Treasury Department’s Data Structure for Federal Spending is Bigger and Better – and So is Funding


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According to the Treasury Department’s brand-new DATA Act schema, here’s how accounts, program activities, and object classes – three key federal financial concepts – fit together.

The DATA Act of 2014, America’s first open data law, requires the Treasury Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to tackle a very tough job. They have to design a data structure to organize the spending information of the entire U.S. federal government – the largest and most complex organization in human history.

Last May, Treasury and OMB released the first version of this data structure, known as the DATA Act Schema. That version was a good start, but left many details to be filled in.

That’s why it’s very good news that Treasury’s staff apparently didn’t take any time off during the holidays in December.

Treasury released Version 0.7 of the DATA Act Schema on New Year’s Eve. The latest version is the most extensive and detailed yet. For the first time, Version 0.7 includes visual diagrams showing how crucial concepts in federal spending relate to one another.

Treasury has indicated that there is one major piece still missing before we can celebrate a full Version 1.0. The schema does not yet include specific instructions to agencies on how to submit their spending data (file format, content scope, file organization, etc.). Once Treasury and OMB agree on that final piece, the vision for a comprehensive data structure for all federal spending will be realized.

Meanwhile, Congress has funded the implementation of the DATA Act for the first time. Last month’s budget deal sent $19 million to the Treasury Department for fiscal 2016 for DATA Act work. The funding will allow Treasury to complete the DATA Act standards and work with agencies to apply the standards to their spending information in advance of the DATA Act’s May 2017 deadline.