Editorial: Data shepherd

We have been withholding comments on the debate about the government's procurement data partially because the story was not yet clear. Although that remains true to some extent, the issues involved — particularly the Freedom of Information Act questions — are too important to go without discussion.

The story is relatively simple: General Services Administration officials recently outsourced the Federal Procurement Data System in hopes of improving it. Under the new system, the raw contracting data goes directly to the vendor rather than GSA. This data is important for journalists, academics, researchers, lawmakers and leaders of oversight groups who use it to track the billions of dollars the government spends annually.

There have been questions in recent weeks about whether that procurement data will continue to be widely available. Furthermore, there are questions about whether the data, having been outsourced to a private vendor, falls under the purview of the Freedom of Information Act.

We believe that it does and should continue to be readily accessible. And if federal procurement data no longer falls under FOIA, it is a bad move and wrong.

The act exists because public information should, to the greatest extent possible, be public. Government agencies, like other organizations, operate better with some degree of oversight. Public information facilitates oversight.

David Drabkin, deputy associate administrator of GSA's Office of Acquisition Policy, has tried to reassure everybody that the data will continue to be available. In fact, he argues, the new system will make data better and faster, and information will be more accessible than it had been.

Based on his career, we have faith in Drabkin.

This question, however, cannot rest with one person. GSA officials need to ensure that public data never ceases to be public.

This case could be a watershed. After all, we expect the outsourcing trend to continue. But there must be explicit assurances that public information remains publicly accessible.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by wk1003mike): cloud system fracture.

    Does the IRS have a cloud strategy?

    Congress and watchdog agencies have dinged the IRS for lacking an enterprise cloud strategy seven years after it became the official policy of the U.S. government.

  • Shutterstock image: illuminated connections between devices.

    Who won what in EIS

    The General Services Administration posted detailed data on how the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract might be divvied up.

  • Wikimedia Image: U.S. Cyber Command logo.

    Trump elevates CyberCom to combatant command status

    The White House announced a long-planned move to elevate Cyber Command to the status of a full combatant command.

  • Photo credit: John Roman Images / Shutterstock.com

    Verizon plans FirstNet rival

    Verizon says it will carve a dedicated network out of its extensive national 4G LTE network for first responders, in competition with FirstNet.

  • AI concept art

    Can AI tools replace feds?

    The Heritage Foundation is recommending that hundreds of thousands of federal jobs be replaced by automation as part of a larger government reorganization strategy.

  • DOD Common Access Cards

    DOD pushes toward CAC replacement

    Defense officials hope the Common Access Card's days are numbered as they continue to test new identity management solutions.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group