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October 6, 2016
Data Coalition News
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The latest:
  • GSA and Dun & Bradstreet Modify Agreement, but DUNS Still Has a Grip on Contractor and Grantee Data
  • Treasury Department Publishes Future Features of USASpending.gov
  • Congressional Members Urge Colleagues to Support Open Law and Regulation 
  • Guest Blog Post: Why the DATA Act’s New Data Standards Matter

GSA and Dun & Bradstreet Modify Agreement, but DUNS Still Has a Grip on Contractor and Grantee Data

For many years federal agencies have required contractors and grantees to register for the Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Number. The DUNS Number is a proprietary identification code provided and maintained by Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), Inc. The DUNS Number is the default data standard for identifying and matching the companies, nonprofits, and state, local, and tribal governments that receive federal taxpayer money.

Because the DUNS Number is proprietary, data on federal contract and grant spending cannot be downloaded or used without a license from Dun & Bradstreet. The Data Coalition and other transparency supporters have called on the federal government to "#DumpDUNS" and adopt a free, nonproprietary data standard for recipient identification instead. (We made the full case against the DUNS Number in Executive Director Hudson Hollister's 13-minute speech at last May's DATA Act Summit.)

Last Thursday, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced it had reached a modified agreement with D&B that would allow government and private-sector firms greater access to some contractor information. The agreement would: (1) allow the federal government to more widely access data sets that D&B owns; (2) allow the federal government to retain contractor and grantee data, rather than having to return it to D&B, if it ends its arrangement with D&B; and (3) allow the public and entrepreneurs to use some contractor and grantee data fields more freely.

But the modified agreement does not open up the DUNS Number itself - only ancillary data fields, like companies' names and addresses - and came at a notable cost to taxpayers. The new agreement cost GSA $26 million, which was paid to D&B. The Data Coalition continues to advocate for the federal government to #DumpDUNS and replace it with a non-proprietary identification number such as the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI). 

Read the full announcement here.

Hudson Hollister on Government Matters

Data Coalition Executive Director Hudson Hollister appeared on Government Matters to discuss the modified agreement struck between GSA and D&B. Watch here

Treasury Department Publishes Future Features of USASpending.gov

The Treasury Department has published conceptual versions of the future of the federal government's main spending data portal, USASpending.gov. Interactive wireframes showing how Treasury hopes, in the future, to display contract awards, agency spending, appropriations, and other concepts are now available on OpenBeta.USASpending.gov.

The DATA Act requires all federal agencies to begin reporting comprehensive spending information as open data by May 2017. By May 2018, Treasury and the White House Office of Management and Budget must publish all this information as one data set on the revamped version of USASpending.gov.

Watch: Data Transparency 2016 Webcast

Last Wednesday, the Data Coalition's sister organization, the Data Foundation hosted Data Transparency 2016 (DT2016) featuring the first-ever White House Open Data Innovation Summit.

The conference attracted over 1,000 attendees. DT2016 attendees heard from over 50 speakers from across federal and state governments, government reform advocates, the tech industry and private sector. 
Watch the webcast here

Congressional Members Urge Colleagues to Support Open Law and Regulation 

Reps. Justin Amash (MI-3), Dave Brat (VA-7), and Elise Stefanik (NY-11) circulated a Dear Colleague letter in September urging their colleagues to cosponsor four bills that would enable laws and regulations to be published in an open data format.  Expressing laws and regulations as data will ultimately enable automated compliance. This would reduce the need for layers of lawyers between businesses and the laws they must follow. By first expressing laws and regulations as lines of code, this data will enable greater searchability and the development of automated interpretation tools.

The Data Coalition is a strong advocate for bills, amendments, and other legislative information to be expressed in standardized formats ready for computer processing. The Coalition fully supports these four bills. 
 
Read the full Dear Colleague here.

Guest Blog Post: Why the DATA Act’s New Data Standards Matter

This guest blog post comes to us from Mike Wood, who served as Executive Director of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and is now a Director at CGI Federal, a Regular Member of the Data Coalition. 

Data standards form one of the foundations for the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) of 2014.

This emphasis on standards builds on the success of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (RATB), which achieved significant levels of transparency and accountability using standardized spending data. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, for the first time, federal spending data from across the government was easily moved and stored, analyzed and used by a multitude of government and private sector groups.

While serving as the Executive Director of the RATB, it became apparent to me that the success in these key areas was a direct result of standardization. Surprisingly, we concluded that our success in making spending transparent actually assisted us in holding waste, mismanagement and fraud to very low levels. Congress, in passing the DATA Act, extended this work and the transparency success provided by an earlier law, the Federal Financial Accountability and Transparency Act.

Continue reading the guest blog post here

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About Us

The Data Coalition advocates on behalf of the private sector and the public interest for the publication of government information as standardized, open data.
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