2017 Policy AgendaThe Data Coalition's 2017 Policy Agenda maps our priorities for the start of the Trump Administration and the 115th Congress.
The Data Coalition seeks to transform government information into open data. Open data requires two steps: first, standardize the information using nonproprietary data elements and structures; second, publish the information for open access. Open data has three benefits: better public accountability, improved internal data-driven management, and automated reporting for cheaper compliance. The Data Coalition focuses its advocacy efforts on transforming three key areas of public-sector information: government management, markets and economy, and law and regulation.
I. Government Management
The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) (PL 113-101) requires the federal government to standardize and publish all spending information as open data. Every federal agency must begin reporting open spending data by May 8, 2017. The DATA Act also requires the White House to pilot how the use of standardized data formats can improve the reporting process for recipients of federal grants and contracts. A report on the success of this pilot program is due to Congress by August 9, 2017.
In 2017, the Data Coalition will encourage Congressional oversight on the DATA Act’s implementation, advocate for legislation to fulfill the promise of the DATA Act, and prepare stakeholders to use open spending data when it becomes publicly available. Beyond the DATA Act, the Coalition will support a broader mandate to transform all government management information into open data.
The Coalition will continue to engage the Congressional appropriations and authorization processes to support programs critical to this effort while encouraging committee actions supporting open data throughout government management.
1. Support DATA Act Implementation Through Congressional Oversight. The Coalition will advocate for full funding for agencies’ DATA Act implementation work, encourage vigorous Congressional oversight of complete and high quality agency reporting, and encourage Congress’ early, enthusiastic use of DATA Act data to inform spending decisions. The Coalition will also support efforts to monitor and report on data accuracy.
2. Pursue Legislative Fixes and Expansion of the DATA Act. It has become apparent that the DATA Act’s full vision will only be achieved through follow-up legislation. Congress can address the following policy provisions through a single bill or smaller, stand-alone legislative actions:
a. Expand the DATA Act to Ensure Open Data for All Federal Spending. The Coalition will seek the introduction of legislation to improve the DATA Act by (1) extending its data structure to cover all spending information, including category management, subaward reporting, checkbook-level payments, performance reporting, Presidential budgets, appropriations bills, and special types of transactions and funds; (2) providing better clarity on the scope of its data elements, to address executive-branch attempts to limit the law’s reach; (3) providing for the permanent, sustainable governance of the data structure; (4) phasing out legacy reporting requirements that are flawed and duplicative of DATA Act reporting; and (5) incentivizing agencies to comply through appropriate penalties. This legislation may also centralize authority within the Treasury Department for data standardization and reports related to spending.
b. Transform Grant Reporting into Open Data. The White House appointed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a pilot program to test the use of standardized data for grant reporting, as required by Section 5 of the DATA Act. HHS created a data dictionary, known as the Central Data Element Repository Library (CDER Library), to identify every data element used in grant reporting across the federal government. The Coalition will advocate for HHS and the White House to continue developing the CDER Library into a comprehensive data structure for all reports submitted by federal grantees and for the White House to require its universal use on the front end of grant governance. The Coalition will support the expansion of HHS’ pilot program into an operational prototype.
c. Transform Contract Reporting into Open Data. The White House failed to comply with the DATA Act’s requirement to test the use of standardized data for reports submitted by federal contractors. The Coalition will advocate for oversight and legislation to ensure compliance, or restart the DATA Act pilot under another agency’s leadership.
d. End Dependence on the DUNS Number. The Coalition will seek the introduction of legislation to require the federal government to end the monopoly use of the proprietary DUNS Number to identify grantees and contractors and adopt, or cross-reference, a non-proprietary data element instead.
e. Enact Government-Wide Anti-Fraud Analytics. The Coalition will seek the introduction of legislation to create a government-wide data analytics platform within the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), empowered to combine public and non-public data sets, including spending and performance data, to illuminate and eliminate waste and fraud.
3. Standardize and Publish All Federal Management Data. The Coalition will advocate for the passage of the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, first introduced in April 2016, to make data standardization and data publication the official policy for all federal information. The Coalition will support the implementation of the OPEN Government Data Act with an emphasis on standardizing and publishing management data: spending, performance, personnel, acquisitions, and similar data sets.
II. Markets and Economy
By adopting open data standards for the information it collects from the private sector, the federal government can improve accountability to the public and investors; facilitate data-driven analysis and decision-making by agencies; and reduce compliance costs through automation. The Financial Transparency Act, first introduced in May 2015, will provide a mandate for all federal financial regulators to transform the information they collect under the securities, commodities, and banking laws into open data.
The Data Coalition will seek the passage of the Financial Transparency Act in 2017. The Coalition will also begin designing and making the case for legislation to begin a Standard Business Reporting program, modeled on successful ones in the Netherlands and Australia, to adopt a government-wide open data structure for all reporting by the private sector.
4. Pass the Financial Transparency Act. The Coalition will organize and lead a broad campaign to pass and implement the Financial Transparency Act. The Coalition will gather transparency supporters, the financial and technology industries, and regulatory modernization to support the campaign.
5. Design Standard Business Reporting Legislation. The Coalition will build the case for legislation to start a Standard Business Reporting program in the United States. Such legislation would appoint a lead agency, require the creation and testing of a government-wide open data structure for all regulatory reporting by the private sector to the federal government, and provide for that data structure to be phased in for eventual universal use.
III. Law and Regulation
By expressing laws and bills as open data, instead of unstructured documents, Congress can ensure accountability to constituents; make lawmaking easier; and lay a foundation for automated compliance in the future. For similar reasons, the federal government should express proposed and final regulatory rules as open data. Federal courts should adopt open data for opinions and docket materials.
In 2017, the Data Coalition will seek the passage of open legislative data mandates introduced in previous sessions of Congress, the introduction of a similar mandate for regulatory materials, and reforms to open up federal court information.
6. Pass Open Data Mandates for Bills and Laws. The Coalition will advocate for the passage of open legislative data mandates first introduced in 2016, including the Searchable Legislation Act, the Statutes at Large Modernization Act, and the Establishing Digital Interactive Transparency (EDIT) Act (described here). These mandates, collectively, will commit Congress to create and use a comprehensive open data structure for bills, amendments, and enacted laws.
7. Introduce an Open Data Mandate for Regulation. The Coalition will advocate for the introduction of a mandate for a comprehensive open data structure for proposed, final, and codified regulatory rules. The legislation will direct regulatory agencies, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Office of the Federal Register, and the Regulations.gov program office to work together to manage and publish all federal regulations as open data.
8. Introduce a Free PACER mandate.. 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, as open data.
In the States
In 2017, the Data Coalition will engage with state policymakers to support selected open data reforms.
9. Transform CAFRs into Open Data. Building on state and local governments’ existing efforts to create open spending data platforms, the Coalition will promote the standardization and publication of Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs) as open data, possibly in coordination with the DATA Act standardization.
10. Support Broad Open Data Mandates. The Coalition will support broad open data mandates in the same spirit as the federal OPEN Government Data Act, such as New Jersey’s Open Data Initiative proposal, Arkansas’ legislative open data task force, and California’s chief data officer proposal.
11. Encourage State-Level Standard Business Reporting. The Coalition will encourage state governments to initiate their own Standard Business Reporting programs to comprehensively standardize and publish the information their regulatory agencies collect from the private sector.
12. Support Open Data Mandates for Legislation and Regulation. States such as Maryland currently prohibit the commercial reuse of legislative or regulatory information. The Coalition will support the use of open data to express states’ bills, laws, and regulations.