OMB releases IT Dashboard, TechStat code amid program funding uncertainty

Tools

The Office of Management and Budget has released the open source software code behind the IT Dashboard.

According to a March 31 OMB blog post from Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, the code was released in order to leverage OSS developers for site enhancements and provide a framework for other government CIOs to lead similar efforts. OBM released the code, which can be downloaded here, with the help of code-sharing non-profit Civic Commons.

"CIOs from across the country and around the world such as Maarten Hillenaar of the Netherlands, Kyle Schafer in West Virginia and Jason DeHaan of the City of Chicago are all interested in implementing these platforms in their respective organizations," wrote Kundra.

Some speculate another reason for the code release, which was not outlined in Kundra's blog post, is that funding for the dashboard is at risk of a significant decrease. While Congress appropriated $34 million in fiscal 2010 for the e-government fund--which also funds sites such as data.govpaymentaccuracy.govusaspending.gov and apps.gov in addition to the IT dashboard--the Republican-led House of Representatives wants to appropriate the fund just $2 million for the current fiscal year. 

The House approved in February a bill, H.R. 1, that makes $61 billion in cuts for the current fiscal year against fiscal 2010 amounts. Congress so far has refused to approve a spending bill that would fund agencies for their entire fiscal year, as is generally traditional, opting instead to pass a series of short term measures called continuing resolutions that have funded the government for just a few weeks or months. 

Because spending under a continuing resolution can't exceed the ultimate amount appropriated by Congress--that would be a violation of the Antideficiency Act--watchdogs have publically worried that funding for the OMB websites could run out.

In a letter to Congress, the Sunlight Foundation implored lawmakers not to let transparency projects fall by the wayside.

"An open and accountable government is a prerequisite for democracy. Keeping these programs alive would cost a mere pittance when compared to the value of bringing the federal government into the sunlight," said the March 28 letter.

Some OMB websites might exhibit greater durability in the face of uncertain funding than others, however. USAspending.gov, for example, is the result of a congressional mandate found in the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. That bill was sponsored by then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and the still-serving Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). 

Also, many have criticized the effectiveness of many OMB websites in promoting accountability, calling into question the accuracy of the data being pulled into data.gov from other government sites. Among the critics, the Sunlight Foundation has charged that data.gov "isn't living up to expectations, or even keeping in line with public statements."

For more: 
- see the code release
- see the OMB blog post
- see the H.R. 1 bill (.pdf)
- see Sunlight Foundation's letter to Congress

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