This edition of Data Transparency News reports on a new vision at the Treasury Department for data standards in the full life cycle of spending reports; includes new remarks from the White House OMB on data transparency; previews an upcoming Government Data Standards Summit, co-hosted with Object Management Group; looks at the possibility that the Securities and Exchange Commission will transform existing filings into structured data; and encourages folks to register for our second Data Transparency Breakfast, which will focus on financial regulation. 

Data Transparency News

Treasury Details Vision: Data Standards for Full Life Cycle of Federal Spending

David Lebryk, commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Fiscal Service, provided new details last week on Treasury's vision for data transparency in federal spending at the Association of Government Accountants' (AGA) national leadership training summit. Expanding on his remarks from Data Transparency 2013 in September, Lebryk told the audience that Treasury's goal is to publish standardized data that covers the "complete life cycle of Federal receipts and spending."

Federal spending travels through several stages, each covered by a different type of reporting requirement and controlled by a different entity within the government. Lebryk's PowerPoint presentation described
 for the first time – the Treasury Department's ambition to publish the full life cycle for federal decision-makers and the public: Congressional appropriation; apportionment; warrant; allocation; commitment; obligation; and disbursement (slide 8).

Lebryk added that data standards, at each stage, are essential to achieving full transparency throughout the life cycle. Congress, the Treasury Department, the White House OMB, and the agencies all control at least one separate stage of the Federal spending life cycle (slide 9). The Treasury Department has authority to impose data standards on some, but not all, aspects of the life cycle.

Speaking at the same AGA conference, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) reiterated his call to pass the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), which would give Treasury the necessary mandate to establish robust data standards throughout the life cycle of spending. Warner (pictured above) noted that a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified 82 duplicative wind energy programs. None of the programs were separately identified on, because the government does not have a government-wide standard identifier for its programs. The lack of common data standards has long been cited as one of the reasons for the poor data quality and lack of detail exhibited by the existing spending transparency portal. Warner told the AGA audience that the DATA Act "can, should, and will get done this year, with cooperation from OMB [the White House Office of Management and Budget]."

Warner reported that he and other Congressional supporters of the DATA Act have been negotiating with OMB over proposed revisions that would have undermined the data standardization requirements of the DATA Act. Warner rejected OMB's initial proposals. The Data Transparency Coalition joined an ideologically diverse group of advocacy organizations in signing a joint letter opposing the OMB revisions and calling on Congress and the White House to pass a DATA Act with robust standardization requirements.

"The Administration believes data transparency is a critical element to good government," said OMB spokesman Frank Benenati in response to the joint letter late last week, "and we share the goal of advancing transparency and accountability of Federal spending."
Government Data Standards Summit to Unite Standards Proponents Across Diverse Domains

The Object Management Group (OMG) and the Data Transparency Coalition will co-host a Government Data Standards Summit at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, VA on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. The summit will provide an opportunity for U.S. federal policymakers and data architects who are deploying data standards to connect directly with standards specialists in the tech industry. (Registration is open here.)

The event's speakers will include leaders pursuing data standards in diverse domains, including financial regulatory reporting, federal spending, defense acquisition, the National Archives, and counter-terrorism.

"Across many domains of government activity, standards are critically important for delivering data that is not only open, but also meaningful and reliable," said Hudson Hollister, the Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition. "Our summit will provide an invaluable learning opportunity for anyone seeking to tackle the technical challenges of making government-wide data standards a reality."
The full-day event will begin with a keynote address on the potential of data standards in the federal government. Panel discussions throughout the day will discuss government data standards already in place, the future potential of standards in new areas of federal reporting, and the challenges of developing standards for governmental use. Panelists will include representatives from the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Treasury, the National Archives and Records Administration, and private-sector standard setters. 
SEC Hints at Intent to Transform Existing Filings into Structured Data

Buried in a draft strategic plan released earlier this month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revealed that it intends to replace existing corporate and financial disclosure filings with "new filings structured for automated data retrieval and analysis."

The Coalition helped to defeat a Congressional proposal last October that threatened to exempt nearly eight in ten public companies from requirements to submit filings as structured data alongside existing formats. Joining academics, investor advocates, and Congressional appropriators, the Coalition called on the SEC to adopt structured data formats throughout its whole disclosure regime.

The SEC's new draft strategic plan gives supporters of open data reason to hope that the agency could be considering the need to modernize the technologies that it uses to collect corporate disclosures.

"A new filing system that is optimized for data retrieval and analysis will provide features that help users create filings that are appropriate to their purpose and that allow computers to extract data from the filings for automated analysis," reads Objective 4.2 of the new report. "The system will be more flexible, so as new disclosure documents are defined they can be implemented much more quickly, with all of the features of a modern, web-based filing system."

An electronic filing system based on structured data would help watchdogs, investors, regulators, and journalists to more easily perform analyses that will improve efficiency and oversight in the financial sector.
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February 19, 2014


Teradata Corporation

Level One Technologies
RR Donnelley
StreamLink Software

Trade Association
Object Management Group 

Individual and Nonprofit
Bernadette Hyland, 3 Round Stones
Alexander Falk, Altova
Anthony Hodson, Accenture
Ryan Alfred, BrightScope
Oscar Hackett, BrightScope
Marty Loughlin, Cambridge Semantics
Suzanne Morsfield, Columbia Business School
TR Santhanakrishnan, DataTracks
Kris Radhakrishnan, DataTracks
Isaiah Goodall, Elder Research
Anne Bini, Invoke
S. Swaminathan, IRIS Business Services
Maryland Association of CPAs
Greg Bateman, Microsoft
Joseph Kull, PwC
Mark Bolgiano, Unissant
Charles "Bucky" Clarkson, uReveal


Mike Atkin
Greg Bateman
Gila Bronner
Geoff Davis
Timothy Day
Earl Devaney
Eric Gillespie
Joel Gurin
Jim Harper
Don McCrory
Campbell Pryde
Mike Starr
Richard Soley

About Us

The Data Transparency Coalition advocates on behalf of the private sector and the public interest for the publication of government information as standardized, machine-readable data. Data transparency strengthens democratic accountability, enhances government management, reduces compliance costs, and stimulates innovation.
Breakfast for Open Data Champions

Our second Data Transparency Breakfast, on March 18, 2014, will focus on Data Transparency in Financial Regulation. The breakfast, part of a series sponsored by PwC, will feature remarks from leaders seeking to standardize and publish the data reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and other U.S. financial regulators. Register now!
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