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Sen. Warner calls for ‘deliberate speed’ in agencies’ DATA Act rollout

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is doubling down on his concern over some agencies and their efforts to roll out the DATA Act.

In Jan. 18 letters obtained by Federal News Radio and sent to several of the 24 CFO Act agencies, Warner, an original backer of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, said he has concerns about “progress and subsequent ability to meet the upcoming deadline in May.”

“Lapses in DATA Act implementation, such as submission of inaccurate, incomplete, and especially poor quality data, can create government-wide complications,” Warner said in his letters to the departments of Veterans Affairs, Interior, Defense, Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The letters to the five agencies are similar, except for a line about submission of initial and updated implementation plans. While three sent their work to Warner, the submission of those plans was not mentioned in the letters to Interior and VA.

“Data quality is an important signal of the extent to which agencies are complying with both the letter and spirit of the law. I understand that delays and changes to government-wide guidance may have hampered this effort in the past,” Warner said in the letters. “However, comprehensive technical guidance was issued in April of 2016 by [the Office of Management and Budget]. Thus, you now must move forward with deliberate speed to implement the law in the way that it was envisioned.”

Issues with agency readiness have been regularly voiced for the past year, from Warner, oversight groups, as well as agencies themselves.

During AGA’s Jan. 13 Financial Systems Summit in Washington, officials with the Justice Department, Department of Agriculture and HUD said they were dealing with hiccups as they work to standardize their spending data.

OMB and Treasury are leading the effort.

Renata Maziarz, senior policy analyst at Treasury, said agencies that have been having the most success are ones with a good governance structure, and are focused on the data, not just the technology needed to report it.

In his letter, Warner said he understood that agencies face “myriad challenges” in DATA Act implementation, along with handling a transition to a new administration.

“However, as we move into 2017, and enter the finals months leading to the implementation deadline, I urge you and your staff to continue to prioritize this essential effort, which will ultimately improve agency administration and governance at all levels,” Warner said.

In March 2016, Warner told Federal News Radio in an interview that he was “cautiously optimistic” about keeping the rollout on the front burner, even during the election season.

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