Database spending bill could move quickly in the Senate

Legislation creating an online database to track all kinds of federal spending could be on the fast track in the Senate.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will mark up the bill, S. 2590, at its next official meeting, which has not been scheduled, a committee spokeswoman said.

“I think this is an excellent concept, and I give my personal commitment for moving this bill out of committee as soon as possible,” committee chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) said at a recent hearing on the bill held by the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security.

The bill, introduced earlier this year by subcommittee chairman Senate Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), would require the Office of Management and Budget to develop a massive Web site cataloging just about every dollar the government spends on contracts, subcontracts, grants, subgrants, loans, awards, and other financial assistance.

The database must be searchable by agency, geography, industry, congressional district, and types of federal funding.

If enacted, the bill would require the site to be operational by Jan. 1, 2007.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) co-sponsored the bill.

At the hearing, Coburn said existing databases—like the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation, which tracks agency spending for goods and services, and the Federal Assistance Awards Data System, which provides quarterly data on grants and awards—do not provide enough details on what the government spends.

“The bottom line is that there is no single source of information explaining where federal money is spent, and there should be,” Coburn said.

McCain said that although some believe the site would be difficult to establish and maintain, this should not be the case.

“Ten years ago, this would have been a very onerous task,” McCain said at the hearing. “I’m not a computer expert, but smart people have told me this is a relatively easy thing to do.”

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