Budget battles: Transparency sites take a major hit

Despite hefty cuts to the fund that pays their bills, the lights will stay on at the Obama administration's government transparency websites, though without the upgrades that some say are urgently needed.

In addition, an administration plan to launch a new site that would report agencies' customer service scores will be nixed, as will a current pilot project called FedSpace, a Facebook-like social networking site where federal employees can share ideas and best practices for government IT projects.

Congress reduced the E-Government Fund's fiscal 2011 budget to $8 million from $34 million the previous year, reports Alice Lipowicz at FCW.com. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra outlined the administration’s plans to continue operating USAspending.gov, Data.gov, Performance.gov and the IT Dashboard in a letter to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee.

Carper and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had pushed to keep the accountability websites operating.

“While we believe that we can make progress on several important initiatives, several projects will experience a sharp decline given the limited amount of funding,” Kundra wrote. “No project will go unaffected.”

The administration spent about $5 million developing FedSpace in fiscal 2010, according to an Office of Management and Budget report to Congress in March. The administration also spent $6.5 million on USAspending.gov, Performance.gov and the IT Dashboard in 2010.

The decision to forgo improvements to the existing sites will make it more difficult for the administration to respond to criticism from the Sunlight Foundation and the Government Accountability Office about the accuracy of data stored on the IT Dashboard and USAspending.gov, reports Elizabeth Montalbano for InformationWeek.

“While we will continue to work with agencies to improve the quality of data on the IT Dashboard and USAspending, we will not be able to fund development efforts to improve data accuracy through automation and streamlining,” Kundra wrote in his letter to Carper.

The budget cuts could have affected another of the administration’s signature IT programs: the plan to reduce the number of federal data centers from nearly 2,100 to 1,300 or fewer by 2015. But Kundra told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month that the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative remains on track despite the cuts to the E-Government Fund, which partly financed the initiative, writes Joseph Marks for Nextgov.

About the Author

John Zyskowski is a senior editor of Federal Computer Week. Follow him on Twitter: @ZyskowskiWriter.

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