Frequently Asked Questions

What is the DATA Act?

How is the Administration approaching DATA Act implementation?

How is the DATA Act implementation governed?

How can the DATA Act implementation process set an example for transparency in its own implementation?

What is being done to align DATA Act implementation with related efforts, like implementation of the Uniform Guidance?

Will Treasury and OMB regularly host public town hall meetings of the kind they hosted in the fall of 2014 to provide updates to industry, recipients, advocates, media, and the public?

When can we expect to have a complete list of data fields that need to be standardized?

What is the meaning of “data standards?”

What are the greatest challenges facing implementation? And how are you ensuring these challenges don’t scuttle the DATA act effort?

Is there or will there be more than one pilot?

How will the data standards be expressed within the existing government-wide reporting systems through which agencies already submit federal spending information?

What is the DATA Act?

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) Pub. L. 113-101 was enacted on May 9, 2014. The purpose of the DATA Act, as directed by Congress, is to:

  • Expand FFATA by disclosing direct agency expenditures and linking federal contract, loan, and grant spending information to federal agency programs
  • Establish government-wide data standards for financial data and provide consistent, reliable, and searchable data that is displayed accurately
  • Simplify reporting, streamlining reporting requirements, reducing compliance costs, while improving transparency
  • Improve the quality of data submitted to USASpending.gov by holding agencies accountable, and
  • Apply approaches developed by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to spending across the government.

How is the Administration approaching DATA Act implementation?

The Administration is committed to implementing the DATA Act. The goal is to transform the way the government does business by using federal spending data for management decision making. In addition, increasing the accuracy and accessibility of federal spending data affords the public a more transparent view on government spending.

How is the DATA Act implementation governed?

  • Recognizing that strong governance is crucial to successful DATA Act implementation, OMB and Treasury have established a robust governance structure.
  • To address the need to both organize the various departments, communities and business areas across the federal government and to build partnerships across the federal agencies as we begin to implement DATA Act, OMB and Treasury established both an Executive Steering Committee and the DATA Act Inter-agency Advisory Committee (IAC), in addition to reinvigorating the call for agency Senior Accountable Officials (SAOs).
  • The Executive Steering Committee is comprised of OMB and Treasury, and it oversees all aspects of both policies and implementation related to our federal spending transparency efforts. The Interagency Advisory Committee (IAC) is charged with representing the numerous business and functional communities across the Government that have stakes in DATA Act implementation. The membership includes representatives of the Chief Financial Officers Council (CFOC), the Budget Officers Advisory Council (BOAC), the Award Committee for E-Government (ACE), the Council on Financial Assistance Reform (COFAR), the Chief Acquisition Officer’s Council (CAOC), the Chief Information Officer’s Council (CIOC), and the Performance Improvement Council (PIC). General Services Administration (GSA) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) are also represented. At its core, the Committee provides monthly feedback and input from the government Councils on issues related to the DATA Act and federal spending transparency and serves as the vehicle through which OMB and Treasury disseminate information to the various councils.
  • In addition, the agency SAOs, similar to their role in the Recovery Act, have become the single point of contact who can speak on behalf of their federal agencies and provide insights into challenges, best practices, and considerations to assure successful DATA Act implementation. Since the DATA Act’s passage, we have held multiple outreach sessions with agency SAOs, updating them on our implementation plan and progress.

How can the DATA Act implementation process set an example for transparency in its own implementation?

  • This GitHub page is where we will engage with non-federal stakeholders and the public at large.
  • We regularly conduct outreach to stakeholders, including the federal government, Congress, GAO, and the public.

The governance structure established to oversee DATA Act implementation facilitates collaboration across federal agencies and communities so that efforts can be coordinated.

Will Treasury and OMB regularly host public town hall meetings of the kind they hosted in the fall of 2014 to provide updates to industry, recipients, advocates, media, and the public?

OMB and Treasury are committed to keeping the implementation process transparent and collaborative. Continued outreach and engagement is essential for future success:

  • In the fall of 2014, Treasury and OMB hosted a town hall for stakeholders to provide input on DATA Act implementation. While the town hall was very successful, we intend to use technology to engage an even broader range of stakeholders and facilitate a more extensive dialogue
  • In order to facilitate ongoing dynamic engagement with stakeholders, we are leveraging GitHub to engage with the public in real time.
  • We anticipate holding future webcasts, conference calls, and other engagements that allow stakeholders to engage, even if they cannot make it to DC.

When can we expect to have a complete list of data fields that need to be standardized?

  • On this site’s data elements page, you will find a list of the financial data elements that we are required to standardize under the DATA Act, plus a larger set of data elements that were required under FFATA that we believe are ripe for additional standardization.
  • Our engagement with both federal and public stakeholders is ongoing, and we anticipate that this list will evolve over time – standardization is not a single endeavor, but an ongoing commitment to ensure that the data is of high quality and relevant.

What is the meaning of “data standards?”

  • Each data element currently under consideration for standardization has one or more current definitions.
  • The goal of standardization is to create both functional and IT definitions and standards that allow for consistency across communities, so that data elements reported from different agencies correspond in definition and in format. This is part of the process of providing spending data on USAspending.gov, which allows the public to view, download, and conduct trend analysis across the federal government.

What are the greatest challenges facing implementation? And how are you ensuring these challenges don’t scuttle the DATA act effort?

  • The DATA Act did not include funding for implementation. All of our progress thus far has been made using existing resources and in addition to existing work. Even with this huge challenge, we have been able to make great strides. The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget includes funding for DATA Act implementation for key agencies, which we believe will keep the federal government on its path to accomplish the DATA Act’s objectives.
  • In the next couple of years, agencies will be required to implement government-wide data standards and establish the capacity and processes to disclose its federal spending pursuant to the Act.

Is there or will there be more than one pilot?

  • Section 5 of the DATA Act requires that there be one pilot on reducing recipient burden. HHS has been named the executing agent for the grants portion of this pilot and is coordinating this effort with OMB.
  • However, in order to most effectively implement this legislation an agile approach is needed, and as such Treasury has been and will be conducting multiple smaller pilots to achieve other goals of the legislation.

How will the data standards be expressed within the existing government-wide reporting systems through which agencies already submit federal spending information?

  • We are implementing the DATA Act in a fundamentally different way from past statutes. We are using a data centric approach to minimize costs and effectively utilize 21st century technology. We are cognizant that agencies have established business processes and reporting procedures, and we want to minimize the burden of implementation. We have been and will continue to work with federal stakeholders to understand how data standards can best be implemented to leverage existing processes. We are committed to leveraging existing data and infrastructure as much as possible to avoid duplicate investments.
  • We will be providing information to agencies later this spring with clear steps for agency implementation and greater detail about how DATA Act standards will interact with current reporting processes.