May 9, 2017 / 2:15 PM / in 6 months

U.S. Treasury upgrades website to better track federal spending data

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday launched an upgrade of a website to allow for the first time the tracking of all federal government spending categories, which totaled $3.85 trillion last year.

FILE PHOTO: Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury Secretary, laughs during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The new Beta.USAspending.gov website culminates a three-year initiative to improve the existing USAspending.gov to provide a broader view of government spending than the grant and procurement data previously available on the site.

The project brings together some 400 different data sets from more than 100 federal agencies, extracting spending information from thousands of divergent computer systems across the government.

It also is designed to be machine readable, with open source code allowing private companies to analyze and develop commercial applications for the data, said a senior Treasury official working on the project.

The beta site is launching with year-to-date data for fiscal 2017, with historical data to be added later. The data will be updated quarterly, the official said.

The spending site upgrade was mandated by the Data Accountancy and Transparency Act of 2014, a bipartisan law aimed at shedding new light on federal spending by making data readily available.

“The new site provides taxpayers with the ability to track nearly $4 trillion in government spending from Washington, D.C. directly into their communities and cities,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“Greater access to data will drive better decision making and strengthen accountability and transparency – qualities central to the Administration’s focus on a more innovative and effective government,” Mnuchin said.

The new version of the site makes clear with a prominent block chart what budget wonks already know -- that more than half of all federal spending is consumed by three categories: Social Security (23.9 percent), Medicare (14.9 percent) and National Defense (14.9 percent)

The beta site is expected to run alongside the original for several months in order to collect feedback from users to help plug “holes” in the data and make the site more user-friendly, the Treasury official said.

The site will also will be expanded to show sources of contributions to federal tax revenues by state.

Reporting by David Lawder Editing by W Simon

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