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Twenty-First Century Disclosure: Reinvent, Refocus, or Re-Fund?

BY Nick Judd | Monday, June 13 2011

Coming late to today's what-to-do-about-tracking-federal-spending party is OMB Watch, an organization that has long been a primary source of information on the story behind the story about how the government spends your money, which today released a letter signed by more than 30 transparency and good-government groups that implores the House of Representatives' appropriations committee to re-up the E-Government fund. That fund is the pool of money that finances initiatives like USASpending.gov and the Federal IT Dashboard.

The fund faces a cut in funding to $2 million from $34 million, which, other groups have previously pointed out, would probably stick a fork in ongoing efforts to develop new means of communicating online about the activities of government.

With White House and House oversight committee announcements today of new proposals concerning federal spending, different groups have now announced three directions on the table for federal disclosure, all on the same day.

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa wants to change the system through which federal agencies and recipients of federal funds report spending by the government, updating it to rely on electronic reporting — with the eventual possibility of real-time disclosure — and creating a new entity solely focused on tracking federal spending. That would digitize federal spending, come with its own $51 million annual appropriation, and supersede the transparency efforts the folks at OMB Watch are hoping stick around. The administration wants to create a similar federal entity but give it a more limited onus — streamline spending, reduce waste and increase efficiency across agencies, with attention paid to more sensible spending online, rather than track all federal spending in a totally new way as Issa's proposal would. And OMB Watch, which has yet to chime in on either of these initiatives — but surely will — reiterates the call to restore funding for the initiatives that were already there.

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