By Scott Amey
Today, the Obama Administration vacated a proposal to enhance contract transparency. The proposal would have amended Federal Acquisition Regulation to enable the online posting of contracts and task and delivery orders. POGO supported that proposal, which fell in line with Obama’s efforts in the Senate to improve public access to federal spending dollars.
One of those efforts, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA)—co-sponsored by then-Senator Obama and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)—was signed by former President Bush on September 26, 2006. That legislation created the government’s database of contracts and grants, which totaled over $1.1 trillion in FY 2010. Incredibly, today's decision would seem to place the Obama Administration in opposition to subsequent transparency legislation co-sponsored by then-Senator Obama, Senator Coburn, and others.
Despite many advances in technology, it appears that the President is now happy with the status quo and the ancient ways of gathering spending information, including FPDS-NG, Fedbizopps.gov, and the use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Those systems are dated and provide only summary data, and FOIA is so slow that a long-term contract can run its course prior to a requestor receiving a copy of the FOIAed contract.
I know there was opposition to the transparency proposal, but I thought that the public was in good hands since Obama supported spending transparency while in the Senate and on the campaign trail. I guess it’s harder to promote change from inside the White House.
Scott Amey is POGO's General Counsel.