This is a guest post from the Sunlight Foundation's Kaitlin Devine. One of her many projects at Sunlight is Clearspending, a website that assesses the quality of federal spending data in USASpending.gov She brings us up to date on the DATA Act and how it's doing in the 113th Congress.
Re-introduced to this Congress on May 21, the Digital Accountability and Transparency act (DATA Act) is a proposed bill that would expand the release of federal spending information and impose data standards on it. The DATA act is intended to update the 2006 law that created USASpending.gov.
Based on legacy data systems created in the 1980s, USASpending.gov has suffered from numerous data quality problems as well as a lack of usability and accessibility to the underlying bulk data. Critics often contrast it with Recovery.gov, a site created to track money from the stimulus act.
Earlier versions of the DATA Act had many components of the Recovery.gov model, such as recipient reporting and an independent board for governance. In the most recent version, the DATA Act focuses more on expanding the types of spending information released, so that spending datasets can serve as a data quality check against one another. While USASpending.gov includes information on grants and contracts over $25,000, the DATA Act would also require that:
On top of releasing new data, the Act would also require the Treasury Department to create government-wide data standards for spending data that leverage structured data formats and interoperability. The Treasury Department would also be responsible for taking over control of the existing USASpending.gov website from the Office of Management and Budget and bringing it into compliance with the new proposed law.
The DATA Act is quickly moving through the House of Representatives. It was referred to committee and marked up, and now moves to the House floor with the support of the majority leader Eric Cantor. The bill has been introduced in the Senate but has not been marked up in committee yet. This is where the bill stalled in the last Congress. Here’s hoping it doesn’t have the same fate.