DATA Act: Open Government Meets Federal Spending

The last time we talked about the DATA Act in this space, Hudson Hollister of the Data Transparency Coalition was guest blogging about its unanimous passage in the House of Representatives and its re-introduction in the Senate. You can read the version that passed the House here.

Unfortunately, the 112th Congress ended without the DATA Act becoming law. Now that a new Congress is in session, the bill will have to be re-introduced.

So what is the DATA Act, and why should you care about it?

Despite the multitude of current debates about how the U.S. spends money, it’s actually very hard to track precisely how much money the U.S. is spending. Agencies report on dollars designated (i.e., obligated) for programs and projects, but that information is often inaccurate or incomplete. And when the Treasury Department writes a check, they don’t use the same program codes that the agencies use. As a result, there’s no public record of the link between money going out and the programs receiving funding.

The Data Act addresses both issues: data inaccuracy and the inability to reconcile actual payments (i.e., outlays) with the budget authority granted by Congress. Making complete, correct spending information available to the public is a critical step for having informed budget discussions.

So if you’d like to see the DATA Act re-introduced in the House and Senate, go over to our Take Action page and make your voice heard.