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Data Transparency

History and Overview of the DATA Act

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (FFATA) was signed into law on September 26, 2006. The legislation required that federal contract, grant, loan, and other financial assistance awards be displayed on a publicly accessible and searchable website to give the American public access to information on how their tax dollars are being spent.

The transparency efforts of FFATA were expanded with the enactment of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) Pub. L. 113-101 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, streamline reporting requirements, and reduce compliance costs, while improving transparency
  • Improve the quality of data submitted to by holding agencies accountable.

Data Definition Standards

While the FFATA and DATA Act outlined the general requirements for federal spending transparency, more detailed data definition standards were needed to ensure consistency and interoperability among the various award and financial communities that share these data elements.

In developing those data standards, the Data Transparency Team collaborated with the federal community and external stakeholders through our Federal Spending Transparency Data Collaboration Space.

Whitepapers on core data elements and their definitions were drafted by the federal community, and opportunity for feedback was provided.

These whitepapers were then used by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create finalized definitions and data standards for these elements. This laid the foundation from which the DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS) was first designed and developed.

At the same time that data elements were being standardized, other collaborative efforts were underway with regard to how these elements would be displayed to the public. The development and implementation of the USAspending website employed research, testing, and design activities employing user-centered design and agile development methodologies.

The implementation of the Data Act requirements is nearly completed, but the work of federal spending transparency and accountability continues. The Office of Data Transparency at Fiscal Service continuously improves data quality and usability and looks for ways to draw value and insights from federal spending data.

Last modified 01/31/20