We think that management agenda will be incomplete if it omits one basic goal: the White House must open up the government’s spending and performance data.
The technology industry is capable – today – of doing the things that President Obama mentioned in his speech today. Tech start-ups and innovators, including our Coalition members, can deploy big data analytics to illuminate waste and fraud, allow federal managers and congressional leaders to watch the government’s spending and activities in real time, and put accountability at citizens’ fingertips. The technologies for all these tools exist already, but the federal government does not standardize or publish its spending and performance data consistently enough for these technologies to be applied.
The President has already outlined the solution to these roadblocks in his Open Data Policy, released in May, but the principles of the Open Data Policy have yet to be applied to the federal government’s spending and performance data. Government spending details are buried in inaccessible documents and incompatible databases, some publicly available and some not, that are scattered across dozens of agencies and hundreds of offices. By creating consistent, government-wide data standards and by opening up all this data to public scrutiny and innovation, we can, as the President said today, create ‘a government that’s smarter, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.
The bipartisan Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act, which was proposed in both houses of Congress, would launch this transformation. Today, it’s nobody’s job to publish all of the government’s spending and performance data, and it’s nobody’s job to create the data standards that are needed. The DATA Act would assign clear responsibility for these vital tasks to the Treasury Department. Last May 16th, at the DATA Demo Day on Capitol Hill, 25 tech companies and nonprofits demonstrated exactly how the DATA Act would transform government by showing applications that would cut waste and fraud, automate manual compliance tasks, and deliver actionable information – if the DATA Act’s standards are applied.
We applaud President Obama’s call for a new management agenda, but it must include efforts to open the government’s spending and performance data. President Obama should direct his new management staff at OMB to make this transformation a top priority of this new agenda, and he should sign the DATA Act when Congress passes it this year.