Just before Congress left D.C. for the campaign trail, Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) reintroduced a bill to overhaul federal fiscal accountability. The new Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) is a trimmed-down version of the original bill introduced in the Senate by Warner and in the House by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), S. 1222/H.R. 2146. We applauded when the House unanimously passed it in April, and speculated that it could revolutionize fiscal accountability.
But since then, concerns about some of the more substantial structural reforms in the bill were raised by members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The new DATA Act addresses those concerns while still proposing much-needed improvements to the tools we have for tracking how taxpayer dollars are spent.
Right now, it’s a mess. No one—I mean no one in government or outside—has a clear, comprehensive, or accurate picture of how the federal government spends money. It’s like that old Indian fable about the blind men (us) and the elephant (federal spending). USAspending.gov, created by the Obama-Coburn “Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006,” was a good beginning, but it has failed to streamline spending data or ensure its accuracy.