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January 14, 2016
Data Transparency News
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The latest:
  • Treasury Department’s Data Structure for Federal Spending is Bigger and Better – and So is Funding
  • HHS DATA Act Pilot Program Promises Automated Reporting for Grantees – Maybe

Treasury Department’s Data Structure for Federal Spending is Bigger and Better – and So is Funding

According to the Treasury Department’s brand-new DATA Act schema, here’s how accounts, program activities, and object classes – three key federal financial concepts – fit together.

The DATA Act of 2014, America’s first open data law, requires the Treasury Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to tackle a very tough job. They have to design a data structure to organize the spending information of the entire U.S. federal government – the largest and most complex organization in human history.

Last May, Treasury and OMB released the first version of this data structure, known as the DATA Act Schema. That version was a good start, but left many details to be filled in.

That’s why it’s very good news that Treasury’s staff apparently didn’t take any time off during the holidays in December.

Treasury released Version 0.7 of the DATA Act Schema on New Year’s Eve. The latest version is the most extensive and detailed yet. For the first time, Version 0.7 includes visual diagrams showing how crucial concepts in federal spending relate to one another.

Treasury has indicated that there is one major piece still missing before we can celebrate a full Version 1.0. The schema does not yet include specific instructions to agencies on how to submit their spending data (file format, content scope, file organization, etc.). Once Treasury and OMB agree on that final piece, the vision for a comprehensive data structure for all federal spending will be realized.

Meanwhile, Congress has funded the implementation of the DATA Act for the first time. Last month’s budget deal sent $19 million to the Treasury Department for fiscal 2016 for DATA Act work. The funding will allow Treasury to complete the DATA Act standards and work with agencies to apply the standards to their spending information in advance of the DATA Act’s May 2017 deadline.

HHS DATA Act Pilot Program Promises Automated Reporting for Grantees – Maybe

An image taken at Data Transparency 2015 from left to right: Mike Peckham, Director, HHS DATA Act PMO; Ann Ebberts, CEO, Association of Government Accountants; Chris Zeleznik, Lead for Intergovernmental Recipient Engagement for HHS DATA Act PMO.

The DATA Act of 2014 is transforming federal spending information from disconnected documents into open, searchable data. It’s America’s first open data law, and it promises to deliver better transparency to citizens and the public. But transparency isn’t the only goal of the DATA Act.

By promoting a common data format for all the information that non-federal grantees and contractors must report when they receive taxpayer funds, the DATA Act also seeks to help those recipients automate compliance work that used to be manual.

Grantees and contractors must find their way through a complex landscape of hundreds of forms with thousands of data elements. Today, those forms are mostly expressed as documents. But if the federal government replaced those documents with consistently-structured data, grantees’ and contractors’ software could automatically compile and submit the same information.

Until the DATA Act, nobody was in charge of the whole landscape of grant and contract reporting. The DATA Act changes that. The law directs the Treasury Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create government-wide data standards – consistent data fields and formats – for all federal spending information. That includes agencies’ financial and budget reports and grantees’ and contractors’ reports too.

We also laid out four things HHS (and OMB) should do to make sure the pilot program succeeds.

To continue reading the Coalition's blog post, click here

UPCOMING EVENTS!

Performance Reporting: Why it's not working and how to fix it on Wednesday, January 27, 12:00pm - 1:30pm. 

The original intent of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 was great — produce a document that provides transparency into the performance of government programs while using the data for better management. Unfortunately, nearly 23 years later, we're left with a treasure trove of dense, impenetrable documents that neither provide the public or other constituents a window into what's happening in a way that's easy to consume. Add in thousands of staff hours and other costs and it's clear that the time for a change is now.

Learn about current technologies, including Socrata solutions, that make data easily accessible, actionable and meaningful. For more information and to register, click here
FedGIS Conference on February 25-25, 2016.

The event draws over 3,500 GIS professionals from across National, Federal and State governments. There are hands on learning labs, technical sessions and great networking opportunities. Registration and full conference details can be found here

The event is complimentary to all federal government employees and contractors, by using a “.gov” email.
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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.
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