Sen. Warner urges new agency leadership to ‘prioritize’ DATA Act implementation

While new secretaries and agency heads are settling into their roles under the Trump administration, a Virginia senator is reminding them of an Obama-era obligation for financial transparency.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent letters to 24 chief financial officer agencies on Friday, urging leadership to “prioritize efforts” to comply with the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act.

“Once fully implemented, [the DATA Act] will represent a key step in making government more transparent, accessible and accountable by transforming federal spending information into open data,” Warner said, adding “if carried out well [it] will assist you in efforts to ensure that your agency is well-managed and providing transparency and accountability to taxpayers.”

Warner, an original backer of the DATA Act, asked five questions to agency leaders about their progress toward the May 2017 implementation deadline. The questions are:

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  • What resources do you anticipate your agency requiring to implement the law?
  • Do you anticipate meeting the May 2017 roll out deadline?
  • What challenges has your agency confronted to date, or do you anticipate confronting, in implementing the law?
  • How has implementation of the DATA Act fit in to your wider IT systems modernization efforts?
  • As you move forward with implementation, what assistance from congressional supporters of the DATA Act would be most helpful to your agency?

The Treasury Department and Office of Management and Budget are leading the DATA Act implementation.

In November, OMB published guidance that details reporting certain types of federal financial assistance and awards.

It was the latest in a series of OMB memos and updates for agencies. Officials with OMB and Treasury have defended the progress toward full adoption, while GAO auditors have repeatedly warned that the federal spending standardization could fall behind if agencies don’t get in line with the legislation’s requirements.

Warner sent a letter to several agencies in January, saying he had concerns about “progress and subsequent ability to meet the upcoming deadline in May.”

In Warner’s most recent letter, he highlighted that the DATA Act “represents a significant opportunity to improve internal agency governance and management, better allocate resources, and leverage data to inform policy-making and financial decision-making.”

“The DATA Act has also served as an impetus for long-overdue IT modernization efforts across a number of federal agencies,” Warner said. “As you oversee the numerous priorities facing your agency, I encourage you to see modernization efforts necessary to facilitate compliance with the statutory deadline as consistent with the new Administration’s professed commitment to updating IT across federal agencies.”