Treasury Notes

 Standardizing and Simplifying the Government’s Data on Federal Spending

By: David Lebryk and David Mader
8/31/2015


The Federal Government produces a large quantity of spending data, but it is housed in disconnected and siloed systems under various formats using different standards. These fragmentations limited the public’s ability to gain a complete picture of Federal spending. Providing clear and consistent, or standard, information on how taxpayer dollars are spent is a critical component to a transparent democracy and open government that drives opportunity, economic growth and innovation. 

Over the past 15 months, the White House Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) and the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) have taken significant steps to achieve this goal by implementing the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (“DATA Act”).  In May 2015, OMB and Treasury began the release of 57 standard data definitions (“data standards”), launched a multi-faceted pilot program focused on reducing financial assistance recipient and contractor burden, and issued formal policy guidance for Federal agencies.

Today, we are pleased to announce that, following a robust engagement with stakeholders, all 57 data standards have been finalized, providing a foundation to improve the quality and consistency of data available on USAspending.gov. By standardizing what is published on USAspending.gov and providing context and a user friendly format, we have taken an important step to provide valuable, usable information on how tax dollars are spent, who they are spent on, and for what purpose.

Today’s announcement is the product of this ongoing engagement with the public, including a town hall meeting last year, a webinar on data standards and DATA Act efforts in April, and the release of our online, open source collaboration website in December 2014. Our efforts to improve the quality of USAspending.gov’s data build on the strong foundation of Federal and non-Federal collaboration that started many years ago. Leveraging this work, OMB and Treasury have partnered with recipients of Federal funding, those interested in furthering open government initiatives, and industry professionals, to solicit feedback in every step of the implementation process. This ongoing engagement has shaped, and will continue to shape, our implementation path for the DATA Act.

While today marks a key milestone in our efforts to improve the quality of Federal spending data, there is still more work to be done. For example, we will continue to work with Federal agencies to help them begin to implement the DATA Act reporting requirements.  Moving forward, we will continue to engage our stakeholders as we work to implement these standards, develop a process to periodically review and, if necessary, update these standards, and work with recipients of federal funds to identify opportunities to streamline recipient reporting burden.

The power of Federal spending data is only as strong as the utility of that data.  Today, with these final data standards, we have made significant progress towards providing clear, high quality information of how taxpayer dollars are spent and a more open and transparent government.  

David Lebryk is the Fiscal Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

David Mader is the Acting Deputy Director for Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management.

Posted in:  DATA Act
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