DATA Act

On May 9, 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), Public Law No. 113-101, which had been passed unanimously by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The DATA Act's passage and successful implementation had been the Data Transparency Coalition's top priority since its founding in February 2012.

The DATA Act is the nation’s first legislative mandate for data transparency.

It requires the Department of the Treasury and the White House Office of Management and Budget to transform U.S. federal spending from disconnected documents into open, standardized data, and to publish that data online. The Data Transparency Coalition is committed to working with the executive branch and encouraging Congressional oversight to ensure that the DATA Act is fully implemented.  Stakeholders from among the tech industry, non-profit sector, executive and legislative branches of government will convene on June 9th and 10th, 2015 for the DATA Act Summit to build a shared vision for making the DATA Act a success. Coalition members are working to assist agencies, grantees and contractors to take advantage of the DATA Act’s first-ever government-wide data standards for federal spending, which were announced on May 8, 2015. The announcement also included a new page on USASpending.gov, the federal government’s official spending data website, where the DATA Act standards are now published. The Coalition’s perspective on Treasury and OMB’s important announcement can be found here.

How does the DATA Act change federal spending?

The full text of the DATA Act is available here. The DATA Act directs the federal government to standardize and publish its wide variety of reports and data compilations related to spending: financial management, payments, budget actions, procurement, and assistance. The DATA Act amends the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (FFATA) by changing existing sections of FFATA and adding new sections to FFATA. Therefore, all citations below are to FFATA, after amendment by the DATA Act.

What does the DATA Act require?

Immediately, the Secretary of the Treasury may decide whether to establish a data analysis center to examine federal spending data to prevent and reduce improper payments and improve efficiency. If the Secretary of the Treasury decides to establish a data analysis center, the accountability platform of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board will be transferred to the Treasury Department to form the core of the data analysis center. FFATA sec. 6(c).

No later than one year after enactment, the Treasury Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget will issue guidance on government-wide data standards for federal spending. FFATA sec. 4(c)(1).

No later than one year after enactment, OMB (or another agency that it designates) will start a pilot program to test the benefits of applying the government-wide data standards to the reports that federal grantees and contractors submit to the agency that disbursed the funds, and to government-wide databases. FFATA sec. 5(b)(1).

No later than two years and six months after enactment (or 18 months after the Treasury / OMB guidance on government-wide data standards), the inspector general of each agency will publish a report on the completeness, timeliness, quality, and accuracy of each agency’s standardized spending data. Each inspector general will report twice more on these issues along with its regular financial audits, on alternating years. FFATA sec. 6(a)(2)(A)-(B).

No later than three years after enactment (or two years after the Treasury / OMB guidance), each agency will report its financial and payment information in accordance with the government-wide data standards. FFATA sec. 4(c)(2).

No later than three years after enactment (or two years afer the pilot program starts), the pilot program will terminate, and no more than 90 days after the pilot program terminates, OMB will report to Congress on whether data standardization can successfully consolidate, automate, and simplify reports by grantees and contractors. FFATA sec. 5(b)(5)-(6).

No later than three years and six months after enactment (or 30 months after the Treasury / OMB guidance on government-wide data standards), the Government Accountability Office will publish a report on the completeness, timeliness, quality, and accuracy of standardized spending data, government-wide and on the implementation of the government-wide data standards. FFATA sec. (6)(b)(2).

No later than four years after enactment (or three years after the Treasury / OMB guidance), Treasury and OMB will ensure that all information published on USASpending.gov conforms to the government-wide data standards. FFATA sec. 4(c)(3).

No later than four years and 90 days after enactment (or one year after OMB’s report on the benefits of data standardization for grantee and contractor reporting), OMB will issue guidance to all agencies applying the government-wide data standards to all grantee and contractor reporting. FFATA sec. 4(c)(7).

What will be the results of the DATA Act?

By replacing inaccessible documents with standardized, searchable data–freely accessible to all–the DATA Act will create better accountability for taxpayers and citizens; improve federal management by illuminating waste and fraud; and reduce compliance costs by automating the creation of reports by grantees and contractors.

The Data Transparency Coalition’s members are ready to help citizens, government managers, and recipients of federal funds accomplish all three results.

Better accountability. Once federal financial statements, budget actions, grant reports, and contract reports are available as open data, rather than trapped in inaccessible documents, tech companies will be able to make the data fully searchable for citizens, taxpayers, and companies.

More effective federal management. Government-wide data standards for spending will allow Big Data analytics to illuminate waste and fraud. Coaltion members showed how at the DATA Demo Day on Capitol Hill in May 2013.

Automated compliance. When federal agencies begin collecting grant and contract reports as standardized data instead of as documents, solutions like Parrascope and AmpliFund will help grantees and contractors comply with existing reporting requirements more cheaply than they can today.

 

What is Coalition doing to implement the DATA Act?

The Federal Spending Transparency GitHub site has allowed agencies, the private sector, and transparency advocates to comment on each data element and on the schema.

Get involved! The Federal Spending Transparency DATA Act and FFATA Collaboration Space gives everyone a voice on the standards before Treasury and OMB make choices on how each element is to be defined and how the relationships between them are to be expressed in the schema.

The DATA Act requires the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget to consult with public- and private-sector stakeholders as they establish government-wide data standards for U.S. federal spending. The Data Transparency Coalition was the primary private-sector supporter of the DATA Act during its long Congressional process. Now that the DATA Act is law, the Coalition has shifted its advocacy from the legislative branch to the executive branch.   The Coalition plans to work with Treasury and OMB to bring together private-sector companies, standard setters, and nonprofits to advise on implementation. At events like the 2014 and 2015 DATA Act Summit, the executive branch leaders working to implement the DATA Act will join the law’s supporters to discuss the opportunities and ongoing challenges of opening up the federal government’s spending information. The Coalition will also showcase its members’ leading solutions to apply standards, republish federal information for taxpayers and investors, illuminate waste and fraud by applying analytics to newly-standardized data, and automate formerly-manual compliance tasks.

DATA Act Knowledge Center

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act): Key Implantation Steps for Agencies
DATA Act: Key Implementation Steps for Agencies
The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act: From Obligation to Opportunity
DATA Act: From Obligation to Opportunity
The Changing Landscape of Grant Report: Federal Requirements, Data Transparency and Tomorrow's Grant Managers
The Changing Landscape of Grant Reporting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DATA Act Resources