Work Begins on First Official 'Key National Indicator System'

By Howard Parnell
October 18, 2010


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The creation of a new Key National Indicator System to help the American people better assess the nation's progress is formally under way, with bipartisan participation of the U.S. Congress. The KNIS will select a limited number of key measures on the most important issues facing the country and make them freely available via the web using the best quality public and private data sources.

Meanwhile the National Academy of Sciences -- authorized by recent federal law to implement the KNIS in concert with the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council -- has named the State of the USA as its partner in the historic initiative.

The law (PDF) , signed by President Barack Obama in March, calls on congress to appoint an eight-member commission as a first step in the process. A total of $70 million in public financial support is authorized for KNIS over nine years to complement contributions by the private sector, with contributions to date totaling approximately $15 million. Two commission appointments each are to be made by the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and the speaker and the minority leader of the House of Representatives.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have announced their respective appointments to the Key National Indicators Commission.

Senator Reid's appointments:

  • Ikram U. Khan, M.D., of Nevada, three-year term. Khan is president and founder of Quality Care Consultants LLC, a Las Vegas based health care consulting firm, and a board member of U.S. Institute of Peace, a presidential appointment.
  • Dean Ornish, M.D., of California, two-year term. Ornish is founder and president of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif., and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco

Senator McConnell's appointments:

  • Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., of Maryland, three-year term. Horn is a director with Deloitte Consulting and former assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Nicholas N. Eberstadt, Ph.D., of the District of Columbia, two-year term. Eberstadt is Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and a senior adviser to the National Board of Asian Research

Appointments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner will be announced jointly when all four have been completed. Once formed, the commission will elect co-chairs, work with Congressional leadership on appropriations and begin discussions with the National Academy of Sciences on the contract to implement the KNIS. Specific responsibilities of the commission include: conducting oversight, including annual reports; managing the contract with NAS for system implementation; facilitating support of the system, including federal funding and access to federal data sources; and making recommendations to NAS on system improvements as well as issues and measures to be considered.

The new law also gives the Academy the option to partner with an outside institution to implement the system, including designing, publishing and maintaining a free KNIS website accessible by all members of the public. In July, the Academy formally designated the State of the USA as such a partner to prepare for implementation once final appointments and appropriations have been made.

The work that led to federal legislation calling for a Key National Indicator System began in 2003. For details on milestones along the way, see A Brief History of the Key National Indicator System on

Howard Parnell is editor and vice president of content and creative for State of the USA

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