Dear Chairwoman Maloney, Ranking Member Jordan, and members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform:
We, the undersigned organizations, write in strong support of the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2019, H.R. 4894, which would provide needed transparency and accountability to agency spending proposals, known as Congressional Justifications (“CJs”). CJs are plain language explanations of agencies’ plans to spend federal funds, written at a high level of detail and in language a layperson can understand.
The proposed legislation provides for a central, online repository for all federal agency Congressional Justifications, managed by OMB. It requires agencies publish their CJs online no later than two weeks after submission to Congress. It also provides for congressional and public access to the documents and requires their publication as open format machine readable and text searchable.
Many benefits arise from a central website for all agency CJs. It makes it possible to view agency CJs submitted over multiple years, so that one can see how an agency’s proposals and plans have evolved. It allows for comparisons across multiple agencies. Additionally, it ensures that CJs will not disappear from public — and congressional — view. Finally, it encourages the publication of past CJs on the website, which would expand the baseline for comparisons.
A March 11, 2019 report by the Demand Progress Education Fund found that some executive branch agencies were not consistently complying with OMB’s requirement to publish their CJ on their own website . There is no way to say how many agencies failed to comply with 1 the publication requirement because OMB does not publish a comprehensive list.
It is also not uncommon for oversight committees and even agency staff to struggle with finding previous submissions. While OMB, in response to several years of Congressional pressure, has just launched a repository for CJs, it is incomplete, does not provide a list of agencies that must submit CJs, and does not host the documents itself. This legislation solves those problems. We urge the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to take up the legislation at the next available opportunity and to report it favorably.
We applaud Representatives Mike Quigley and Doug Collins for their hard work on this bill, and we welcome the opportunity to discuss our support for the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act. Please contact Daniel Schuman, policy director, Demand Progress, at 240-237-3930 or [email protected]
Campaign for Accountability
Campaign for Liberty
Center for Responsive Politics
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Coalition to Reduce Spending Data
Coalition Defending Rights & Dissent
Free Government Information
Government Accountability Project
Government Information Watch
Lorelei Kelly, Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
National Coalition for History
National Freedom of Information Coalition
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
National Security Archive
National Taxpayers Union
Open the Government
Project On Government Oversight
R Street Institute
Senior Executives Association Society of Professional Journalists
Taxpayers for Common Sense