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Obama's transparent government initiatives are withering from lack of funding, Federal News Radio reports.


"Many of the Obama administration's top open government initiatives are set to be turned off by May 31. Government sources confirm that the Office of Management and Budget is planning to take seven websites dark in two months because of a lack of funding.
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According to an anonymous government official, Public sites IT Dashboard, Data.gov, and paymentaccuracy.gov will be out of money in a few weeks. Additionally, the OMB plans to shut down Performance.gov and FedSpace, and gut the FEDRamp cloud computing cybersecurity effort.

Penny wise and pound foolish

The Government's Chief Information officer, Vivek Kundra, said $3 billion has been saved on on IT projects with the help of IT Dashboard.

"Using this important tool, we identified underperforming high priority IT projects and began an intensive review of these programs, eliminating ineffective projects, reconfiguring others, and targeting IT expenditures more carefully," he said in a video promoting the IT Dashboard's benefits.

Don't blame Obama

House bill H.R.1 provides only $2 million for e-government spending. The White House requested $35 million.

"The detrimental effect of HR 1 on so many areas of government is clear—and perhaps no more so than on the efforts to ensure the government's IT infrastructure upgrades are proceeding on schedule and on budget," said Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. "We cannot have a more streamlined, efficient and open government without using the best technology available. Unfortunately the cuts in H.R. 1 to e-government fund will have the unintended consequence of making government less accountable and transparent."

In an open letter to the government, Sunlight Foundation writes:

These e-government initiatives help the government operate more effectively and efficiently,thereby saving taxpayer money and aiding oversight. They increase economic opportunities for smallbusiness. They also increase citizen knowledge of and involvement in the democratic process. Fullyrealized transparency would allow us to track every expense and truly understand how money like that in the electronic government fund flows to federal programs. Government spending and performance data must be available online, in real time, and in machine-readable formats.

An open and accountable government is a prerequisite for democracy. Keeping these programsalive would cost a mere pittance when compared to the value of bringing the federal government intothe sunlight. As you consider the budget for the remainder of this year, please sustain funding for thesevital transparency programs.Sincerely yours,The Sunlight Foundation

You can sign the letter here.

More Job Losses

Of course, as with all cutbacks in government spending, there will be lost jobs. In a great article on Huffington Post, Beth Simone Noveck explains why.

BrightScope has made a profitable business of using government data about 401(k) plans. They've raised $2 million in venture capital and hired 30 people and is likely to double headcount to at least 60 by the end of the year. They did $2M in sales in 2010 and are currently on a $10M+ run rate for 2011.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency in the United States has a ~$5 billion dollar annual budget. Through the open release of data, NOAA is catalyzing at least 100 times that value in the private sector market of weather and climate services when including market and non-market valuations. As just one example of a market that uses NOAA data, the total value of weather derivative trading has been estimated at $15.0 billion in 2007-2008.

The ~$1 billion it spends on the National Weather Service enabled weather.com, which has since been sold for $3.5 billion.  

The Health datasets (health.data.gov) on Data.Gov are unleashing the wider software development community to build robust tools that stimulate entrepreneurship and help Americans lead healthier lives.

The availability of ten year's of Federal Register data sets on Data.gov enabled three young programmers to design the new FederalRegister.gov, the daily gazette of government, and, at the same time, do business with the Federal government for the first time.

Senate to the rescue?

Probably not. Although the Senate has pencilled in $20 million for e-government, ten times that of the House, the status quo remains dire.

"The continuing resolution says we can only spend what we would reasonably expect to get during the fiscal year, and we have no reasonable expectation to get more than a couple of millions of dollars," the anonymous source said.

Please sign Sunlight Foundation's open letter, and/or contact your representative and urge them to maintain funding for open, e-government initiatives.

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