DATA Act, IT consolidation bill advance in Senate

One bill would make it easier to track federal spending; the other would continue ongoing efforts to reduce the number of data centers the government maintains.

US Capitol

A Senate committee approved two measures Nov. 5 designed to put pressure on the government to press forward with open data standards and federal data center consolidation.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act would make it easier to track federal spending by requiring reporting of data on expenditures to include common standards, track spending by federal agency, account, and program, and publish data in machine-readable formats. The bill also would require audits of spending data conducted by the Government Accountability Office and agency inspectors general. The version approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is a modification of a version the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved in May.

The Senate version excludes an accountability measure near and dear to the heart of Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition and an early architect of the legislation as a House staffer. The House version would have expanded the data analytics platform maintained by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to allow inspectors general at agencies to look for fraud and waste in stimulus grants.

Hollister said senators axed the provision to make the bill more appealing to lawmakers by reducing its cost, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Unfortunately, he wrote in a blog post, "the bill now provides no mechanism for inspectors general to use the newly standardized federal spending data."

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who introduced the bill in the Senate, said the DATA Act will "establish an open and accountable system for tracking every dollar spent by the federal government."

The Senate committee also approved the Federal Data Center Consolidation Act of 2013, a measure that would require the 24 agencies named in the Office of Management and Budget's Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative to inventory their holdings and submit plans to for optimization and consolidation.

The measure won approval as as members of both parties in both chambers are increasingly frustrated at the pace of data center consolidation, an initiative of the federal CIO's office that promised billions in energy, equipment, and real estate savings, but has yet to deliver. Under the Senate bill, agencies would have to provide estimates of cost savings, and the Office of Management and Budget would have to submit annual progress reports to Congress.

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