• The Senate Spends A Shocking Amount On Digital Media. Here’s What We Know

    It’s difficult to put a number on exactly how much Congress spends on technology and digital media, but one group is trying to do just that.

    According to a recent study by the OpenGov Foundation, a non-profit government accountability organization, the Senate spent at least $106 million on technology and digital media-related purchases in 2014, but that is just a rough estimate. It’s almost impossible to nail down an exact figure.

    2014-Senate-Tech-Spending-Chart“The challenge of finding accurate technology and digital media spending numbers is rooted in how the House and Senate, as well as support agencies like the Library of Congress, report their spending,” the study reads.

    Each year, rules for how expenditures get reported and rules for what needs to be accounted for change. The classifications for spending also change over time, and all the reports are paper-based and come out long after the fact. The Freedom of Information Act laws do not apply to congressional offices.

    This perfect storm of circumstances makes it difficult to know how much Congress spends on technology, but the study helps shed some light on the massive and increasing amount of spending.

    The OpenGov Foundation went through the available data and sorted everything into expenditure types. Anything not clearly related to technology or digital media was then eliminated, though staff that appeared to be working in digital media or technology-related positions were included.

    According to the available data, the vast majority of technology spending was used to pay staff who designed and operated the software. Staff expenses accounted for a little over $40 million.

    Key-Senate-Tech-Staff-Spending-2014

    The software used by Senate offices cost around $8.6 million, and the software needed an additional $8.3 million worth of “maintenance” throughout the year.

    After staff expenses, the next two most expensive categories were “technical support,” which cost Senate offices $21.3 million, and “purchased equipment,” which cost another $17.6 million.

    The classifications are vague, and according to the study, it is impossible for citizens to find out what exactly the money actually bought.

    “We cannot access the vendor contracts and procurement process,” the study reads. “Without knowing things like that, it is next to impossible to assess the efficiency, effectiveness and value of the Senate’s spending on technology and digital media.”

    According to the available data, General Dynamics, an all-purpose government contractor known mostly for its combat vehicle production, took $24 million in Senate contracts, more than the other top ten contractors combined.

    Key-Senate-Tech-Staff-Spending-2014

    The study’s author, Seamus Kraft, told The Daily Caller News Foundation his goal in writing the study was to create a more efficient and effective Congress by putting more data in more people’s hands.

    “I hope that this analysis contributes to a more accurate and understandable conversation about congressional spending,” he said.

    He said he wants to work with Senate staffers and the Senate Sergeant at Arms to make information on spending more readily available to tax payers.

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    Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected]

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