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Eye Opener: A look at the new USASpending.gov

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The homepage of the new USASpending.gov. (Courtesy OMB)

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! The Obama administration will soon relaunch USASpending.gov, the government Web site that lets taxpayers track how federal dollars are spent each year.

Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra gave The Eye a sneak peak at the new site on Monday (see screengrabs above and below). The Office of Management and Budget has worked on the site for the last year, continues to make tweaks and will soon announce a formal launch date.

USASpending.gov first launched in Dec. 2007, after Congress approved a contracting reform measure sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Transparency advocates and good government groups hailed it as a giant step in improving access to government spending information. But it's still not fulfilling all of the requirements in the Obama-Coburn bill, according to a Government Accountability Office report released this month.

Most notably, the site doesn't provide information on how subcontractors are spending federal dollars, GAO said. Several agencies also failed to report fiscal 2009 spending data and OMB doesn't enforce the law. Sen. Coburn is expected to raise similar concerns during a Senate hearing on government transparency this afternoon, aides said.

Those concerns may dissipate however when the new site launches. It will report subcontractor information and OMB is working with agencies on identifying the officials responsible for ensuring that spending information gets reported accurately and on time.

As for the new site, The Eye has seen (ha!) that it's heavy on maps, graphs, pie charts and easy search functions that allow users to peruse spending data by company names, Congressional districts and agencies, among other variables. Best of all, the data will be available in raw form and easily downloadable in several formats for use on other sites.

"We're not building a site or a platform that's designed for budget experts," Kundra said, stressing that the administration has ensured the site is easily accessible to normal everyday Americans seeking information or potential business opportunities.

"We've spent a lot of energy on search, because that's going to be the first mechanism by which people look for information," he said. Indeed the site's new advanced search capabilities allow users to quickly search for simple terms -- like "Boeing," or "Wine" or "New York" -- and come up with any and all related information.

Gary Bass, director of OMB Watch, credited OMB for holding meetings with several good government groups and transparency advocates to resolve potential kinks.

Though it's taken a little longer than most close observers would have liked, "I think this is exactly the next step that we thought should be happening and I think that it’s consistent with [the Obama administration's] thrust towards transparency," Bass said.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Screengrabs of the new USASpending.gov, as provided by the Office of Management and Budget (See the day's other government headlines below):


What a search result page for the term "Boeing" might look like.


An agency-by-agency breakdown of federal spending for FY '09.


Users will be able to perform deeper searches of state-by-state data, like this map of Virginia.


Users will also be able to review each agency's spending.

In other news...

More Obama Nominees Announced: On Monday the president tapped Rafael Moure-Eraso to serve chair of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board; Mark A. Griffon as a member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board; Robert M. “Skipp” Orr as U.S. executive director of the Asian Development Bank; and Carl Wieman as associate director for science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Track all Obama nominees with The Post's Head Count.

Question of the Week: There's been a lot of talk -- and action -- lately regarding health insurance reform for the nation. If you're a federal worker, are you satisfied with the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program? What changes, if any, would you propose? E-mail your answers to federaleye@washingtonpost.com and include your full name, home town and the agency for which you work. Your answers might be used in Friday's Washington Post.

Cabinet and Staff News: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton defends criticisms of Israeli housing plan. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says any financial overhaul must protect consumers. Sizing up the Supreme Court after Justice John Paul Stevens retires. Pay Czar Kenneth Feinberg to review compensation at bailed-out firms.

CENSUS BUREAU:
Census doesn't want to know as much about you as you think: At least according to Post columnist Petula Dvorak.

CIA:
Ex-spies still agitated over CIA's Afghan losses: Nearly three months after an al-Qaeda double agent obliterated an important spy team in Afghanistan, veteran spies remain agitated over the incident and the agency’s seeming inability to fix longtime operational flaws.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
U-2 spy plane evades the day of retirement: Because of updates in the use of its powerful sensors, it has become the most sought-after spy craft in a very different war in Afghanistan.

Colonel to admit role in Iraq war corruption: A 26-year veteran of the U.S. Army is the latest and highest-ranking officer to plead guilty in a contractor-corruption scandal rising out of the Iraq War.

EPA:
EPA to issue stricter drinking-water standards: The agency is planning to tighten standards for four water contaminants that can cause cancer.

FDA:
FDA asks doctors to temporarily halt use of Rotarix vaccine:
It's a vaccine commonly given to children to protect them against the stomach bug rotavirus. Officials say it's contaminated with traces of a second virus.

STATE DEPARTMENT:
U.S. aims to bolster overseas fight against cybercrime: Officials at the State Department circulated a proposal to create an ambassador-like post that would take on such duties as negotiating cyber policy at the United Nations.

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By  | March 23, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Contracting, Eye Opener  
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Next: Dispelling stimulus myths ... what took so long?

Comments

Congress just passed the largest tax increase in the history of the United States but liberal pundits are recommending that Congress next enact a national sales tax (VAT).

Why not cut spending!

Posted by: mwhoke | March 23, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I hate to break this to your readers, but there's no way the relaunch is going to have subcontractor data.

As the GAO report points out (did you read it, "eye?") there is no conduit for the prime contractors/grantees to report subcontractor and subgrantee data...none.

OMB never established one. It does not exist.

Where is the data going to come from? Not the primes--and the agencies don't have it or won't easily have it.

I wonder how "soon" this will relaunch if the relaunch is going to contain sub-data. Two years?

Posted by: intheknow2 | March 23, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

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