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Archive for February 19th, 2009

Tracking — many questions from agencies … and Virginia’s stimulus Web portal garners 1,861 suggestions

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UPDATE 11a on 02.19.2009: OMB has posted its guidance, Initial Implementing Guidance for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. I have posted the OMB guidance after the break. OMB also has the PDF posted here.

Many people have been watching Web site — the Web site where one can track how the money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the stimulus bill — is spent. But there are a ton o’ questions from agencies about how this will actually work. Remember — this has never been done before.

The President seemed to acknowledge that and recognize that this isn’t necessarily easy. From the White House Web site:

“What I am signing is a balanced plan with a mix of tax cuts and investments. It is a plan that’s been put together without earmarks or the usual pork barrel spending. And it is a plan that will be implemented with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability,” President Obama said before signing the bill into law. “And we expect you, the American people, to hold us accountable for the results. That is why we have created – so every American can go online and see how their money is being spent.”

That site,, is now live. You can go there to see projections — based on language in the legislation — of where your money will go, broken down state-by-state. And over the coming weeks and months, as the funds start to go out, you’ll be able to see far more detailed information.

It’s just the beginning of a long process, of course — on Air Force One today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called it “a strong start towards economic viability.”

The Office of Management and Budget has sent out draft implementation guidance — initial guidance about how agencies actually have data in a consistent form so it can appear on the Web site. And there is a telephone conference call today with the Office of Management and Budget further detailing those questions. And, as I say, there are a whole lot of questions.

Just to reiterate — this has never been done before. And from what I understand most agencies simply don’t have information in a form where it can just be posted.

I have reached out to OMB and told them that Federal News Radio 1500 AM would love to help them get this information out to agencies. I’m also reaching out to some people I know that deal with transparency and making data public. If you know somebody who can help agencies, let me know. We’d love to talk to them. And did I mention there are a ton o’ questions out there about how to actually do this. Also, if you post some of those questions, I’ll make sure we get answers.

Meanwhile, the site is getting a whole lot of attention. In fact, I’d love to get traffic numbers. I’d bet that it is getting much more traffic then gets — is the Web site that was required by the law passed by then Sen. Obama and Sen. Coburn that is supposed to be the “Google of government spending.” Unfortunately has never really garnered all that much attention. And the site has been frustrating to some because it doesn’t really make the core data available so people can crunch it for themselves. That being said, it is an interesting an innovative start — and it was launched very quickly. And — it wasn’t easy.

recoverygovusaspendinggov_uvThat being said, according to , which taps into page views, has had 236,268 compared to which has 20,291. No, this isn’t a totally fair comparison because is brand new — and it is getting a lot of attention. We’ll check back.

Two other items…

Others are working on this too. blogger Julian Sanchez notes that there are a number of unofficial online efforts working to monitor the stimulus legislation. One is — and earlier this month on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke with the person who created the site, Jerry Brito. You can hear that conversation here.

And remember that I told you about Virginia’s portal where people can go look at projects — and suggest their own or rate others. In about a week, they have already had 1,861 suggestions.

Finally, Nancy Scola over at the Personal Democracy Forum’s has a list of what on — and what’s not.

Some of her recommendations for what should be on the site:

A Responsible Party. The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board which will oversee, hasn’t been formed yet. So, email away! But know that there isn’t really yet anyone on the receiving end.

Data. Data. Data. Of course, with the act three hours old, there just isn’t much yet. That said, whether will give open-government advocates the raw data that they’re hungering for is still an open question. The site is, thus far, populated by the shiny consumer-end charts. A that’s good start, but no replacement, advocates say, for raw XML data then can then use for mash-ups and number crunching.

Read her full post here.

Again, if you know anybody who can help agencies — and the White House — flesh out these issues, let me know. We’d love to chat with them on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris .

Read OMB’s Initial Implementing Guidance for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009… after the break.

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Written by cdorobek

February 19, 2009 at 8:52 AM