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Analysis

DATA Act 2022: Changing technology, changing culture

First open data law for all federal spending

When the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) became law on May 9, 2014, its ambition was clear: to change how the US federal government collects, tracks, and uses information about spending. This report by Deloitte and the Data Foundation provides a vision for federal spending in 2022 and offers solutions to technical and cultural challenges to DATA Act’s success.

A vision for federal spending in 2022

The DATA Act represents the first attempt to unify three broad categories of reporting requirements for federal spending. The open data law requires the federal government to first apply standard data elements and a government-wide data format (or schema) to all federal spending and second to publish these standardized data as a unified open data set.

By1 2022, when all statutory deadlines are complete, the DATA Act’s ultimate impact should be evident: federal spending data should flow automatically from its originators to all users.

What might this vision look like?

The May 2017 release of the first-ever unified federal spending open data set will be a hard-earned first step. But the DATA Act promises far more. If the DATA Act community–legislators, Treasury and OMB leaders, agency financial managers, contractors and civil society advocates–continue their work, the vision of freely-flowing and interoperable spending data could be achievable by 2022.

Seven challenges to the DATA Act’s success

The work spurred by the DATA Act has come a long way since it was signed into law in 2014, but the vision of freely flowing and interoperable spending information faces significant challenges. These fall into two basic categories: cultural and technical. The cultural challenges require full engagement with stakeholders in the development of new processes and applications. The technical challenges are related to the DAIMS architecture and the creation of a complete picture of federal spending.

Of course, the cultural and technical challenges are equally significant. Representing the entire federal spending cycle in a unified, open data set will be a significant technical breakthrough, for example. But the programmatic changes needed to accomplish that will depend largely on the engagement of all the stakeholders involved.

Realizing the vision

The DATA Act could represent the most ambitious transformation of US public-sector management ever attempted. Despite its challenges, the DATA Act begins with a strong foundation: a comprehensive data model, support from Congress and civil society, and a commitment from the new administration2.

Those implementing the DATA Act have shown determination and creativity so far. Building the DAIMS, the DATA Act Broker and a new version of USASpending.gov was an enormous challenge, but Treasury employed an agile development model that now serves as a leading practice across government.

Similarly, each solution to the challenges represents an opportunity to broadly improve federal management and inform future innovations in the federal government and beyond.

Case study: Data USA

Spending data as part of a larger intelligence capability.

Standardized federal spending data, on its own, is useful for agencies, watchdogs, and the public. But it is even more valuable in combination with other data.

Consider DATA USA, a collaborative project from Deloitte, DataWheel and Macro Connections. DATA USA combines public data sourced from US federal and state agencies to visualize jobs, skills and education by geography. A unified federal spending data set, if combined with DATA USA and similar multisource, geospatial data platforms, could show relationships between federal spending and overall economic and demographic trends.

The DATA Act’s structure, with its common definitions for agencies, programs, and other concepts, could provide a model for the standardization of other federal data, easing future integrations.

Similarly, the DATA Act should improve the offerings of companies that help contractors navigate the federal procurement system. These companies leverage spending information to provide insights and strategic advice to their clients and are excited about the improved capabilities that the DATA Act will provide.

For more information visit datausa.io.​

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End notes

1 Data Foundation and MorganFranklin Consulting, The DATA Act: Vision & Value by Frank Landefeld, Jamie Yachera and Hudson Hollister, July 2016, www.datafoundation.org/data-act-vision-and-value-report.

2 See for instance Chase Gunter, “Trump’s Pick for OMB Sounds Enthusiastic about the Data Act,” FCW, January 25, 2017, fcw.com/articles/2017/01/25/data-act-omb-mulvaney.aspx.

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