This edition of Data Transparency News reports on Coalition Advisor Jim Harper's testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Coalition's lobbying day on March 7, and machine-executable regulation.

Data Transparency News
Photo from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. 
Coalition Advisor Harper Testifies to Congress: Federal Spending Data Should Be Machine-Readable
On March 13, Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute and member of the Data Transparency Coalition's Board of Advisors, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform during a hearing to address transparency in the federal government. Harper delivered the message that machine readable formats for federal spending would both enhance transparency and also reduce compliance and reporting costs. Watch the hearing here.
The DATA Act will impose publication and standardization mandates to open federal spending to public scrutiny. Harper explained the importance of the DATA Act: "With [standardized spending] data, you can tell stories. You can tell the story about how a budget became an appropriation, which became an obligation, which became an outlay which resulted in something, whether it be funding for the military in some respect, whether it be funding for some program that aids people in their health or well-being  The stories that could be made available to the public are nearly endless given data that reflect them well. So I think the DATA Act is an essential way of getting that transparency that makes available to the public what actually happens here in Washington, D.C."
Harper explained that transparency efforts to date have been woefully inadequate because they have allowed agencies to pick and choose which data will be made available. By mandating the publication of all spending data in a machine-readable format, the DATA Act will remove discretion from government agencies and allow citizens to determine what is important. The appendix of his submitted testimony includes two briefing papers: Publication Practices for Transparent Government, which outlines four key practices for data transparency, and Grading Government's Data Publication Practices, which analyzes and grades federal data publication practices. Read Jim Harper's testimony here

Coalition meets with Chairman Issa and Office of Financial Research 

On March 7, Coalition corporate members and guests lobbied the legislative and executive branches to urge the publication of government data in machine-readable, nonproprietary data standards. With the adoption of data transparency mandates, the technology industry will be able to use the data to bring about unprecedented government transparency, uncover waste and fraud, deliver actionable intelligence to financial markets, and automate compliance processes. In the morning, the Coalition met with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and chief House sponsor of the DATA Act, which the House passed last year. Later in the day they met with senior staff at the Office of Financial Research of the Department of Treasury to discuss data transparency in federal financial regulatory reporting.
Chairman Issa told the Coalition that he is working with Senate sponsors to agree on a consensus version of the DATA Act for reintroduction in the new 113th Congress. The Coalition will be providing recommendations on the text of this consensus version and working with the Oversight Committee to promote the legislation. The Oversight Committee will also host a Capitol Hill demonstration event to provide an opportunity for tech firms to showcase how electronic federal spending dashboards could use standardized federal spending data to track spending and identify fraud, waste, and abuse.   

The Coalition had a productive discussion with senior staff serving the Office of Financial Research. The OFR, with the international Financial Stability Board, is currently pursuing the adoption of the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) by all financial regulators in the G20. To ensure implementation worldwide, the OFR pursued a modest metadata profile for the LEI, but is committed to including an ownership and hierarchy model within the United States.  Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform, the OFR is required to publish reference databases of legal entities and financial instruments. Although the OFR is still exploring ways to comply with these publication mandates, senior staff confirmed to the Coalition that the LEI will be the foundation of the legal entity database. The OFR senior staff welcomed input from the Coalition as to where common reporting formats are needed. The Coalition will continue to work with the OFR to provide input on implementation of the OFR's regulatory mandates and to seek input from the OFR on legislative proposals that it advocates in Congress.

Capitol Hill gets first briefing on machine-executable regulations

Regulations are complicated legal documents drafted and interpreted, expensively, by lawyers. This will not always be true.

On March 13, staff serving the House Oversight Committee got a first look at the future of regulation in a briefing from Knowledge Partners International organized by the Coalition. KPI demonstrated how regulatory directives could be expressed in a machine-executable fashion.

What's a machine-executable regulation? It's a translation from legalese into electronic - a set of directions, understandable by a company's management and accounting software, that instruct the software to do whatever the regulation says the company should do. Machine-executable regulations could help regulated companies cut compliance costs by reducing the need for teams of lawyers to interpret, summarize, and translate.

The Coalition believes that nonproprietary data standards should be applied first to regulatory filings and disclosures, as would have been required by the Financial Industry Transparency Act. But the campaign for data transparency will not end there. Ultimately, the directives themselves should be electronically standardized - resulting in machine-executable regulations.
Data Transparency Coalition


Teradata Corporation

Level One Technologies
RR Donnelley

Trade Association
Object Management Group 

Individual and Nonprofit
Ryan Alfred, BrightScope
Oscar Hackett, BrightScope
Michael Doane, MarkLogic
Jay Fohs, MarkLogic
Isaiah Goodall, Elder Research
Mark Klinski
Joseph Kull, PwC
Maryland Association of CPAs


Mike Atkin
Greg Bateman
Gila Bronner
Timothy Day
Earl Devaney
Eric Gillespie
Jim Harper
Beth Noveck
Campbell Pryde

About Us

The Data Transparency Coalition is the only trade association that advocates data reform for the U.S. federal government. The Coalition brings together companies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals to support policies that require federal agencies to publish their data online, using machine-readable, nonproprietary data standards.
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