REI Insights

Helping OMB Promote Open Government and Accountability Via USASpending.gov
January 26, 2017
case study USAspending.gov

Challenge

In 2006 the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FAFTA) was passed to strengthen the accountability for the use of taxpayers’ money. Among the requirements of the Act was the establishment of a single searchable website that contained information across the Federal Government on all spending awards such as grants, loans, and contracts. The website would become USASpending.gov, and in order to provide true transparency, it needed to provide critical information on the details of the awards and awardees. To fulfill these obligations, OMB engaged REI to design, implement and continuously upgrade a site that would describe the $24 trillion in spending across the Federal Government. As the site grew, so too did the challenges and requirements, and at each step, REI provided the necessary solutions.

Solution

REI leveraged web capabilities based on their proven expertise and earlier successes with developing Data.gov. To meet the tight six-week deadline of the initial implementation of USASpending.gov, REI provided a full range of around-the-clock services to the customer to meet their timeframe. One of the key requirements that REI identified to help save valuable time were automated data refresh routines to extract, transform and load agency procurement data. Additionally, to ensure the security of the information, online data submission and validation tools were needed to provide instant data quality feedback to help agencies correct submissions in real-time.

As President Obama took office, a renewed emphasis on financial accountability and transparency stimulated significant innovations to the website. Once again, OMB turned to REI to make the improvements using the Web 2.0 technologies that made their Data.gov project successful.

REI leveraged an open-source platform to redesign the site’s user interface and manage content to provide context to the data displays, tabulations, and visualizations. Deciding to adopt a citizen-centric approach, the navigation was simplified and more options were added to visualize and aggregate the data through multi-dimensional charts and maps. Most recently REI integrated sub-award data onto the site, adding a new tier of data for a more complete spending picture.

After development, this application was deployed to the NASA Nebula (public) Cloud to take advantage of the benefits of a virtual data center environment. Once deployed, and due to the fact that the site was processing enormous amounts of data (adding over 1 million rows per month), REI executed a hosting strategy that combined the cloud environment with actual “bare metal” servers to make sure transaction speeds met user demands.

Results

REI leveraged an open-source platform to redesign the site’s user interface and manage content to provide context to the data displays, tabulations, and visualizations. Deciding to adopt a citizen-centric approach, the navigation was simplified and more options were added to visualize and aggregate the data through multi-dimensional charts and maps. Most recently REI integrated sub-award data onto the site, adding a new tier of data for a more complete spending picture. After development, this application was deployed to the NASA Nebula (public) Cloud to take advantage of the benefits of a virtual data center environment. Once deployed, and due to the fact that the site was processing enormous amounts of data (adding over 1 million rows per month), REI executed a hosting strategy that combined the cloud environment with actual “bare metal” servers to make sure transaction speeds met user demands.

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