[Congressional Record: June 3, 2008 (Senate)]
[Page S4971-S4973]


      By Mr. REID (for Mr. Obama (for himself, Mr. Coburn, Mr. Carper, 
        and Mr. McCain)):
  S. 3077. A bill to strengthen transparency and accountability in 
Federal spending; to the Committee on Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs.
  Mr. OBAMA. I am proud today to introduce the Strengthening 
Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008. This 
important legislation will improve Government transparency and give the 
American people greater tools to track and monitor nearly $2 trillion 
of Government spending on contracts, grants, and other forms of 
  Throughout my time in public service, I have consistently fought to 
increase the openness and accessibility of Government and to encourage 
greater participation by people of all interests and backgrounds in 
public debates. One of the most important public debates is how 
Washington spends the people's money. Unfortunately, it has been far 
too difficult for ordinary citizens to see where, how, and why money is 
  Congress took a big step toward improving transparency two years ago 
when it passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act 
that I introduced with Senator Coburn. That bill, which created the 
public website USASpending.gov, makes information about nearly all 
Federal grants, contracts, loans and other financial assistance 
available to the public in a regularly updated, user-friendly, and 
searchable format. The website includes the names of entities receiving 
Federal awards, the amounts of the awards, information on the awards 
including transaction types, funding agencies, location, and other 
information. Soon the website will also include information about 
subcontracts and subgrants.
  Our work is not done however. The early success of USASpending.gov 
has demonstrated that additional public information should be made 
available. Whether you believe Government ought to spend more or spend 
less or just spend differently, we all should be able to agree that 
Government spending should be transparent and that public information 
ought to be accessible to the public. We should also be able to agree 
that the quality of Government financial data must be improved and made 
more reliable.
  Today I am pleased to be joined by Senators Coburn, Carper, and 
McCain on a bill to build upon USASpending.gov and further advance 
Government transparency. In addition to a few technical corrections, 
the bill we are introducing today will require the website to include 
additional public information, including a copy of each Federal 
contract in both PDF and searchable text format. The improved website 
will also include details about competitive bidding, the range of 
technically acceptable bids or proposals, the profit incentives offered 
for each contract, and the complete amount of money awarded, including 
any options to expand or extend under a contract.
  With this legislation, the website will also show if a Federal grant 
or contract is the result of an earmark as well as provide an 
assessment of the quality of work performed. Ordinary citizens will be 
able to use the website to find information about Federal audit 
disputes and resolutions, terminations of Federal awards, contractor 
and grantee tax compliance, suspensions and debarments, and 
administrative agreements involving Federal award recipients. The 
website can also be used to find information about any civil, criminal, 
or administrative actions taken against Federal award recipients, 
including for violations related to the workplace, environmental 
protection, fraud, securities, and consumer protections.
  Under the enhanced website, information about government lease 
agreements and assignments will be available in the same manner that 
information is reported for contracts and grants. Information about 
parent company ownership will also be available.
  In addition to improving the transparency and accessibility of public 
data, our bill will also improve the quality and usability of data that 
is made available. For one thing the data on USASpending.gov will be 
accessible through an application programming interface. The bill also 
requires the use of unique award identifiers that prevent the release 
of personally identifiable information. Finally, the bill creates a 
simple method for the public to report errors and track the performance 
of agencies in confirming or correcting errors while also requiring 
regular audits of data quality.
  People from every State in this great Nation sent us to Congress to 
defend their rights and stand up for their interests. To do that we 
have to tear down the barriers that separate citizens from the 
democratic process and to shine a brighter light on the inner workings 
of Washington.
  This bill helps to shine that light. It is simple common sense and 
good governance that has been endorsed by a diverse range of grassroots 
organizations and Government watchdog groups, including the American 
Association of Law Libraries, Americans for Democratic Action, 
Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress, the Center 
for Democracy & Technology, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in 
Washington, the Environmental Working Group, the Federation of American 
Scientists, the Government Accountability Project, the National 
Taxpayer Union, OMB Watch, OpenTheGovernment.org, POGO, Public Citizen, 
Sciencecorps, the Sunlight Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense 
Action, U.S. Action, and U.S. PIRG among others.
  This bill continues the bipartisan progress we have made opening up 
Washington to greater scrutiny and oversight. I am grateful for 
continued grassroots leadership on these issues and I appreciate the 
hard work of my Senate colleagues. Together I know we can change the 
way business is done in this town and make our Government more 
accountable to the people who sent us here to work for them. I urge 
support for this important legislation.