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Senate Unanimously Passes DATA Act

Bipartisan legislation directs government agencies to improve spending transparency by publishing financial data in standardized, machine-readable formats.

said the legislation will go a long way toward making government more transparent and efficient.

"The DATA Act takes a structured data model that has delivered unprecedented accountability in stimulus expenditures and applies it across all domains of federal spending," said Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Washington-based Data Transparency Coalition. "The DATA Act will turn federal spending information into open spending data -- a valuable new public resource that strengthens democratic accountability and spurs innovation."

Matthew Rizai, CEO and managing director of financial reporting software company WebFilings of Ames, Iowa, notes that the DATA Act reflects a trend by governments to embrace structured, machine-readable data formats in place of documents for regulatory reporting. "The move to reporting data instead of filing documents has made it possible to achieve efficiencies by automating compliance reporting," Rizai said in a statement from the Data Transparency Coalition.

Government-wide data standards will spur federal agencies to deploy analytics that can pinpoint waste and fraud, said Bob Fair, executive VP of enterprise analytic technology provider Teradata. "The DATA Act's mandate will speed a long-overdue transformation from disconnected documents into open, useful data -- a transformation that will help the federal government better serve taxpayers," said Fair. "And we know this based on our experience helping large organizations across industries, including state and federal agencies, transform their organizations to improve efficiencies."

The DATA Act tasks the Secretary of the Treasury and the director of the White House's Office and Management and Budget with establishing the government-wide financial-data standards necessary to achieve the legislation's goals and objectives. The Data Transparency Coalition, in a statement applauding the bill's passage in the Senate, said that its one major objection to the final compromise bill involves the decision to give OMB joint control to develop government-wide data standards with the Treasury Department. The joint arrangement could make it harder to reach agreement on certain standards, especially after OMB attempted unsuccessfully to reduce some of the bill's authority earlier this year. Nevertheless, the final bill retains the coalition's key goals, the group said.

To ensure agencies comply with the legislative mandates, the bill empowers agency inspectors general and the Government Accountability Office to hold agencies accountable for completeness, timeliness, quality, and accuracy of the data they submit to

In addition to Sens. Warner and Portman, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD),  Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee chairman Tom Carper (D-DE), and ranking member Tom Coburn (R-OK) also helped negotiate the bill's final language.

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William Welsh is a contributing writer to InformationWeek Government. He has covered the government IT market since 2000 for publications such as Washington Technology and Defense Systems. View Full Bio

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4/11/2014 | 1:14:21 PM
Long Time in the Making
The DATA Act has been a long time in the making, and one of the few pieces of IT-related legislation to make it  through the Congressional gaunlet in many years.  It could still get caught in the House, but it looks promising  Credit VA Senator Mark Warner and the rest of the bill's sponsors, including Rep. Darrell Issa, for bringing both sides of the aisle together on this.
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