OMB To Congress: DATA Act Could Advance Trump's Agenda

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A pilot that gathers spending data directly from contractors and grant recipients could also help agencies better assess spending.

Obama-era legislation requiring federal agencies to make their spending data public, including dollar amounts given to contractors and grant recipients, could help President Donald Trump streamline government, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 directed agencies to upload financial data to by May, part of an effort to help government—and the public—assess trends in overall spending. The DATA Act might help Trump, who "wants to make the Federal government leaner, more accountable, and more efficient," a recent OMB report to Congress said. OMB and the Treasury Department oversee the DATA Act’s implementation.  

OMB’s report also shared the results of two pilots that required the Health and Human Services Department and the General Services Administration to gather data about federal contracting dollars and grants directly from businesses that received them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those pilots demonstrated that simplifying how businesses submit information to federal agencies could reduce their own DATA Act compliance burden, according to OMB.

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OMB recommended that it—along with agency partners—create better standards and definitions for financial data submitted by contractors and grant recipients. Simplifying the applications through which they input that information, and potentially auto-populating some forms, could further improve the reporting.

The report marks the first official acknowledgment that these reporting standards and taxonomy for contractors and grantees are necessary, according to Hudson Hollister, founder and executive director at the Data Coalition, a Washington-based transparency advocacy group. OMB's recommendation could "embolden Congress to make this official...[and] formally extend the DATA Act" to include those standards, he said to Nextgov.

Dave Mader, a former OMB controller who is now chief strategy officer for Deloitte's civilian sector, told Nextgov that the report, which outlines steps to help businesses more easily report their data, "fits nicely with the current administration's emphasis on reform."

After the report, he said, OMB and agencies will likely continue to standardize the categories businesses are required to report on, eliminate duplication, and create one broad data entry system for grantees and contractors to further simplify data collection.  

But what's still missing, he said, is a specific timeline for those next phases.