The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, giving the thumbs up to the OPEN Government Data Act.
The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, giving the thumbs up to the OPEN Government Data Act.

By passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Senate gave the go-ahead to the provisions of the Open, Permanent, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, which are included as an amendment to the NDAA.

“After two years of bipartisan efforts to pass legislation codifying open data requirements for the federal government, it looks like the United States will finally have a law declaring the publication of open data as an official responsibility of the federal government,” according to Center for Data Innovation Director Daniel Castro,

He added that federal policy built on executive actions has long-needed to be replaced by enforceable law that compels federal agencies to publish open data. “Without legal requirements for open data the public has no guarantee that the government will maintain this valuable commitment to transparency, and the countless businesses that rely on open data have no guarantee that this valuable resource will be available in the years to come.”

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But the bipartisan OPEN Government Data Act, he said, “is the exact kind of guarantee needed to secure the benefits of open data.”

Since the House version of the NDAA does not include a similar OPEN Government Data Act amendment, “a conference committee will reconcile the two versions of the legislation before sending it to the president,” said Castro. “Given the apolitical nature of open data and its bipartisan support, as well as recent support from the Office of Management and Budget, there is every reason to believe that the open data requirements in NDAA will soon become law.”

Sen. Brian Schatz, D.-Hawaii, who, along with Sen. Ben Sasse, R.-Neb., sponsored of the OPEN Government Data Act introduced more than a year ago, hailed its passage in the Senate. “Public data must be public, and it's the government's job to make sure that it's online, easy to find, and easy to use,” Schatz, ranking member of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet, said in a release. “In today's ever-changing digital world, data should be available to anyone who wants to learn from it and improve the world.”

Sasse, who said he and Schatz had labored for more than a year “to drag Washington into the 21st century when it comes to data,” called the OPEN Government Data Act “simple: government data should be made public unless an administration can make a compelling reason to keep it under wraps. This legislation passed the Senate last Congress and, with last night's passage, I'm glad to carry the momentum forward.”