The federal government is giving private citizens more ways to play with and visualize government spending data.

The Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service announced April 5, 2018, the release of its online Data Lab and update of its data transparency site,

“With Data Lab and USAspending, we further enhance the ability of citizens to examine and track federal spending data,” said Fiscal Service Commissioner Sheryl Morrow.

“One of the agency’s key goals is to promote the transparency of government spending and provide users with tools that make this data easy to access, navigate and use. With better data, we can make better decisions, and enable government to better serve all citizens. I am grateful for the dedication and incredible work from the USAspending and Data Lab teams.”

The federal government’s increased focus on spending data transparency began with the passage of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, requiring agencies to report their spending data in machine-readable format to be used in a governmentwide, public-facing portal.

All federal agencies were required to begin reporting their spending data on May 9, 2017, and Treasury launched the beta version of the site on the same day.

The new Data Lab gives the public various data visualization techniques for understanding federal bank accounts, contracts and budgets. The site also provides a breakdown for federal employee demographics and pay, as well as the United States’ homeless populations.

“We congratulate the Treasury’s Fiscal Service team and the Office of Management and Budget for the successful roll-out of the new DATA Act site,,” said Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Coalition.

“The revamped site and Data Lab provide greater insights, accountability and oversight into $3.98 trillion of government spending last year alone. We are encouraged by the progress and recognize that agencies must continue to improve the quality of their data submissions in accordance with the law’s requirements.”

Agencies have in the past struggled with the accuracy of the spending data reported under the DATA Act, with the inspectors general for NASA, the Department of Justice, Department of State and others finding errors in the information their agencies submitted.

The Department of Treasury and OMB have until May 9, 2018, to ensure that the spending data submitted under the act conforms to established data standards.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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