This week ends with remarkable news in the federal contract transparency world. First, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that a new and improved version of USAspending.gov will be released this year. I had the privilege of beta testing “Version 2.0” in late 2009, and although it had many new features and fun interactive maps, I thought that OMB had a long way to go to retain the usefulness of the current database, which doesn’t require as much drill-down to obtain contractor and agency data.
One complaint was that USAspending.gov V2.0 still missed the boat when it came to integrating federal contracting data. For years, POGO has recommended that the government integrate numerous contracting databases into a one-stop contracting shop because it is absurd that in today’s tech-savvy world the public must search multiple databases to link contractor registrations, solicitations, award announcements, contracts, and performance data — some of which aren’t publicly available. Uncle Sam certainly hasn’t been making it easy to track federal spending!
Which brings us to the second piece of good news: the General Services Administration appears to finally have listened to POGO, OMBWatch, the Sunlight Foundation, and many others who are frustrated with the current user-unfriendly systems. According to the GSA, the following nine databases will be integrated (you’re welcome, IBM — the winners of the $74.4 million contract):
8. Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG)
Absent from that list is USAspending.gov “Version 2.0” (although FPDS-NG — the feeder system into USAspending.gov — is listed so I'm not sure how that will shake-out) and the forthcoming "Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System," which will allow government officials to review a contractor's record of integrity or business ethics as required by law. POGO has expressed concerns about the FAPIIS database and urged President Obama and others to make it publicly available.
The integration of the above data sets is wonderful, but I’m wondering if the consolidated system will be available to the public or if this grand contracting resource will be for government eyes only.
-- Scott Amey