The Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act, which Demand Progress supported and became law last year, is coming into its own. The law requires (1) the publication of all agency Congressional Justifications on USASpending.org within two weeks of their submission to a house of Congress; (2) CJ publication at a vanity URL on the agency website; and (3) online tracking of when the reports were due to be submitted and whether they were published online on time.
OMB just released an update to Circular A-11 that, for the first time, contains updated guidance in section 22.6(c) that will put the law into effect. This has been a long time coming, as OMB had resisted requests from appropriators to ensure that the reports are published online in a central location, intended to address both linkrot (when a URL goes dead) and that there was no central place to find all the reports. They’ll also have to have their data published in a structured format.
Here’s the language:
(c) Availability of congressional budget justifications
Consistent with the requirements in the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act (Public Law 117-40), agencies are reminded to make their full congressional budget justification materials, including their performance plan submission, available to the public and post the materials on the Internet at a vanity federal government URL. The vanity URL should contain “/CJ” following the public web address of the agency (e.g., agencyXYZ.gov/CJ). Materials should be posted at this address within two weeks after transmittal of those materials to the Congress. The release of these materials must be done in accordance with the requirements of this section and any relevant provisions of law. Materials will not be released if disclosure is prohibited by statute, the materials are classified or must be kept secret in the interest of national security or foreign policy, or the materials are otherwise exempt from release pursuant to 5 U.S.C.
Agencies should develop machine-readable (CSV, XML, TSV, or JSON) file(s) for the budget summary table(s) that normally accompany the congressional budget justification, including footnotes (please see section 200.22 for a definition of machine-readable format). Please work with your OMB representative on timelines and plans for preparing this machine-readable information.
OMB will collect the following information from every agency that submits congressional justification materials:
• The date that congressional justification materials were first submitted to the Congress. Where agencies submit several different sets of materials (e.g., for various bureaus), this would be the date that the first set of materials was made available to the Congress either in print or electronically.
• The date that the congressional justification materials were first posted on a public-facing agency website. Where agencies post several different sets of materials, this would be the date that the first set of materials was first available to the public on the agency website.
• The web address (URL) which points to the current budget’s congressional justification materials. This web address can direct to a page that contains links to the congressional justification materials, or the web address can link directly to those materials. This web address should conform with the vanity URL requirements in this section. In cases where these requirements are not met, agencies should still provide a web address that points to congressional justification materials for the current budget.
Within one week after the release of the budget, OMB will provide a website for agencies to record the above data. Classified congressional justification materials should not be reported. In cases where OMB does not review an agency’s congressional justification materials, those agencies are still responsible for providing the above information.
A list containing the above information will be made available on USASpending.gov.