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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

First glance: Fedspending.org

Fedspending.org is a new searchable database which I discovered at the Sunlight Foundation: A Red Letter Day for Transparency.

Earlier this year, Congress passed a bill to release this same information in a free web-based database (at a cost of $15 million over the next five years). This database beats them to the punch by more than a year – and the OMB Watch database goes back farther than the one the government is compiling. (And in case you’re wondering, the cost of compiling the data and putting it on the web came to just under $200,000 for the first year’s work.)

The database "covers all federal contracts and grants issued between the years 2000 and 2005" for about 12 trillion in federal spending. It shows where your tax money goes, and whether there was competitive bidding or not. You can import all or parts of the database into your own Excel program and do some major analysis. Or, you can just browse. And be shocked. Like me.

The following notes are for Illinois entitles (a/k/a parent companies), for the year 2005.

The first field shows only the top 500 entities. But, if you're willing to wait while the page loads, you get all 5,672 Illinois companies.

Illinois parent companies raked in a total of $6,493,814,127 for 2005, or 1.8% of all awarded dollars for that fiscal year. That 1.8% number is interesting when you consider Illinois is 2% of the states, and holds just under 5% of the U.S. population (I think). Conclusion: Whoever doles out the bucks takes no consideration of those factors.

The top Illinois recipient was MCKESSON CORPORATION (never heard of it), with $681,627,030. However, they must have other locations because their total profile is $4,330,733,632. Interesting. Their top five products are:

  1. Drugs and Biologicals $4,260,491,320
  2. Pharmacology Services $23,004,364
  3. Invalid code: 8900 $10,610,077
  4. AIDS Research -- Advanced Development (R&D) $8,672,401
  5. Medical and Surgical Instruments, Equipment, and Supplies $7,987,150

Their top five consuming agencies and related dollars are:

  1. VETERANS AFFAIRS, Department of $3,538,724,351
  2. Defense Logistics Agency $676,297,195
  3. Bureau of Prisoners/Federal Prison System $47,946,431
  4. Public Health Service $42,393,508
  5. National Institutes of Health $18,335,228

The next big dollar getter is NORTHROP GRUMMAN for $556,637,405. I think we all know who they are and what they do. So, having wasted so much energy on the previous entity, we'll skip the details here and go on to the next one.

The third top Illinois money recipient was the University of Chicago for a total of $498,264,890. Well, I sure didn't expect that. Their top 5 products or services sold:

  1. Operation of Government-Owned Facilities -- Government-Owned Contractor-Operated (GOCO) R&D Facilities $492,963,926
  2. Space Science and Applications -- Basic Research (R&D) $3,051,441
  3. Biomedical -- Basic Research (R&D) $817,275
  4. Other Professional Services $677,832
  5. Health Services -- Management and Support (R&D) $316,293

And the top 5 agencies purchasing from contractor

  1. ENERGY, Department of $492,963,926
  3. National Institutes of Health $2,029,501
  4. NAVY, Department of the $132,131
  5. Offices, Boards and Divisions (includes Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, etc.) $120,150

OMG! What is going on up there. I always thought they were a bunch of piano playing, marijuana smoking, Ph.D. geeks. Apparently, I was wrong. Sorry.

There are some really odd looking entities on the Illinois list. Like, San Diego Community College. The Navy spent $24 million with SDCC for educational and training type services, of which $12 million was in Illinois. What is the deal and how did that happen? Did we send military Illinoisans to San Diego, or did San Diego come here? Just curious.

One name on the list I immediately recognized is Springfield, Inc. They're not in Springfield, but they are a rock solid, upstanding, corporate citizen of Illinois. I think. No, they are. Really. If you're not familiar with Springfield, Inc., they pretty much do only one thing. They make guns. Check this photo of one of their products (best viewed large) to get an idea of what they're selling, and who's buying.

Okay. Moving along. I'm getting bored. And this has gone on too long with no real conclusions to offer. And, looking at all these numbers is kind of making me dizzy. I'm not a numbers cruncher. I could have been. I should have been. But, I'm not.

Anyway, what are we looking at here? Earmarks? Pork? Or things like people's salaries which keep the tax base moving? What?

By looking at these figures, how can one tell the difference between essential goods and services, and what might be waste. That is the real question. What is waste? What oversight is there to make sure there is no waste. Probably none. It's probably not even economically possible.

Link: Fedspending.org

Posted by Marie at October 11, 2006 10:21 PM