The first step in creating our transparent and connected democracy went live this morning. Everyone needs to check out the new Google for Government site (www.usaspending.gov). This site is the result of Obama-Coburn legislation and provides a searchable database of all federal spending. You can search either contracts or federal assistance and can search by recipients, congressional districts, types of products or services provided, type of competition, and a whole bunch of other criteria. The site also plans to have a wiki- forum for public comment.
I spent some time surfing around on the site this morning and it’s full of terrific data and amazingly user-friendly. In fact, it was kind of shocking that nothing similar had been available until now. Were I a reporter, I’d be having a field day. In the long line of open government attempts, this one is sure to be a milestone in using the internet to make government more transparent.
To cite just a few things I found with one or two clicks: unsurprisingly, the top four recipients of government largesse are military contractors; there have been $138 billion worth of no-bid contracts under Bush; and various agencies within the California education system dominate the top-tier of the government assistance list. But surely others will find more surprising and specific details with a little more poking around (and if anyone does find real eye-openers, please post them here so we can offer better examples of what the site can reveal).
The bottom line is that the tech plan is more than paper, it’s happening. It’s a good example to show others that this campaign doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk.
Don't forget to note that, in the spirit of the Decider-In-Chief, there's a nice warning at the bottom of the page:
WARNING: This is a United States Federal Government computer system that is "FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY." This system is subject to monitoring. Therefore, no expectation of privacy is to be assumed. Individuals found performing unauthorized activities are subject to disciplinary action including criminal prosecution. Click here for more information.
This was also an effort of the Sunlight Foundation, who I adore just about as much as I adore Google.