Unlocking the Data Act – Plus Your Weekend Reads

Welcome to GovLoop InsightsIssue of the Week with Chris Dorobek where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days… and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And, as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better. On the DorobekINSIDER this week:
  • Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About– Role of Social Media Going Forward? #connectedgov:  Twitter, facebook, instagram, Google+ -- all these tools and more have been around for a few years. But many government agencies are still slow to see their value. We're not saying there aren't real pockets of innovation. But on the whole government is slow. Why is that?
  • Shutdowns are ALWAYS possible - So Learn to Acquire Despite the Threats: Budget cuts and the potential for shutdowns are always going to be on the table. So DHS’s Chief Procurement Officer says feds need to learn to deal with budgetary reality. We talk to Nick Nayak for an extended interview.
  • The Federal Workforce is Going to be SMALLER – So who gets cut? Acquisition Workforce?: There is really no way around it - the federal workforce is getting smaller. Budget cuts and the potential sequestration are forcing the issue. So what does that mean for the acquisition workforce going forward? Who stays?
  • Are budget cuts the real catalyst for Innovation?: Think about this; stability rarely breeds innovation. Traditions and norms don't generate creativity. So keeping that in mind, doesn't it stand to reason, that severe budget cuts like the ones that the government is currently dealing with, could be the real catalyst for growth and innovation?
Our issue of the week: looks at the Data Act. First let’s start at the beginning, what is the Data Act? “The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act would require the government to publish all executive-branch spending data on a single Internet portal. Spending data is currently reported to at least 8 separate compilations maintained by different agencies, some publicly accessible and others not,” said Hudson Hollister. Hollister is the Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition. He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that although the Act failed during the 112th Congress, all hope is not lost.

What went wrong? The Act failed after a consensus bill never made it out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC). The Committee held no business meetings from September until the end of the year. The DATA Act thus never got committee consideration and never made it to the full Senate. Ramifications if they don’t pass the Data Act?

  1. We still don’t have a clear path forward for the transparency of government spending information. We still have 8 data compilations around the federal government. Some are publicly available. Some are not. If they are available they might not be compatible which means we can get an enterprise-wide transaction. Federal managers can’t get the information either. That’s important because any enterprise needs to be able to have a view of all its spending. They need to be able to drill down from its financial performance to the individual transactions that make up its performance. The federal government can not do that and until they can we won’t be able to get a handle on spending decisions.
  2. This information belongs to the public. They are entitled to understand on a transaction by transaction basis what’s happening to taxpayer money and that isn’t possible right now.
Oversight board? “The consensus version of the Data Act that was reintroduced in the Senate in September addressed the concerns of the creation of a new board outside of the executive office. Now instead of putting spending transparency in the purview of a new version of the Recovery Board, instead it gave those responsibilities to OMB,” said Hollister. Cost? “Look at the private sector companies who have done it successful. Companies like Microsoft have been able to adopt consistent data standards in a matter of months without flooding out any of their existing systems,” said Hollister. Recover Board Sunsets “The Recovery Board marked the first time that federal spending data from multiple agencies was ever combined in one database. The results are pretty staggering. It was able to prevent or recover $60 million in savings. That programs sunsets on September 30th,” said Hollister. Likelihood the bill will pass in the 113th Congress? Hollister’s 3 reasons it will pass.
  1. Growing support and interest in the tech sector.
  2. Stance of White House. The CIO is set to release information management policy that will require federal standardized data.
  3. The Act has been in Congress for years and has a very refined policy.
Weekend reads
  • Information Week: A CIO’s guide to CES. On the surface, there is not much to recommend about CES for the CIO, but as Information Week’s Eric Lundquist reminds us, today’s smart fitness gadget or talking kitchen appliance may be “gabbing with business operations” tomorrow. “At CES, businesses can see the wave of data that’s coming, then figure out how to turn that data into revenue,” he writes.  Besides gadgets, Lundquist recommends that CIOs pay attention to what’s being said on the CES showfloor about automotive tech and eHealth.
  • National Journal: What Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Needs to Do. If confirmed as the next head of the Treasury Department, White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew will be tagging into an immediate three-round fight, with a long tournament ahead. Over the coming 75 days, the White House will rely heavily on its Treasury secretary in battles over the federal government’s borrowing limit, averting massive and blunt spending cuts, and extending government funding past the end of March.
  • Federal News Radio: Are you starting to lose track of who’s in and who’s out of the second term administration? They’ve tracked them all done. Take a look here.
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