Data Act Implementation
An interesting overview of the factors that are making implementation of the DATA Act different from past efforts to improve financial transparency across the Federal government is provided in this linked article from Federal News Radio.
In connection with this I heard David Lebryk of the U.S. Department of Treasury speak on Data Act implementation this morning at the Johns Hopkins/REI Systems Government Analytics Breakfast Forum in Washington DC.
I'll be writing up my thoughts about the presentation soon. Meanwhile here are a few points I starred while taking notes during Lebryk's presentation:
1. One of the major challenges for implementing the DATA Act's standardization and spending transparency requirements is that no resources were appropriated. Implementation had to proceed with existing resources and management structures.
2. Use of USASpending.gov to provede access to spending data really focuses continued attention on standards across all reporting agencies not just Treasury itself.
3. Usage of USASpending.gov by government employees at Federal and State level has been significant partly because of the ease of using the system as opposed to more complex or siloed legacy systems. [Author's note: this is a common finding among developer's of "open data" systems for government data. Even when public access is a prime motivator for system development it is not at all unusual for government employees to themselves be heavy users.]
4. Lebryk provided an interesting view of "data quality." There are different views of how much emphasis to place on data quality with some promoting rapid publication of all data warts and all while others caution the need for quality control. [Again this is not an unusual issue given the wide variety of financial systems -- Lebryk mentioned the number 48 -- that fall under the purview of the DATA Act. These systems were not originally designed to talk to each other so reporting spending data to a common standard is taking some time.]
5. Lebryk emphasized the importance of "process" in implementing the DATA Act and mentioned the role of the dedicated PMO, the use of tools such as GitHub to gather feedback on how data should be tagged for easy ingestion into the "data broker" tool which serves as an interface between appropriately tagged agency data and the standardized reporting that the DATA Act is pursuing.
6. Treasury has developed a "DATA Act Playbook" to guide implementation at the agency level; a one page description of the Playbook is here: https://goo.gl/KSXeOy
. [Author's note: The ability to provide such centralized guidance and support is one of the things that differentiates DATA Act implementation from more decentralized efforts at standardization that have been attempted in the past.]
7. One question from the audience concerned the relationship between performance data (which often is program specific and not directly financial in nature) and spending data (which may have little if any connection to the impacts a program is supposed to have). [Author's note: while this question was not explored at any length, it is my impression that one of the main benefits of having Treasury work together with OMB on DATA Act implementation is coordination of data and metadata requirements for tracking expenditures in connection with program performance.
I'll be working on a more complete blog post based on the above points in the next few days; if you would like me to email you when the post is ready please let me know via Twitter (@ddmcd) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Dennis McDonald (http://www.ddmcd.com