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Public Statements

Launch of USAspending.gov

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


LAUNCH OF USASPENDING.GOV -- (Senate - December 13, 2007)

Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I am very pleased to celebrate today's launch of USAspending.gov. This is an important day, an important milestone on the path to greater openness and transparency in the Federal Government. This site helps us to achieve a very simple and powerful vision: a vision that, in a democracy, the people ought to know what their Government is doing: how the Government is raising and spending money, how it is making and enforcing law, how it is supporting projects, how decisions are being made, and how results are being evaluated.

It is not a Democratic vision or a Republican vision. It is a commonsense vision of Government transparency and accessibility. It is a vision that rejects the idea that Government actions and decisions should be kept secret or classified. It is a vision that believes that information is at the heart of democracy and that we all must resist the dangerous trend of withholding or classifying or burying information that the American people have a right to know and need to know if they are to hold their leaders accountable.

I have been very troubled by the extent to which America has become a nation of government secrets. More and more information is kept secret or made intolerably complicated and inaccessible. More and more decisions are made behind closed doors with access limited to insiders and lobbyists.

USAspending.gov along with watchdog groups will give us all tools to help buck that trend. It will help by opening Government processes up to public view. It will provide a window into the Federal budget so all Americans can see how their tax dollars are being spent--how their Nation's resources are being used and obligated, where money is going as well as where it is not going. We will be able to see which grantees and contractors are receiving
money and the congressional district where the contract's services are performed. We will see which agencies are purchasing what, from whom, and where. Technology makes it possible for every American to know what is happening and to hold elected officials accountable.

If Government spending can't withstand public scrutiny, then the money shouldn't be spent. If a Government agency isn't willing to be held accountable for the grants or contracts it awards, then that agency shouldn't have control over Federal resources. Whether you believe the Government ought to spend more money or spend less, you should certainly be able to agree that the Government ought to spend every penny efficiently and transparently. Democrats and Republicans can all agree that wasteful spending is unacceptable, whether it is by FEMA, HUD, DOD, or any other Federal agency.

Transparency by itself is not enough, but transparency is the first step to holding Government accountable for its actions. Transparency is a prerequisite to oversight and financial control. We can't reduce waste, fraud, and abuse without knowing how, where, and why Federal money is flowing out the door.

USAspending.gov is a very good beginning. The Web site does not yet deliver everything that it is required to under the law, but its limitations and shortcomings are transparent, and it will get better and more complete week after week. I am also confident that people will use the site and will provide feedback directly on the site's community ``Wiki'' function for collecting and sharing public comments. This will raise the expectations of all Americans for greater transparency, access, and accountability. Now it will be up to us elected officials to meet those expectations.

It is important to point out that this site would not have been possible without the grassroots efforts of watchdog groups across the political spectrum who lobbied for passage of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which Senator Coburn and I like to call the Transparency Act. The story behind the Transparency Act embodies the best of our democratic traditions--a bipartisan effort fueled by ordinary people who refused to accept that the Government couldn't make public information freely and simply available. Throughout this process, it has been an honor to work with Senator Coburn and to witness the dedicated work of the staff at OMB.

END


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