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5/24/2010
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USASpending.gov Refresh Uses Open Source, Cloud

Updated site allows more in-depth analysis of where and how the federal government is spending money.

The Obama administration has revamped its USASpending.gov site with features that let people do more in-depth analysis about how the government is spending money.

The refreshed site, like other federal Web sites, takes advantage of open source components. It was developed on the open-source platform Drupal, which also powers the WhiteHouse.gov site that was relaunched late last year.

USASpending.gov also leverages NASA's Nebula cloud computing infrastructure, a pilot project in development at the space agency's Ames Research Center that is based on open source components. USASpending.gov is part of a beta test to show how Nebula can be used in real-world deployment scenarios.

The site -- launched several years ago as a requirement of the 2006 Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act -- has been criticized in the past by the Government Accountability Office for the low quality of its data, a problem the refresh should help remedy.

New features of the USASpending.gov site include the ability to compare spending across various government agencies, as well as track trends with interactive motion charts to observe changes in spending over the years, according to the USASpending.gov site.

People also can track spending by geographic location to see what's going on in a particular region. For example, someone can scroll over a state on an interactive U.S. map and get specific information about how much the federal government spent there. Clicking on the state will break that information down even further, showing the top 10 federal spending contracts for the state in fiscal year 2009.

Version 2.0 of USASpending.gov also has new information-sharing features that allow people to share feeds, exports, and analysis results via RSS.

For people who want to keep track of spending on a daily basis, the revamped site will provide updates to them via e-mail. Moreover, people who want do more in-depth, offline analysis on data sets from the site now can download bulk data. Other improved analysis features of the site give people the ability to investigate individual contract and award transactions.

The USASpending.gov site is not the only federal transparency effort that benefited from an overhaul recently. The Data.gov online data repository also got a refresh last week, adding Microsoft Bing search, featured data sets, and links to Web applications that take advantage of government data.

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