This week, the wait continues for House Democrats requesting access to President Donald Trump’s tax returns, the president’s sister retires as a federal judge amid an ongoing investigation and CNN totals the spending by the Department of Defense at Trump-branded properties.Continue reading
OpenGov Voices: Telling open data stories about military history with data.mil
Earlier this month, the Department of Defense launched a new open government data platform, data.mil. Above, you can see a... View ArticleContinue reading
The Department of Defense should never be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act
Sunlight has opposed using the NDAA as a vehicle for weakening FOIA before, but we're now calling attention to one of the most ridiculous proposals we've seen in recent history.Continue reading
Good Jobs First identifies government’s favorite corporations
Good Jobs First's Subsidy Tracker 3.0 is an amazing resource that sheds light on the benefits corporations derive from government — and a reminder that who benefits from Washington largesse isn't always obvious.Continue reading
Federal open data audit: Defense downright dismal, Interior immense yet imperfect
As we audit the public data catalogs of federal agencies, we found a wide variety in quantity and quality of data. Here, we look at the departments of Defense and the Interior.Continue reading
Open data inventories, ready for human consumption
Federal agencies have released listings of their complete public data sets in machine-readable files. Now, thanks to the work of Sunlight, you can also explore — and download — most of these listings in human-friendly format.Continue reading
They Don’t Know How to Spell Transparency at DoD
In its May issue, Conde Nast's Portfolio.com has an unbelievable story about continued financial bumbling by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Despite spending tens of billions of dollars over the past four years to upgrade its accounting software, the military's business systems are as unreliable as ever. DoD's systems are "so obsolete and error prone" that it doesn't know where large chunks of its $439.3 billion (2007) annual basic budget goes. And that figure doesn't include the vast sums being spent in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to the report, the agency's accounting is so dysfunctional it's impossible for DoD to comply with an 18-year-old requirement by Congress to audit its books. What results is a system that once payments are authorized and money is transferred, there is no reliable way to trace where it ends up. The Portfolio.com article echoes a February article by The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer that profiled DoD's "labyrinth of arcane and incompatible accounting systems." The News & Observer notes that the accounting problems are not new, and quotes Winslow Wheeler, a project director at the Center for Defense Information, as saying if DoD were a public company, "...it would have gone belly up before World War II."Continue reading
How Little Anyone Knows About Government Contracting…and Why It Matters
Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a troubling report on the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) hiring of private contractors to assist in its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It really illustrates how little we know about government contracting and why the lack of transparency is a problem.
Imagine this. DoD doesn't even know how many private contractors it has on the payroll. AP reports that a senior defense official, in congressional testimony last month, estimated that there are about the same number of private contractors in each of the two war zones as there are American troops, 163,000 in Iraq and 36,500 in Afghanistan. But no one apparently knows for sure. The GAO found that private contractors outnumber DoD employees in some offices, and handle sensitive jobs like writing contracts and awarding fees.Continue reading
Public Accountability Is Going Down
File this under "Two steps forward, one step back."
Secrecy News highlights a change in disclosure policy by several federal defense intelligence agencies in anticipation of last week's launching of USAspending.gov. Claiming that online disclosure of their unclassified contracts would compromise security, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) asked the Department of Defense for and received permission to keep the documents secret. "I appreciate your concerns that reporting these actions to the publicly accessible website could provide unacceptable risk of insight to your individual missions and budgets," wrote Shay D. Assad of the Under Secretary of Defense in a December 7 memorandum (pdf). "But when it comes to intelligence spending, there will actually be a net loss of public information because categories of intelligence contracting data that were previously disclosed will now be withheld," writes Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News editor.Continue reading