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.
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