Sen. Warner Presses Federal Agencies on Implementation Plan for Financial Transparency Tools Included in 2014 Data Act
DATA Act allows taxpayers, policymakers to ‘follow the money’
Apr 06 2016
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today asked more than three-dozen federal agencies to provide updates on their implementation of Sen. Warner’s Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act, the bipartisan federal financial management and transparency legislation which was signed into law on May 9, 2014. The DATA Act has been hailed by Government Accountability Office (GAO) Director Gene Dodaro as “the single biggest thing” Congress could do to identify wasteful federal spending, and the DATA Act has been called the most significant open-government initiative since the Freedom of Information Act of 1966.
“When fully implemented, the DATA Act will set government-wide financial reporting standards, and will make information about federal spending much more accessible and searchable, which is a great tool for both taxpayers and policymakers to identify duplication and waste and help prevent fraud,” said Sen. Warner, a former business executive, governor of Virginia, and chairman of the Budget Committee’s bipartisan Government Performance Task Force from 2010-15. “Passing legislation is just the first step, and I will continue to press administration and agency officials to move forward to effectively implement and fully leverage the results of this powerful new tool for fiscal transparency.”
Sen. Warner’s bipartisan DATA Act was cosponsored in the Senate by Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, and the House companion was sponsored by California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa and Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Today’s requests of agency executives followed today’s Senate Budget Committee meeting on federal financial management, where Sen. Warner advocated for robust implementation of DATA Act while questioning the director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). In addition, on Monday, Sen. Warner spoke in support of improved management at a Capitol Hill meeting of agency executives and fellows participating in the Office of Management & Budget’s cross-agency Performance Improvement Council.
The text of Sen. Warner’s letter today to executive branch agencies follows:
As you are aware, on May 9, 2014 President Obama signed into law the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act of 2014 (Pub.L. 113–101), which I introduced in Congress. When fully implemented the DATA Act will create transparency for federal funds, set government-wide financial data standards, reduce recipient reporting requirements, and improve overall data quality. The efforts of individual federal agencies are essential to achieving the aims of the law, and I write to bring attention to those efforts at your agency.
The DATA Act presents both challenges and opportunities for federal agencies. Improving the quality and completeness of spending data, including by fully linking financial and account data, will enable agencies to improve internal management and to target resources for maximum impact. While data informs policy making and financial decision-making in government, as well as for external stakeholders, without consistent data standards these decisions are often made in the absence of some existing information. I also recognize the challenges that ongoing implementation of the law may present for agencies, including budget constraints, dependence on government-wide guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Treasury, and the complexity of incumbent systems and business processes. However, by prioritizing implementation of the law and fully leveraging its potential, I believe that the opportunities for your agency outweigh these challenges.
I appreciate your efforts thus far to implement the DATA Act and fully leverage this potential. To date, agencies should also be adhering to the steps outlined in the DATA Act Implementation Playbook issued by the Department of the Treasury, and to other guidance issued by Treasury and OMB. Leading agencies have issued individual implementation plans in line with OMB guidance, formed DATA Act teams, participated in government-wide deliberations on standards, developed an inventory of data, identified systems containing relevant data, and assessed needed policy and technical changes. Crucially, your agency should also have designated a DATA Act lead, a senior accountable official responsible for planning and implementing changes to systems and business processes, determining how best to map data elements from existing systems to the DATA Act Schema, and overseeing the testing and submission of data. By learning from best practices at leading agencies and providing adequate funding for implementation, your agency can leverage these requirements for better internal management and overall governance in the long term.
I remain strongly committed to robust oversight of DATA Act implementation and to ensuring that federal agencies are able to fully implement this crucial law. To that end, I would appreciate you sharing the following information with me:
- What resources has your agency spent on implementation of the DATA Act to date? Does your agency have any existing contracts aimed at facilitating implementation?
- Has your agency issued a DATA Act implementation plan in line with the DATA Act Playbook? If so, please share this plan with me.
- How has implementation to date varied from your expectations, and what challenges have you encountered?
- What resources does your agency anticipate needing in order to fully implement the DATA Act moving forward?
If I can be of assistance in addressing implementation challenges at your agency, please contact my office at 202-224-2023. Thank you again for your efforts to prioritize the implementation of the DATA Act and to fully leveraging the potential of this exciting opportunity to transform federal spending and governance.
Mark R. Warner
United States Senator