Every political observer knows that we're living in a time of historically low trust in government and high partisan polarization. But a growing federal commitment to accountability and transparency could begin to change that. Two years ago, the President signed into law the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (the DATA Act), which could have far-reaching benefits for our democracy.
The DATA Act, which ensures a new level of government fiscal transparency, was developed with strong bipartisan support: It passed both the House and Senate almost unanimously. Now it's on the verge of implementation, and a strong alliance of supporters is determined to see it succeed.
The DATA Act established new standards to ensure federal spending transparency and outlined how to disclose and publish spending data. The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Office of Management and Budget are now in the process of implementing the Act and putting new rules in place. In May 2017, federal agencies will begin reporting spending data in ways that give an unprecedented level of insight to Americans on how their money is being spent.
Putting the Act's principles into practice is a huge task. Last week the Data Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group that was instrumental in the Act's passage, held a summit in Washington, DC to explore next steps and push for the Act's successful implementation. The bipartisan event, which attracted more than 500 people, underscored the importance of the DATA Act and the critical need to prioritize its implementation during the next administration.
The day of the Summit, our organization, the Center for Open Data Enterprise, published a new report to help guide the work of putting the DATA Act into practice. The report, Tracking Federal Spending, summarizes a roundtable we co-hosted with the U.S. Department of the Treasury to identify major challenges in the DATA Act's implementation and strategies for moving forward. The 50 Roundtable participants developed and shared ideas on ways to:
● Set standards to ensure that spending data is accessible and reusable.
● Engage federal agencies and track their compliance with the DATA Act's requirements.
● Engage the private sector in making spending data consistent and comparable.
● Provide ongoing feedback to Treasury on DATA Act implementation.
● Address special issues involved in tracking federal support of nonprofit organizations.
● Explore new systems to replace the DUNS numbers now used to identify federal contractors.
The Treasury department has invited public feedback on their implementation of the DATA Act on openbeta.usaspending.gov. The Center for Open Data Enterprise will also continue to follow the implementation of the DATA Act as part of our ongoing work on open government data. Please share your ideas and suggestions with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com to help us support this important federal work.