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An Open Letter in support for H.R. 2146, the “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) of 2011.”

July 5, 2011

The Honorable Darrell Issa
United States House of Representatives
2347 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Issa:

On behalf of the 362,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I write to offer our support for H.R. 2146, the “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) of 2011.” Your bill would revolutionize the way government data is reported and presented to the public in order to build upon the successes of and

This legislation would expand on the solid foundation established in 2006’s Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), which created, and proved to be an invaluable tool for allowing Americans to track how their money was being spent. Although FFATA was an unprecedented improvement in transparency, time has revealed several inherent limitations in its structure as well as brought to light new innovations which would improve on its goals. The DATA Act addresses many of these developments in order to further empower citizens to challenge federal spending on wasteful or duplicative programs.

Currently, the U.S. government operates many different accountability portals with no unified approach to financial data collection. The mish-mash of websites and standards makes it very difficult to gain a true picture of how the government is spending taxpayer dollars. The DATA Act would rectify these problems by creating the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency (FAST) Board, which will be tasked with receiving, organizing and publishing federal spending information on a single electronic platform. Unlike FFATA, which only applied to contracts and grants, your legislation would also shine disinfecting sunlight on agency expenditures, thus providing a long-overdue check on unnecessary growth in the federal bureaucracy.

To ensure the functionality of the new integrated platform, the DATA Act would charge the FAST Board with designating a harmonized database model. The federal government currently lumbers along a cumbersome and inaccurate patchwork of systems that makes it nearly impossible to identify waste, fraud and abuse across agencies. H.R. 2146 would institute a universal recipient reporting framework designed to improve the accuracy of the information provided. Furthermore, by creating a single government-wide data standard, your bill would not only streamline the compliance burden among agencies, but would also greatly enhance the usability of the information.

Advocates from across the political spectrum share the notion that transparency is a fundamental building block of good governance. At a time of mounting debt, it becomes all the more important to ensure Americans are equipped with the tools to track the flow of funds they send to Washington. NTU commends your efforts and will encourage all Members of Congress to work toward passage of the DATA Act.

Brandon Greife
Federal Government Affairs Manager