Home > Campaign for Stronger Democracy, Open Government, Transparency > Open Government Threatened by Budget Cuts

Open Government Threatened by Budget Cuts

March 23, 2011

To date, I have been surprised to hear little from the transparency community (aside from this note from OMB Watch) about how proposed federal budget cuts would impact open government. The House of Representatives’ proposed cuts to the FY11 budget seem to impact almost every other part of the democracy reform community — what about data access?

Today, a post from the Sunlight Foundation finally offers some insight into this question — and the news is alarming. It seems that much of the progress that the Obama Administration has made in open government over the past two years could be severely threatened by the budget cuts.

Data.gov, USASpending.gov, and other Obama tech innovations face virtual extinction if the FY 2011 budget bill passed by the House of Representatives in February or considered by the Senate in March becomes law. The funding source for these e-government initiatives is the Electronic Government Fund, a $34 million bucket of money that would be drained to $2 million for the remainder of this fiscal year. The House and Senate’s inability to agree on long-term budget legislation has kept these initiatives alive at FY 2010 levels.

Some projects facing defunding include the recently-launched cloud computing initiative, the information repository data.gov, the government-spending reporting site USASpending.gov, citizen engagement tools, and online collaboration tools. Altogether, six project areas apparently will be affected by the cuts. Vivek Kundra, the Federal CIO who is responsible for allocating the Electronic Government Fund, will have to make some very difficult choices. …

The returns from these e-government initiatives in terms of transparency are priceless. They will help the government operate more effectively and efficiently, thereby saving taxpayer money and aiding oversight. Although we have significant issues with some of these program’s data quality, and we are concerned that the government may be paying too much for the technology, there should be no doubt that we need the transparency they enable. For example, fully realized transparency would allow us to track every expense and truly understand how money — like that in the electronic government fund — flows to federal programs. Government spending and performance data must be available online, in real time, and in machine readable formats.

For those who are keeping score, this now means that the budget cuts threaten public media, national service, presidential public financing, civic education, net neutrality enforcement, immigrant civic integration and the US Census.

Visit our page on the budget cuts to learn more about how they threaten our democracy. And ten do something about it.



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