The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, known as the DATA Act, was signed into law in May 2014. The DATA Act, which builds on Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006, requires the U.S. government to publish federal spending data on a quarterly basis, providing detailed information on federal contracts, grants, loans, and other financial assistance awards. The DATA Act also requires setting standards that improve the quality of federal spending data and creating a standard data exchange to submit this data in machine readable formats. This federal spending data, which is provided by agencies and managed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has the potential to provide important insights into nearly $4 trillion in annual government spending.

Since 2014, the Department of the Treasury and OMB have made substantial progress in implementing the DATA Act. Ongoing efforts have made federal spending data more accessible and interoperable. This data is now collected and published using government-wide data standards known as the DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS) and made publicly available on OMB and Treasury created a DATA Act Playbook and issued several memos to help agencies fulfill DATA Act requirements and streamline implementation efforts. The DATA Act team also created a collaboration space to foster dialogue between federal and nonfederal stakeholders, including regularly updated information about the DAIMS, an online data dictionary, and access to the Data Lab.

Federal spending data is widely used across government agencies and different sectors of the economy. Under the mandate of the DATA Act, there are new opportunities to apply federal spending data as more data becomes available in greater detail than ever before. An Open Data Roundtable held by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Center for Open Data Enterprise in February 2018 identified several uses for this new data. For example:

  • The U.S. government can use federal spending data to improve the allocation of government resources and inform evidence-based policymaking.

  • Federal grant recipients, including state and local governments, can use federal spending data to better understand the distribution of federal grant dollars and improve grant application outcomes.

  • Businesses across all sectors can use federal spending data to analyze trends in government spending and inform investment strategies.

  • Academic and policy researchers can use federal spending data to better understand the impact of government spending on disaster response, housing, health care, and so on.

  • Oversight bodies and good government organizations can use federal spending data to monitor government activities and ensure government accountability.