Ah, The Value of Databases


Not much attention was paid to a new report issued by Rep. Henry Waxman on government contracting. 

Bottom line? The value of federal contracts has grown 86 percent between 2000 and 2005, going from $203 billion in 2000 to $377.5 billion. Waxman’s team studied more than 500 sources, including government and independent agency reports, audits, and investigations to prepare the report. Waxman’s staff also interviewed government procurement experts and relied on data from the Federal Procurement Data System to reach its conclusions, the report said. Sounds like pretty thorough research to me.

I can’t find the answer to how long it took Waxman’s team to do this study. But whatever it took, imagine how much faster it would have been  if all government contracts and grants were reported on line in a searchable format on a regular basis. As important, it would mean that anyone could monitor how much is being spent and who’s getting the lion’s share of the money on a regular, ongoing basis. And that would mean watchdogging government on an ongoing basis.

Congress has turned aside several opportunities in the last couple of weeks to require just this kind of disclosure. So, Sunight’s early hunch to fund such a database was right one. We stepped up early and made a grant to OMB Watch for that purpose. Watch for it early in October. And here’s an opportunity. OMB Watch is looking for a few beta testers in August  — so if you’re interested let them or us, know.

Meanwhile here are some of the key findings from the Waxman report:

"Procurement spending is highly concentrated on a few large contractors, with the five largest federal contractors–all defense contractors–receiving over 20 percent of the contract dollars awarded in 2005. Halliburton, the largest federal contractor in Iraq, is the fastest growing contractor under the Bush administration, with its government contract dollars increasing by 600 percent between 2000 and 2005."

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