US budget transparency act requires structured data from federal agencies
Another potential application of XBRL in the US took a step towards reality on 24 September, when President Biden signed the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2021 into law. The act requires federal agencies to post budget justification materials on a public website. These are funding requests submitted to Congress outlining the funds needed to meet programme goals, and including both detailed financial information and textual justification information.
The legislation states that budget justification materials shall be posted “(i) as an open Government data asset; (ii) in a manner that enables users to download individual reports, download all reports in bulk, and download in bulk the results of a search, to the extent practicable; and (iii) in a structured data format, to the extent practicable.”
The act also requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to maintain an index of each agency that submits their justification and where to access it, and a single dataset of the justification data, likewise in a structured data format.
Of course, we at XBRL International hold that XBRL offers the ideal solution. Not only does XBRL generate structured, machine-readable data that is easy to access and analyse, it is in longstanding use in the US in numerous areas of reporting. Many federal agencies, software developers, data analysts and others throughout the data value chain are already highly familiar with XBRL and XBRL tools. We are therefore confident that the structured reporting of budget justification materials could – and should – be another XBRL implementation success story.
We strongly argue that structured, digital data is an essential element of making public information transparent and accessible, and welcome its inclusion in this legislation. The act notes that the Director of the OMB must establish policies and data standards for agencies no less than one year after enactment, so we hope to see rapid progress towards implementation.