Transparency Camp, Government Spending, and the DATA Act

Transparency Camp 2014 by the Sunlight Foundation

Photo by the Sunlight Foundation


Last weekend, supporters of the newly-passed DATA Act gathered at Transparency Camp 2014. The DATA Act, a new federal spending transparency law, is an important milestone, but it won’t help NPP track the federal budget to your state and community.

DATA Act: Years of Work

Last weekend was the Sunlight Foundation’s Transparency Camp, an inspiring two days of learning and collaborating with open government advocates from across the country and around the world.

At the 2012 Transparency Camp, Hudson Hollister of the Data Transparency Coalition led a session about federal spending data problems and how the proposed DATA Act could help. At 2013’s camp, many of us visited Congress to support that bill.

2014 marked the first Transparency Camp after President Obama signed the DATA Act into law. Hudson gathered allies once again, this time to brief everyone on the final version of the bill, since the DATA Act underwent significant revisions during its adventure on Capitol Hill.

Here are some of the law’s implementation challenges and how supporters can help.

 “Cognizant of Current Funding Environment”

This phrase has been bandied about regarding the DATA Act’s requirement for federal  spending data standards. Before “current funding environment” becomes an excuse for inaction, work should begin to explore building the new data standards on top of existing systems, which would significantly lower the compliance price tag.

New Administration Must Support the DATA Act

Many of the DATA Act’s deadlines are years away, when a new administration will be in town. Now is the time to incorporate transparency issues into both parties’ platforms. We want the next White House resident to champion the DATA Act’s successful implementation.

Fixing Existing Grants and Contracts Data

If the DATA Act goes as planned, we’ll get new, complete, standardized federal spending information in, categorized in useful ways (like program activity).

That’s great, but what about the grants and contract data already in The data universally criticized as incomplete and inaccurate? The data that are the only comprehensive source of federal spending in states and communities? The data that our hackathon team couldn’t trace back to the federal budget?

The DATA Act doesn’t fix any of that, so NPP, state grant officers, and others will keep pushing until ALL federal spending information complies with the new data standards.

Back to Work

Congratulations to everyone who helped the DATA Act become law - it’s an important milestone. Now, let’s get back to work.