An Update on Transparency at CBO
Transparency is a top priority for CBO. This report describes the agency’s recent efforts to ensure that its work is credible, is well understood, and helps people gauge how estimates might change if policies or circumstances diﬀered.
In January 2018, Director Keith Hall testified before the Congress about the Congressional Budget Office’s plans to bolster its efforts to be transparent. Those efforts aim to enhance the credibility of CBO’s analyses and processes, promote a thorough understanding of its work, and help people gauge how estimates might change if policies or circumstances differed. This report provides an update about such efforts this year to date.
- Testifying and publishing answers to questions. CBO testified eight times and provided 120 separate answers to questions for the record.
- Explaining analytical methods. CBO published various documents explaining its analysis, including its general approaches and particular instances. Also, in nearly every cost estimate, CBO included a section describing the basis of the estimate. To enable researchers to replicate results, the agency posted the computer code for some analyses.
- Releasing data. The Budget and Economic Outlook, the Analysis of the President’s 2019 Budget, and several other reports were supplemented with a comprehensive set of data files, and most reports were accompanied by files providing the data underlying figures.
- Analyzing the accuracy of CBO’s estimates. CBO released a new report that described how the agency’s outlay projections have compared with actual outcomes, and other reports included comparisons of projections and outcomes.
- Comparing current estimates with previous ones. In several of its major reports, CBO compared this year’s projections with last year’s.
- Comparing CBO’s estimates with those of other organizations. CBO compared its budget projections with the Administration’s and its economic projections with those made by private forecasters and the Federal Reserve System. It compared various other estimates with those made by organizations in government and the private sector.
- Estimating the effects of policy alternatives. To assist policymakers and analysts who may hold differing views about the most useful benchmark for considering possible changes to laws (and to make the influence of policy alternatives more transparent), in several documents CBO estimated the effects that some alternative assumptions about future policies would have on budgetary outcomes.
- Characterizing uncertainty surrounding estimates. CBO created a new interactive workbook that allows users to enter alternative economic scenarios and obtain budgetary results, and in several major reports, the agency discussed the uncertainty surrounding its estimates.
- Visualizing data. CBO published slide decks and infographics about the budget and the economy.
- Conducting outreach. The most important form of outreach is the direct communication between CBO and the Congress in person, by phone, and by email. In addition, numerous experts participated in CBO’s Panels of Economic and Health Advisers. The agency obtained many external reviews of its work. CBO staff made presentations about the agency’s processes, work in progress, and recently completed work. And the agency published blog posts highlighting key issues.