“I am committed to ensuring the quality, integrity and objectivity of federal statistics and information used in decision making across the public and private sectors,” Orvis said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the leaders of the Federal Statistical System, including the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy, as well as other key stakeholders in both the public and private sector.”

Orvis will chair a number of committees, facilitate discussions on governmentwide data standards, serve as the U.S. statistical representative in international forums like the U.N. and drive implementation of the evidence act.

She previously served as director of the Department of Defense’s Defense Suicide Prevention Office.

“She’s an expert in statistical methods and appropriate data collection, who understands how data and evidence can inform policy to improve how government serves the American people,” said OMB Director Shalanda Young in a statement. “And as someone who has led development, implementation and evaluation of vital programs at the Department of Defense, she has invaluable experience to be a leader in the evolving Federal Statistical System.”

As of Oct. 8, OMB had yet to require the timely provision of data assets, identify legal exemptions, establish standards compliant with the Privacy Act, or establish a transparent request process — in accordance with the Evidence Act. OMB also hadn’t issued a past-due regulation requiring statistical agencies to ensure timely dissemination of information, accuracy and objectivity in their activities, and preservation of public trust through confidential and exclusive statistical use of responses.


The chief statistician role is at the level of branch chief, but Nick Hart, president of the Data Foundation, has suggested elevating it one level up to deputy associate director.

“The position is critical to ensuring objective and reliable government statistics and protecting trust in government statistics,” said Kathy Ensor, president of the American Statistical Association, in a statement. “Given its importance, I urge OMB to strengthen the position — which has become even more important since the Evidence Act of 2018 became law — so the chief statistician is better equipped to fulfill her many important roles.”

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