Policy Agenda

The Data Coalition's Policy Agenda maps our priorities for the Administration and the 116th Congress.

Overview

The Data Coalition advocates for policy reforms that transform government information into open, standardized data. These policies have benefits for public accountability and transparency, internal governmental data-driven management and oversight reforms, and more efficient private sector regulatory compliance.

The Coalition’s membership represents an emerging industry fostering new economic value by ingesting, analyzing, republishing, and automating the reporting of public sector data. Transforming government information into open data creates a national resource for these opportunities and lays the foundation for a more robust digital infrastructure.

Existing U.S. federal executive policy formally recognizes seven principles of open data that the Data Coalition incorporates into various policy objectives:

  • Public: a presumption in favor of openness
  • Accessible: availability in machine-readable and open formats
  • Described: full descriptions with robust metadata and appropriate documentation
  • Reusable: availability under the appropriate open licenses that do not restrict reuse while documenting any necessary intellectual property constraints
  • Complete: publishing of primary or source level data with the finest level of granularity
  • Timely: prompt availability so as to preserve the value and enable downstream use
  • Managed Post-Release: appropriate management to enable reliable end use

The Coalition’s reforms build upon these seven principles by recognizing two distinct policy steps: first, mandate governing authorities to standardize the information using structured and open formats; second, publish the information for open access.

The policy agenda detailed below organizes these principles of data-centric government reform into four categories: Government-wide Open Data Policy, Open Data for Management, Open Data for Regulatory Compliance, and Open Data for Laws and Mandates.

Legal mandates and executive directives are necessary to assure such meaningful policy changes. Moreover, the adoption of emerging technologies which assure the U.S. government’s effectiveness and the nation’s competitiveness require a foundation of well governed, openly formatted, structured, and standardized data. Technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning will progress faster as open data practices and standardization work matures across federal data assets.

2019 Policy Agenda

2018 Policy Agenda

I. Government-wide Open Data Policy

The Data Coalition will continue to support broad mandates to transform government operational (mission agnostic support data representing resources, decisions, transactions, and outputs of administrative functions) and programmatic (mission-related data representing persons, places, and things which are created by or collected for specific program or regulatory functions) information into accurate, consistent, and controlled open data.

 

  • Support the Implementation of the OPEN Government Data Act. The Coalition will advocate for the successful implementation of the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act (P.L. 115-435) which establishes a government-wide legal mandate for federal data assets to be made available in machine-readable and open formats by default through a central federal data catalog. The Coalition will work with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue strong implementing guidance, guide the provisioning of the agency data inventories, and work with newly designated Chief Data Officers to define their roles and support their efforts within the CDO Council.
  • Support Executive Open Data Policies and the Administration’s Federal Data Strategy. The Coalition will continue to encourage executive-branch leadership to create and adopt operational and programmatic data standards and incorporate open data best practices throughout program performance evaluation, IT spending management, common entity identification, and general agency management. The Coalition will continue to provide guidance and oversight to the formation of the President’s Management Agenda, including the Federal Data Strategy.
  • Encourage Congressional Support for Open Data Work. The Coalition will continue to work with Congress to conduct necessary oversight, support federal programs critical to open data and standard-setting, and assure that new legislation leverages open data best practices and existing policy.
  • Inform Data Policies that Enable Responsible Adoption of Artificial Intelligence. The Coalition will support administrative and legislative policy proposals assuring that public data assets are provisioned and maintained in a manner which accounts for their ingestion into, and anticipates the demands of, autonomous systems, advanced computing systems, and algorithmic-based decision making. In a similar manner to existing advocacy for open data principles for federal information, the Data Coalition will advocate for policies for transparency, governance, and standardization throughout the utilization of public data assets by emerging technology and artificial intelligence systems across federal programs and missions.

II. Open Data for Management

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) (P.L. 113-101) requires the federal government to standardize and publish all executive-branch financial account and award spending information as open data. Every federal agency began reporting quarterly financial and weekly spending information as open data in May 2017. The U.S. Treasury now maintains the DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS), an authoritative operational data structure which harmonizes government-wide account and spending reporting, as well as the public facing web portal for accessing this centralized information (USAspending.gov).

The Coalition will work to encourage Congressional oversight on the DATA Act’s continued implementation and data quality improvements, advocate for DATA Act expansion legislation, and educate stakeholders on accessing and using this new open data resource.

By integrating data-driven processes into government management and connecting federal spending to outcomes, policy makers and executive leadership can deliver effectiveness and accountability. Data standards, starting with those set by the DATA Act and building outward, will enable such data-driven decision making.

 

  • Support DATA Act Implementation Through Congressional Oversight. The Coalition will encourage vigorous Congressional oversight to ensure agencies report accurate and complete information to the U.S. Treasury. The Coalition will encourage Congressional use of DATA Act data to inform legislative decisions. The Coalition will seek Congressional recognition that the DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS) serves as the primary government-wide administrative data standard.
  • Pursue DATA Act Expansion Legislation. To achieve the full vision of the DATA Act, the Coalition will seek the introduction of expansion legislation which leverages the U.S. Treasury’s strategic plans. The Coalition will pursue the following expansions, either through a single bill or smaller, stand-alone legislative actions:
    • Ensuring the DATA Act’s data schema serves as the primary operational data structure and is interoperable with additional areas of financial and non-financial reporting including sub-award reporting, checkbook-level payments, program performance and accountability reporting, Presidential budget requests, and special types of transactions and funding sources;
    • Providing for the permanent, sustainable governance of the DATA Act’s data structure and public data transparency tools including USAspending.gov;
    • Phasing out legacy reporting requirements that are duplicative of DATA Act reporting and improving the data quality of agency reporting; and
    • Further centralization of authority within the U.S. Treasury for data standardization and financial reporting alignment.
  • Support Adoption of a Common and Non-Proprietary Entity Identifier. The Coalition will advocate for change management studies and the ultimate adoption, or cross-referencing, of a common legal entity identifier across federal agency systems to improve program management and empower regulatory enforcement.
  • Support the Passage of the GREAT Act to Modernize Grant Reporting. The Coalition will support the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act, which will direct the OMB Director and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a comprehensive and standardized open data structure covering all post-award federal grant reporting. The proposed legislation builds on the pilot program conducted by OMB under the DATA Act’s Section 5 to test the use of standardized data for grant reporting.

III. Open Data for Regulatory Compliance

By adopting open data standards for the information it collects from the private sector, the federal government can improve accountability to the public and private sector investors; facilitate data-driven analysis and decision making by agencies; and reduce compliance costs through automation. These developments are part of broader international movement. On a government-wide scale, Standard Business Reporting (SBR), as championed in the Netherlands and Australia, is the primary case study of open data for regulatory compliance. Additionally, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) will soon mandate Inline eXtensible Business Reporting Language (iXBRL) structured data tagging for financial reporting from European Union members, meaning nearly thirty countries will be collecting standardized data by 2020.

The Coalition will push for the passage of legislation to replace financial regulatory documents with open data and support a longer-term move toward SBR in the United States.

 

  • Pass the Financial Transparency Act. The Financial Transparency Act (FTA), first introduced in May 2015, will direct the U.S. Treasury to work with the eight federal financial regulatory agencies to replace document-based reporting with open data, for all information they collect under the securities, commodities, and banking laws. If enacted, the FTA will represent the nation’s first RegTech law. The Coalition will continue organizing and leading a broad campaign to pass and implement the FTA. The Coalition will gather transparency supporters, the financial and technology industries, and regulatory modernization to support this campaign.
  • Design a Standard Business Reporting Policy. The Coalition will build the case for SBR in the United States, starting with a pilot program either initiated by the executive branch or mandated by Congress. SBR adoption will also mean opportunities to further develop standards for transactions and e-invoicing, and further ‘eCitizen’ reform concepts championed by nations such as Estonia.
  • Support Financial and Regulatory Reporting Structured Data Taxonomies. The Coalition will continue to promote and support efforts to establish robust structured data taxonomies, efficient regulatory compliance tagging requirements, and the publication of open and machine-readable data across regulatory regimes. This includes the Security and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) implementation of iXBRL tagged data for corporate filings, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) development of a structured data taxonomy for their regulatory reporting processes, and the state-led efforts to standardize municipal Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs) with eventual publication by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB).

IV. Open Data for Laws and Mandates

By expressing laws and bills as open data, instead of unstructured documents, Congress can ensure accountability to constituents; bring efficiencies to the lawmaking process; and lay a foundation for future automated legal analysis. For similar reasons, the federal government should express proposed and final regulatory rules as open data.

The 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.

 

  • Pass Open Data Mandates for Bills and Laws. The Coalition will advocate for the passage of open legislative data mandates and support policies including the Searchable Legislation Act (SLA) which would commit Congress to create and use a comprehensive open data structure for bills, amendments, and enacted laws, and the Statutes-at-Large modernization work at the Government Publishing Office (GPO) which is converting historical laws into an open and machine-readable data structure. In particular, the Coalition will continue to support the ongoing adoption of the U.S. Legislative Markup (USLM) standard by the Senate, House, and legislative support offices, and greater access to bulk data on the legislative process.
  • Support Legislative Branch Modernization. The Coalition will advocate for data-centric reforms to modernize the legislative process and bolster Congressional capacity for legislative drafting, executive branch oversight, and formation of the annual budget. This includes supporting legislation to centralize the publishing of Congressionally mandated executive reports and pursue institutional investments to meaningfully ingest federal spending and operational open data into information systems designed for Congressional workflows.
  • Advocacy for Legislation to Openly Publish Court Records. 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 advocate for the Electronic Court Records Reform Act, first introduced in 2018, which would guarantee public access to federal court records in searchable and machine-readable formats.