Policy Agenda

The transformation of government information into standardized, open data improves democratic accountability, enables better public-sector management, and allows compliance processes to be automated. The Coalition focuses its policy advocacy in three areas: government management, markets and economy, and law and regulation.

I. Government Management

The Coalition’s first major policy victory took place on May 9, 2014, when President Obama signed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) into law. By adopting common data elements and a universal schema across all spending information, the federal executive branch is becoming more transparent to citizens, developing better internal management tools, and automating reports to reduce compliance costs for grantees and contractors.

In 2016, the Coalition will advocate:

  • Full DATA Act implementation. The DATA Act requires agencies to use government-wide data standards to report all financial, payment, and award information by May 2017. The Coalition will encourage Congressional oversight to ensure agencies take the necessary steps to comply with this ambitious mandate.
  • Completion of the DATA Act’s recipient reporting pilot program. Section 5 of the DATA Act requires the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to conduct a pilot program to test whether data standards can automate reporting for grantees and contractors. The Coalition will support the these efforts and encourage Congressional oversight to ensure the pilot program is successful.
  • A nonproprietary data standard to identify grantees and contractors. Proprietary data standards unacceptably hinder the exchange and reuse of government information. The Coalition will encourage Congressional oversight and legislation to discontinue the government’s current use of the proprietary Data Universal Numbering System Number (DUNS Number) to identify grantees and contractors, and adopt a nonproprietary identifier instead.
  • A government-wide anti-fraud analytics center. Once federal spending information is standardized under the DATA Act, it will become a prolific source of insights into potential fraud. The Coalition will pursue the introduction of legislation in Congress to set up a government-wide platform to bring together spending information and other data sets to deliver anti-fraud intelligence to inspectors general.
  • Additional reforms to standardize and share other management-related information. The Coalition will support policy changes to make open data the default for all nonrestrictred government information; incentivize agencies to participate in the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM); and ensure that all responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are published using standardized formats.

 

 

II. Markets and Economy

Information about private-sector companies and economic activity is arguably the most commercially valuable information the federal government collects and generates. Too often, federal agencies use documents, instead of standardized data, to collect this information.

In 2016, the Coalition will advocate:

  • Passage of the Financial Transparency Act. The Financial Transparency Act (H.R. 2477) will amend U.S. securities, banking, and commodities laws to require all eight major financial regulators to adopt consistent data standards for all the information they collect under those laws. The Coalition will work toward passage. The Coalition will also resist any future Congressional proposals to restrict the use of standardized data in financial regulatory reporting.
  • Structured data reporting throughout financial regulation. The Coalition will advocate for financial regulatory agencies to voluntarily adopt structured data formats for the information they collect, even in advance of Congressional action on the Financial Transparency Act.
  • Universal adoption of the Legal Entity Identifier. The Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) is a nonproprietary, flexible identification code for any kind of legal entity. The Coalition will also support the adoption of the LEI throughout both financial and non-financial regulatory regimes.
  • Open data for nonprofit tax filings. The Coalition will support Congressional oversight and legislation to mandate for all nonprofit tax filings to be collected and published as standardized data.
  • Open data for economic statistics and labor programs. The Coalition will support Congressional oversight and legislation to transform economic statistics and labor program records into open data.
  • Standard Business Reporting (SBR). Nations such as Australia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have begun to standardize business reporting data across regimes as diverse as banking, tax, commerce, and insurance. The Coalition will educate Congress and the executive branch about the potential of SBR in order to lay groundwork for future legislation to enable data standards across the whole U.S. regulatory state.

 

III. Law and Regulation

In the future, federal courts will publish opinions and docket materials as open data, searchable and available for unlimited download. A data-driven Congress will express the substance of bills, amendments, and other legislative information in standardized formats ready for computer processing. The U.S. Code and the Code of Federal Regulations will be published as machine-readable data rather than plain-text documents.

In 2016, the Coalition will advocate:

  • An open data mandate for Congressional materials. The Coalition will support the introduction and passage of a requirement for laws, bills, and amendments to be expressed in a common data format across both chambers of Congress.
  • Open data mandates for regulatory compilations. The Coalition will support proposals to require the Office of the Federal Register and the Government Publishing Office to adopt structured data formats for the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations.
  • Free, searchable PACER. The federal court system overcharges citizens for access to docket materials on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system, which is maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts. The Coalition will support Congressional oversight to press for price reductions with an ultimate goal of making court records publicly available free of charge.

 

2016 Agenda

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