Until recently, if you wanted to find out where your US taxpayer money was going, the best you could do was this handy wall chart from the “Death & Taxes” web site. Click on the image below to go to their site, where you can zoom in and see different parts of the image.
USA Spending.Gov gives you access to the same information in the form of a public database. It’s the result of the 2006 Transparency Act which requires that a certain amount of information about each Federal contract must be included on a single, searchable website, accessible by the public, for free. It includes data from:
- The Federal Procurement Data System, which contains information about federal contracts
- The Federal Assistance Award Data System, which contains information about federal financial assistance such as grants, loans, insurance, and direct subsidies like Social Security.
Online information deserves online analysis
Using the labs version of Polestar OnDemand at http://polestar.ondemand.com, it’s easy to analyze this information. For example, I downloaded information about government contracts for the four BI megavendors – SAP, IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft, and combined it into a simple spreadsheet. (I later realized that I could have used the API interface to get all the information in a single go.)
Polestar lets me export the results as a handy image, ready for any presentation. It looks like there’s some upside opportunity for SAP in US government contracts (presumably, an analysis of European contracts would show the proportions reversed).
I challenged some other people to take a look at the data. For example, Adam Binnie of the DecisionVelocity Blog came up with the following analysis of Hurricane Katrina contracts. It’s easy to see at a glance how much of the business was awarded without any competitive tendering.
What can YOU come up with?
This is your opportunity to come up with interesting data about US government spending and share it with the rest of us. Are you up to the challenge?
If you’d like to start with the examples above, download the data into a spreadsheet, and then go to http://polestar.ondemand.com: