Ask Not What Technology Leaders Can Do for You, Mr. Trump, But What the DATA Act Can Do for Them

According to a New York Times report on President-Elect Donald Trump’s meeting with technology leaders last week, Mr. Trump asked the executives “to see if they could not apply data analysis technology to detect and help get rid of government waste.”

They can not. The existence of data that would permit them to do so will be dictated by the Trump administration’s approach to implementing the DATA Act.

The DATA Act requires the federal government to transform all spending information into open data. If the federal government follows through on publishing spending data in open formats—which is very much an open question—technology companies old and new will be able to work the kind of magic they have in other fields.

There is not an algorithm, of course, to separate wasteful spending from useful. These are value judgments made by humans. But while the data underlying these judgments is held by insiders, their preferences for lush spending will be satisfied. Average Americans seeing multiplicitous government programs and bloated government contracts perceive that as waste.

Nothing specific that I’m aware of suggests any Trump administration policy yet with respect to the DATA Act, but the selection of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) to head the Office of Management and Budget may bode well. OMB has been a drag on government spending transparency, and Mulvaney is the type to do away with business as usual. The DATA Act would do for the whole government what he sought from National Credit Union Administration in recent legislation: line-by-line budget transparency.

When the time comes to formulate policy on spending transparency, ask not what technology leaders can do for you, Mr. Trump, but what the DATA Act can do for them.