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Expanded data transparency bill clears House panel

A bill requiring agencies to post numbers on specific programs on government performance data websites cleared the House Oversight and Government Reform panel Thursday as an amendment to an earlier committee bill that would broaden requirements for posting government spending.

The Government Results Transparency Act (H.R. 3262) "would build a bridge between performance data and spending data," said Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., who introduced the bill this month. "Under GRTA, the government will finally be able to publish all of its performance data and spending data for each program on a public website in a format that makes it easy for anyone to search, download and analyze."

The broader bill, introduced in June by panel Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has drawn support from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and has won interest from members of the Obama administration, including Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board who also is coordinating the White House Campaign to Cut Waste.

The committee approval by voice vote was opposed by ranking minority member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. He said Guinta's bill was "not what I envisioned. It duplicates existing law and adds a layer of inefficiency," Cummings said, adding that the 2010 Government Performance and Results Act already requires the Office of Management and Budget to include data on agency programs on websites. This bill would require that the data be mounted twice, by OMB and by RATB, Cummings said.

The bill was welcomed by John Wonderlich, policy director at the Sunlight Foundation. "There is some frustration at performance data reporting, and this is an attempt to breathe new life into how it works," he told Government Executive. "You need identifiers and well-defined data standards. It can't hurt to try to find a better way for agencies to set standards and goals for themselves. It shouldn't be a significant burden."

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