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United States

Open Contracting (US0099)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Open Contracting and Procurement, Open Data, Private Sector, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

The United States Government is the world’s largest buyer of goods and services. Ensuring public access to information about government procurement not only promotes transparency and accountability but also allows for more efficient and effective contracting practices across Federal agencies. In 2016, Vice President Biden committed the United States to promoting the Open Contracting Data Standard that enables disclosure of data and documents at all stages of the contracting process by defining a common data model. In support of open contracting, the United States will: Harness the Expertise of Contracting Professionals to Improve Contracting Data: The Administration will convene contracting officers from across government agencies to hear about their experiences with contracting data including data quality, accessing existing data, and engaging with users of that data to inform updates to USAspending.gov. Additionally, the Interagency Open Data Working Group will form an Open Contracting Data subgroup to explore, among other things, better ways to link preaward information with post-award spending data. Make Government Contracting More Approachable for Small Businesses: To ensure that small businesses can access and use the contracting data they need, the Small Business Administration and Department of Treasury will reach out to small business owners to better understand what types of contracting data are most useful to them. The Small Business Administration will also update its existing Government Contracting Classroom website with additional training to help small businesses navigate the various steps of the contracting world including training and certification

IRM Midterm Status Summary

This commitment was not assessed in the midterm IRM report.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 47. Open Contracting

Commitment Text:

Support Open Contracting

The United States Government is the world’s largest buyer of goods and services. Ensuring public access to information about government procurement not only promotes transparency and accountability but also allows for more efficient and effective contracting practices across Federal agencies. In 2016, Vice President Biden committed the United States to promoting the Open Contracting Data Standard that enables disclosure of data and documents at all stages of the contracting process by defining a common data model. In support of open contracting, the United States will:

  • Harness the Expertise of Contracting Professionals to Improve Contracting Data: The Administration will convene contracting officers from across government agencies to hear about their experiences with contracting data including data quality, accessing existing data, and engaging with users of that data to inform updates to USAspending.gov. Additionally, the Interagency Open Data Working Group will form an Open Contracting Data subgroup to explore, among other things, better ways to link pre-award information with post-award spending data.
  • Make Government Contracting More Approachable for Small Businesses: To ensure that small businesses can access and use the contracting data they need, the Small Business Administration and Department of Treasury will reach out to small business owners to better understand what types of contracting data are most useful to them. The Small Business Administration will also update its existing Government Contracting Classroom website with additional training to help small businesses navigate the various steps of the contracting world including training and certification.

Responsible Institution: Not Specified

Supporting Institution: Not Specified

Start Date: Not Specified ....... End Date: Not Specified

Editorial Note: Completion at the midterm is not assessed for this commitment because it was submitted to OGP in September 2016 following the close of the midterm reporting period; progress for this commitment is therefore assessed from September 2016 onwards in the sections below.

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed for the US government to broaden public access to information on federal procurement, with the goal of promoting more efficient and effective contracting processes across federal agencies. The commitment envisioned two main sets of activities:

  • The US government expected to convene an interagency group of contracting officials to solicit information about their experiences with the quality and accessibility of contracting data, and to use that information to inform USAspending.gov platform updates. The US government also committed to establish an Open Contracting Data Subgroup and to be housed under the Interagency Open Data Working Group, with the goal of exploring how to better link pre-award information with post-award spending data.
  • The Department of Treasury’s Small Business Administration proposed engaging with small business owners to better understand the usefulness of contracting data from the perspective of small business, with the goal of facilitating greater access to and use of relevant contracting data. Relatedly, the US Small Business Administration committed to update its Government Contracting Classroom Website to include additional training that helps small businesses navigate contracting processes, including training and certification.

The commitment’s two milestones have clear relevance for the OGP values of access to information—due to the emphasis on improving information on contract awards and spending and updating the Government Contracting Classroom website—as well as civic participation, in light of the government’s intended outreach to contracting data users and small business owners under each milestone. The two milestones are also relevant for the OGP value of technology and innovation due to the intended updating of USAspending.gov and the Government Contracting Classroom. Both milestones have medium specificity: while each outlines a relatively clear and measurable set of activities, they leave undefined the scope of engagements with data users and the specific types of contracting data to be examined, as well as the scope of updates that are envisioned for the Government Contracting Classroom.

The magnitude of federal contracting opportunities is substantial: in fiscal year 2015, the most recent year for which data was available at the time of writing, the US Government Accountability Office found that federal agencies obligated over $430 billion through contracting opportunities for both products and services. [640] In this context, greater transparency of contracting data is an important objective, especially as civil society has called for greater disclosure of contracting documents, such as proposals and actual contracts, as well as greater links between solicitation information and post-award data. [641]

Still, if fully implemented, the milestones as written, as well as the overall commitment, are expected to have a minor impact, because they focus mostly on preliminary consultations, rather than on improving the quality or accessibility of contracting data. While the commitment does incorporate activities explicitly recommended by civil society—such as engaging the public on open contracting [642] and focusing on the needs of small businesses [643]—the commitment does not feature other more transformative proposals made by civil society. For example, the commitment does not include specific mechanisms by which the US government will implement the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS), a key open data standard for linking contracting data that was heavily recommended by civil society. [644] In the absence of specific activities to pilot the OCDS at an agency or other clear steps to improve the transparency of contracting information, the commitment as written cannot be expected to make federal contracting significantly more efficient and effective.

Status

End of term: Limited

With respect to Milestone 47.1, there is no visible evidence that the Interagency Open Data Working Group formed an Open Contracting Data subgroup to convene contracting officers across government to discuss contracting data, as stipulated by the milestone. At the close of the end of term, the Interagency Open Data Working Group website did not list any information about subgroups. [645] There was also no information about this subgroup in either the general US Open Government Google Group [646] or the Open Government and Technology Google Group that is used to distribute updates about the Working Group and send invitations for its quarterly open meetings. [647] Moreover, at the quarterly open meeting of the Open Government Interagency Working Group held on 30 May 2017, the government representatives present were not aware of a contracting subgroup. [648]

The government did consult data users as part of the revamp of USAspending.gov. However, this took place mostly under the framework of Commitment 32. Increase Transparency in Spending. For more details on this engagement, please consult this report’s analysis of that commitment. Given the absence of evidence to confirm the bulk of the activities—the creation of the Open Contracting Data subgroup and convening of contracting officers across government—Milestone 47.1 is considered to have limited progress.

As for making government contracting more approachable for small businesses (Milestone 47.2), there was limited progress by the end of term. First, there is no visible evidence of greater engagement with small businesses to understand their contracting data needs. The Open Government page [649] of the US Small Business Administration (SBA) does not make any reference to progress on this engagement, nor does the SBA 2016 Open Government Report. [650]

Second, there was little progress on the update to the SBA’s Government Contracting Classroom website by the end of term. Between the start of this commitment in September 2016 and the close of the action plan in July 2017, there was only one new 30-minute course added to the virtual classroom on the SBA’s All Small Mentor-Protégé Program, increasing the total number of virtual courses from 23 to 24. [651] A more significant revamp of the website took place in March 2018, which led to the addition of nearly 40 courses and a more user-friendly interface. [652] However, this took place well after the end of the action plan, and so it does not count for completion as part of this commitment.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Civic Participation: Marginal

Given the absence of substantial progress on this commitment, the US government did not achieve a major change in its level of openness. In terms of access to information, the only improvement during the reporting period was an additional course for small businesses on the SBA website. As for civic participation, the government consulted data users through the beta version of USASpending.gov, which included opportunities to chat with government officials, propose features, and discuss recent changes. However, as explained above, this took place mostly under the framework of Commitment 32. Increase Transparency in Spending. For more information about this engagement, please see the corresponding section in this report.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this commitment will be carried forward. The government should nevertheless continue its efforts to make the US contracting system more transparent for businesses of all sizes to promote the more effective and efficient allocation of government resources. Specifically, in line with civil society recommendations, the US government could propose specific steps to implement the Open Contracting Data Standard, such as piloting the approach at a federal agency and expanding open contracting to the state and local levels.

[640]  US Government Accountability Office.  “Contracting Data Analysis: Assessment of Government-Wide Trends.” March 2017. http://www.gao.gov/assets/690/683273.pdf. Consulted 8 October 2017.

[641] Hayman, Gavin. “How the US government’s spending transparency tools can better serve users.” Open Contracting Partnership. 6 June 2016. https://www.open-contracting.org/2016/06/06/u-s-governments-spending-transparency-tools-can-better-serve-users/

[642] Macdonald, Ruairi. “US OGP National Action Plan 3.1: Next steps to open US government contracting.” Open Contracting Partnership. 29 October 2015. https://www.open-contracting.org/2015/10/29/next_steps_to_open_us_government_contracting/

[643] Hayman, Gavin. “How the US government’s spending transparency tools can better serve users.” Open Contracting Partnership. 6 June 2016. https://www.open-contracting.org/2016/06/06/u-s-governments-spending-transparency-tools-can-better-serve-users/

[644] Open Government Partnership “Civil Society Model Commitments for the Third US National Action Plan. ”.September 2015. https://bit.ly/2pLSPPz

[645] Project Open Data, “Join the Interagency Open Data Working Group,” https://project-open-data.cio.gov/working-group/

[646] US Open Government Google Group, https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/us-open-government

[647] Open Government and Technology Google Group, https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/opengovtech

[648] US Open Government Google Group. “Notes from the 5/30 OpenGov Interagency Working Group Meeting.” https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/us-open-government/7HpRMKk5AOY

[649] U.S. Small Business Administration. “About the SBA:. Open Government. ”  https://www.sba.gov/about-sba/sba-performance/open-government

[650] U.S. Small Business Administration. “Open Government Report 2016.” https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/aboutsbaarticle/SBA_Open_Government_Report_2016.pdf

[651] This information was verified by comparing an archived version of the Government Contracting Classroom website from 23 September 2016 (available here: https://bit.ly/2GAUaT1) and one from 5 July 2017 (available here: https://bit.ly/2GE0NUE). 

[652] U.S. Small Business Administration, “Learning Center. ” https://www.sba.gov/learning-center


Commitments

  1. Federal Data Strategy

    US0105, 2019, E-Government

  2. Grants Accountability

    US0106, 2019, E-Government

  3. Public Access to Federally Funded Research

    US0107, 2019, E-Government

  4. Workforce Data Standards

    US0108, 2019, E-Government

  5. Chief Data Officers

    US0109, 2019, Capacity Building

  6. Open Data for Public Health

    US0110, 2019, E-Government

  7. Enterprise Objective

    US0111, 2019, Capacity Building

  8. Developing Future Action Plans

    US0112, 2019, Public Participation

  9. Reconstitution of the USA.gov

    US0053, 2015, E-Government

  10. Accessibility of Government Information Online

    US0054, 2015, Marginalized Communities

  11. Access to Educational Resources

    US0055, 2015, Open Data

  12. Public Listing of Every Address in the US

    US0056, 2015, Open Data

  13. Informed Decisions About Higher Education.

    US0057, 2015, Open Data

  14. New Authentication Tools to Protect Individual Privacy and Ensure That Personal Records Go Only to the Intended Recipients.

    US0058, 2015, Public Service Delivery

  15. Transparency of Open311

    US0059, 2015, E-Government

  16. Support Medicine Research Throught Opening up Relevant Data of the Field

    US0060, 2015, Health

  17. Access to Workforce Data

    US0061, 2015, Open Data

  18. Using Evidence and Concrete Data to Improve Public Service Delivery

    US0062, 2015, Capacity Building

  19. Expand Use of the Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard

    US0063, 2015,

  20. Consolidation of Import and Export Systems

    US0064, 2015, E-Government

  21. Improving Government Records

    US0065, 2015, Open Data

  22. Starred commitment Ammendments to FOIA

    US0066, 2015, Open Data

  23. Streamline the Declassification Process

    US0067, 2015, Capacity Building

  24. Implement the Controlled Unclassified Information Program

    US0068, 2015, Open Data

  25. Transparency of Privacy Programs and Practices

    US0069, 2015, Capacity Building

  26. Transparency of Federal Use of Investigative Technologies

    US0070, 2015, E-Government

  27. Increase Transparency of the Intelligence Community

    US0071, 2015, Capacity Building

  28. Starred commitment Open Science Through Open Data

    US0072, 2015, Open Data

  29. Open Data Portal

    US0073, 2015, E-Government

  30. Increase Transparency of Trade Policy and Negotiations

    US0074, 2015, E-Government

  31. Develop a Machine Readable Government Organizational Chart

    US0075, 2015, E-Government

  32. Improving Public Participation

    US0076, 2015, Public Participation

  33. Expand Public Participation in the Development of Regulations

    US0077, 2015, Public Participation

  34. Civic Engagement in Decision-Making Processes

    US0078, 2015, Public Participation

  35. Open Mapping

    US0079, 2015, E-Government

  36. Tracking OGP Implementation

    US0080, 2015,

  37. Strengthening Whistleblower Protection

    US0081, 2015, Capacity Building

  38. Transparency of Legal Entities

    US0082, 2015, Beneficial Ownership

  39. Extractive Industries Transparency

    US0083, 2015, Extractive Industries

  40. Spending Transparency

    US0084, 2015, E-Government

  41. Enhance the Use of U.S. Foreign Assistance Information

    US0085, 2015, Aid

  42. Participatory Budgets and Responsive Spending

    US0086, 2015, Participation in Budget Processes

  43. Expand Access to Justice to Promote Federal Programs

    US0087, 2015, E-Government

  44. Starred commitment Build Safer Communities with Police Open Data

    US0088, 2015, E-Government

  45. Open Federal Data to Benefit Local Communities

    US0089, 2015, E-Government

  46. Support the Municipal Data Network

    US0090, 2015, E-Government

  47. Foster Data Ecosystems

    US0091, 2015, Capacity Building

  48. Extend Digital, Data-Driven Government to Federal Government’S Support for Communities

    US0092, 2015, Capacity Building

  49. Promote Implementation of SDGs

    US0093, 2015, Open Data

  50. Starred commitment Promote Open Climate Data

    US0094, 2015, E-Government

  51. Air Quality Data Available

    US0095, 2015, E-Government

  52. Promote Food Security and Data Sharing for Agriculture and Nutrition

    US0096, 2015, Capacity Building

  53. Promote Data Sharing About Global Preparedness for Epidemic Threats

    US0097, 2015, Capacity Building

  54. Promote Global Interconnectivity

    US0098, 2015, Aid

  55. Open Contracting

    US0099, 2015, Capacity Building

  56. Harness the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development

    US0100, 2015, Open Data

  57. Open Government to Support Global Sustainable Development

    US0101, 2015, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  58. Open Collaboration Onf the Arctic

    US0102, 2015, Environment and Climate

  59. Support Capacity Building for Extractives Transparency

    US0103, 2015, Capacity Building

  60. Support Responsible Investment and Business Practices for Companies

    US0104, 2015, Private Sector

  61. Improve Public Participation in Government

    US0027, 2013, Capacity Building

  62. Modernize Management of Government Records

    US0028, 2013, Records Management

  63. Modernize the Freedom of Information Act

    US0029, 2013, Capacity Building

  64. Transform the Security Classification System

    US0030, 2013, Records Management

  65. Implement the Controlled Unclassified Information Program

    US0031, 2013, Security

  66. Increase Transparency of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Activities

    US0032, 2013, E-Government

  67. Make Privacy Compliance Information More Accessible

    US0033, 2013, E-Government

  68. Support and Improve Agency Implementation of Open Government Plans

    US0034, 2013,

  69. Strengthen and Expand Whistleblower Protections for Government Personnel

    US0035, 2013, Capacity Building

  70. Increase Transparency of Legal Entities Formed in the United States

    US0036, 2013, Legislation & Regulation

  71. Starred commitment Implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

    US0037, 2013, Environment and Climate

  72. Make Fossil Fuel Subsidies More Transparent

    US0038, 2013, Extractive Industries

  73. Starred commitment Increase Transparency in Spending

    US0039, 2013, Fiscal Transparency

  74. Increase Transparency of Foreign Assistance

    US0040, 2013, Aid

  75. Continue to Improve Performance.Gov

    US0041, 2013, E-Government

  76. Consolidate Import and Export Systems to Curb Corruption

    US0042, 2013, Private Sector

  77. Promote Public Participation in Community Spending Decisions

    US0043, 2013, Infrastructure & Transport

  78. Expand Visa Sanctions to Combat Corruption

    US0044, 2013, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  79. Further Expand Public Participation in the Development of Regulations

    US0045, 2013, Capacity Building

  80. Open Data to the Public

    US0046, 2013, E-Government

  81. Continue to Pilot Expert Networking Platforms

    US0047, 2013, Public Participation

  82. Reform Government Websites

    US0048, 2013, E-Government

  83. Promote Innovation Through Collaboration and Harness the Ingenuity of the American Public

    US0049, 2013, Capacity Building

  84. Promote Open Education to Increase Awareness and Engagement

    US0050, 2013, E-Government

  85. Deliver Government Services More Effectively Through Information Technology

    US0051, 2013, E-Government

  86. Increase Transparency in Spending

    US0052, 2013, E-Government

  87. Reform Records Management

    US0001, 2011, Records Management

  88. Lead a Multi-Agency Effort

    US0002, 2011, Capacity Building

  89. Monitor Agency Implementation of Plans

    US0003, 2011,

  90. Provide Enforcement and Compliance Data Online

    US0004, 2011, Environment and Climate

  91. Advocate for Legislation Requiring Meaningful Disclosure

    US0005, 2011, Legislation & Regulation

  92. Apply Lessons from Recovery Act to Increate Spending Transparency

    US0006, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  93. Government-Wide Reporting Requirements for Foreign Aid

    US0007, 2011, Aid

  94. Use Performanc.Gov to Improve Government Performance and Accountability

    US0008, 2011, Public Service Delivery

  95. Overhaul the Public Participation Interface on Regulations.Gov

    US0009, 2011, Legislation & Regulation

  96. Launch Expertnet

    US0010, 2011, E-Government

  97. Launch International Space Apps Competition

    US0011, 2011, E-Government

  98. Launch “We the People”

    US0012, 2011,

  99. Open Source “We the People”

    US0013, 2011,

  100. Develop Best Practices and Metrics for Public Participation

    US0014, 2011, Capacity Building

  101. Professionalize the FOIA Administration

    US0015, 2011, Right to Information

  102. Harness the Power of Technology

    US0016, 2011, Right to Information

  103. Advocate for Legislation on Whistleblower Protection

    US0017, 2011, E-Government

  104. Explore Executive Authority to Protect Whistleblowers

    US0018, 2011, Legislation & Regulation

  105. Implement the EITI

    US0019, 2011, Extractive Industries

  106. Partnership to Build on Recent Progress

    US0020, 2011, Extractive Industries

  107. Promote Data.Gov to Spur Innovation Through Open Sourcing

    US0021, 2011, Open Data

  108. Data.Gov: Foster Communities on Data.Gov

    US0022, 2011, Education

  109. Begin Online National Dialogue with the American Public

    US0023, 2011, Public Participation

  110. Update Government-Wide Policies for Websites

    US0024, 2011,

  111. Promote Smart Disclosure to Ensure Timely Release of Information

    US0025, 2011, Capacity Building

  112. Publish Guidelines on Scientific Data

    US0026, 2011, Capacity Building

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