Inside the Reporter's Notebook: DATA Act substitute minus accountability provisions; OFPP testing prices paid portal

Monday - 11/4/2013, 4:51am EST

"Inside the Reporter's Notebook," is a bi-weekly dispatch of news and information you may have missed or that slipped through the cracks at conferences, hearings and the like.

This is not a column nor commentary — it's news tidbits, strongly sourced buzz and other items of interest that have happened or are happening in the federal IT and acquisition communities.

As always, I encourage you to submit ideas, suggestions, and, of course, news to me at jpmiller@federalnewsradio.com .


A new version of the DATA Act would be starkly different than the House's version, especially in the area of accountability.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is expected to debate a new version of the bill Wednesday.

The amendment in the nature of a substitute would remove the accountability platform called for in previous versions. This is the biggest problem with the new version, said Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition.

"Without the accountability platform, there will be no mechanism for inspectors general to use the newly-standardized federal spending data, combined with public and private data sources, to suss out waste and fraud," he said in email comments shared with Federal News Radio. "If the final version of the bill fails to expand the Recovery Operations Center to cover all federal spending, taxpayers' interests will be hurt in two ways. First, waste and fraud that could have been illuminated and eliminated will go undetected. Second — and perhaps more important — without any internal government effort to use the newly-standardized spending data for any purpose, there will be no internal pressure to improve the quality of data published on USASpending.gov. We recognize that the accountability platform was removed in order to reduce the bill's Congressional Budget Office score. We hope that an offset large enough to restore those provisions can be included in the bill at a later stage."

Hollister, who wrote the original DATA Act in 2011 before starting up the association, said he's also concerned about the removal of changes to the Federal Financial Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA). He said the law needs to change to recognize the Treasury Department now oversees USASpending.gov.

Additionally, he said the amendment would make the Office of Management and Budget responsible for the pilot program around recipient reporting, which also is a bad idea.

"We believe that OMB should not be assigned any direct execution under the DATA Act — both because of the conflict inherent between execution and governmentwide management and because of OMB's track record with USASpending.gov and the subaward reporting requirement," he said. "OMB makes no effort to enforce the subaward reporting requirement. Judging from the proportion of total contract amounts reported to total subcontract accounts reporting in recent years, most prime recipients simply do not comply. Instead, responsibilities for reporting should be assigned to the Recovery Board, Treasury, or a Recovery Board successor aligned with Treasury."

Hollister said there are plenty of good things about the amendment, including clarity and conciseness around data standards.


F rom the file of Missed This #1…the Homeland Security Department is exploring how to recompete its contract to run its data centers.

DHS issued a request for information Sept. 30 to determine capabilities to provide enterprise computing services.

"DHS seeks a new IT business paradigm, based on services and consumption pricing models, to replace the traditional data center hosting structure and square foot consumption pricing model, which will ensure an efficient and effective streamlined transition, over time, from the legacy data center hosting approach," the RFI stated.

"DHS expects responses to this RFI will provide a better understanding of the feasibility and affordability of potential ideas for delivery of services from the enterprise data center channel (EDC)."

DHS currently uses two data center facilities, one of which is contractor owned and operated. CSC runs one of their data centers at NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi under a $390 million deal awarded in 2008. HP runs the other facility located in Clarksville, Va., under a $820 million deal awarded in 2007.

The contract for the non-government data center expires in June 2015.

"Through market research over the past months, DHS Enterprise Data Center (ECS) team has learned of several creative solutions for providing EDC services," the RFI stated. "DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer is seeking additional strategic information on advances in the industry that may be critical to maximizing the utility, flexibility and adaptability while providing innovative cost effective solutions that mitigate risk and meet the EDC requirement."