New sites may serve as prototypes for spending database

Two government watchdog groups have unveiled new databases that they hope will serve as templates for the massive Web site the Office of Management and Budget must develop to track all sorts of federal spending.

In a briefing in Washington Tuesday, OMB Watch and the Center for Responsive Politics officially launched three public databases containing searchable data on different types of federal spending.

One site, OMB Watch's FedSpending.org, tracks contracting and grants, while CRP's portals contain information on federal officials' personal financial data and lawmakers' privately sponsored trips. The CRP sites are additions to the watchdog group's OpenSecrets.org online database.

The groups unveiled the sites shortly after President Bush signed into law legislation requiring OMB to create a public, searchable database containing information on nearly every type of federal spending. Under the law, the site must be operational by January 2008.

Gary Bass, OMB Watch executive director, said FedSpending.org is not meant to compete with the Web site the administration will eventually develop, but rather to serve as a measuring stick.

'This is a prototype and baseline for measuring success,' Bass told reporters.

Still, Bass and other OMB Watch officials said their site, which took six months to develop for about $200,000, contains more accurate data on federal contracting than the General Services Administration's, which collects contracting data through its Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation.

FedSpending receives its information from FPDS-NG, but OMB Watch, working with Eagle Eye Publishers of Fairfax, Va., dissected the data and made it searchable by company and affiliate. The data is also searchable by congressional district.

Bass admitted that FedSpending is not as comprehensive as the administration's Web site will eventually have to be. For example, FedSpending only contains data from FPDS-NG and the Federal Assistance Awards Data System, a database tracking grants and assistance for domestic spending.

Also, FedSpending is updated every six months, while the administration's site must be updated 30 days after a contract or grant award is made.

'We're setting the pace for them,' said Sean Mouton, director of federal information policy at OMB Watch.

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