DATA Act gains Senate ally

Sen. Mark Warner is pitching the DATA Act as an essential piece of infrastructure to support a rational accounting of federal spending.

Mark Warner

Sen. Mark Warner is pitching the DATA Act as an essential piece of infrastructure to support a rational accounting of federal spending. (FCW photo)

A bill to standardize and structure government spending data, a version of which has already moved through committee in the Republican-led House, is getting an assist from a prominent Democrat.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) held a hearing of the Budget and Government Performance Task Force on Sept. 18, to discuss problems with existing financial data reporting on USASpending.gov and build support for the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act.

Warner is pitching the DATA Act as an essential piece of infrastructure to support a rational accounting of federal spending, and a first step in reducing waste and duplication. The bill would move control of the USASpending.gov database from the Office of Management and Budget to the Treasury, and require spending data to be structured on a uniform basis, using metadata to make the information easy to extract, sort and analyze.

Against the backdrop of ongoing budget battles and a looming government shutdown, Warner touted data transparency as something everyone could support regardless of their view on the optimal size and scope of the federal enterprise. The House bill is sponsored by California Republican Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"Unless we develop better data and processes to weed out ineffective programs, we'll never have the efficient structure that will support our long-term budget goals whatever that top line number might be," Warner said.

Witnesses at the task force hearing pointed out continuing problems with data supplied by agencies to the USASpending.gov database.

"Our data quality analysis of the assistance data in USASpending.gov shows that it is deteriorating by the year," said Tom Lee, director of Sunlight Labs at the Sunlight Foundation, an open-government advocacy organization. "In 2011, over $900 billion of the direct assistance data in USASpending.gov was misreported. But these data sets are not only full of bad data; they are badly designed. A lack of standardization makes it difficult to conduct this type of quality analysis in the first place and contributes to agencies' and recipients' inability to report accurate, timely and complete data about their spending.".

The $350 billion the federal government pays annually in salaries is not included in USASpending.gov, Lee noted, making it impossible to use these numbers to compare overall agency outlays.

The lack of standardized identifiers for contractors and grantees makes it a challenge for auditors, oversight committees in Congress, and transparency groups to track awards to individual companies across agencies, noted Stanley Czerwinski, director for strategic issues at the Government Accountability Office.

"The lack of consistent data structures prevents easy aggregation of data at the government-wide level, hampering the ability to link existing financial, award, and procurement systems. It also increases the cost of government transactions and the burden on federal fund recipients," Czerwinski said.

Another problem is that the current system of reporting requires agencies and grantees to report spending data to multiple authorities, wasting time and increasing opportunities for error, Czerwinski told the task force.

This point was picked up by Gerald Kane, assistant vice president for research administration at the University of Virginia. "One key way to improve invoicing and reporting efficiency across federal agencies would be to  allow universities and other federal awardees to upload all of the data electronically at one time for multiple awards. This would save many staff hours," Kane said.

Warner's task force doesn't have jurisdiction over the DATA Act. The bill is expected to be considered in October by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. On the House side, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has said the Issa bill will move to the floor after it is scored by the Congressional Budget Office.

NEXT STORY: Christianity grows in China

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.