Sunlight grantee OMB Watch is celebrating the first anniversary of their FedSpending.org, a searchable database of almost $17 trillion in federal spending. It’s been a big hit, and we want to congratulate our colleagues at OMB Watch for their success. FedSpending.org is a perfect example of transparency in action. It has complete federal government annual data from FY 2000 through FY 2006, and partial data available for FY 2007. It has become the standard for online disclosure of government contracts and grants. For citizens and patriots, snoops, muckrakers, and journalists its become a must. What a service! Coinciding with the anniversary, OMB Watch is releasing new, improved, and even more powerful features of the database. They also have made what they call "major functionality improvements," that includes a "mapping feature on all searches," a "SuperSearch" function for all advanced searching, and other user-friendly functions. With the new features, it appears they are closing in on a warp drive for governmental research and transparency.
FedSpending.org was one of Sunlight’s first grantees. Before OMB Watch launched the service there was no other comprehensive, searchable, publicly available, Web site of federal grants and contracts — free of charge. The demand for this information has been huge! Individuals accessing FedSpending.org have undertaken 5 million searches. It has become a reliable source for bloggers and reporters, who have cumulatively cited it nearly 600 times in the past year alone. In fact, the Office of Management and Budget, which is charged by the recently passed disclosure law to put information on all government contracts and grants online in a searchable, sortable form, has taken FedSpending.org as its model. The government database that will ultimately be built will have at least the level of disclosure that FedSpending.org offers and will have a user interface based on the FedSpending.org model and APIs. Use of the site by citizens and reporters has revealed previously unknown instances of how the federal government has mismanaged federal contracts and data. By bringing to light previously unknown long-standing government practices in need of reform, we are normalizing demand for such information and cultivating a civic culture that expects greater transparency about the actions of lawmakers.
One of Sunlight’s first goals was to digitize information about the work of Congress and make it available through the Internet to make it more accessible to the American people. Transparency means something very different in the 21st century than it’s meant before. The Sunlight Foundation sees itself as a catalyst to create greater political transparency and to foster more openness and accountability in government. We are proud that OMB Watch’s FedSpending.org is succeeding at these goals. Again…We extend our congratulations to our friends at OMB Watch. Congratulations on a great and ever improving innovative service for democracy.