U.S. Federal Government Spending is Now a Single, Unified Data Set
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U.S. Federal Government Spending is Now a Single, Unified Data Set

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It’s been many years in the making, but spending data from the U.S. Federal Government is now all unified in one source that can be accessed by anyone.

The significance of this cannot be overstated – every single department of the government is now reporting data to the U.S. Treasury in a common format, and this information is being published online at USASpending.gov.

The data puts records of accounts, budgets, grants, and contracts all in one place, and links this information together in way that has never been done before. Everyday citizens, journalists, and data scientists will be able to see how the government spends money with one consolidated view. Further, this harmonization of accounts will also help to boost transparency, making it easier to spot inefficiencies, waste, and fraud at the federal level.

Here’s an example of a “big picture” output – a view of all 2016 spending in one easy chart.

U.S. Federal Government Spending is Now a Single, Unified Data Set

For the interactive version of the above chart that details $3.85 trillion of federal expenditures and what is included in each account, go to the USASpending.gov site. To dive deeper into millions of data points for each individual transaction record, you’ll probably want to access the API.

It’s Not Perfect, Yet

As with all large government projects, it’s probably not a surprise to learn that the project isn’t exactly working optimally yet. Upon mucking around on the site, certain maps are not yet generating, and the API site was down when we tried to access it:

API doesn't work

Part of the problem is that the DATA Act of 2014, which laid the groundwork for the initiative, had specified a deadline (May 9, 2017) for all agencies to be reporting data in a unified format. Obviously, harmonizing thousands of legacy financial reporting systems from dozens of federal departments is not an easy task.

Deloitte, in a joint report with the Data Coalition trade association, recognizes these technical challenges, while also outlining additional problems that must be addressed with the DATA Act and corresponding systems by 2022.

Jefferson’s Vision

Hudson Hollister, the Founder and Executive Director at Data Coalition, outlined the significance and challenges of harmonizing government data in a blog post today.

He also referenced something interesting, which is that this idea was outlined initially by Thomas Jefferson in the early 19th century. In fact, it was in 1802 that Jefferson wrote to his Treasury Secretary to tell him that the government’s finances were too convoluted for Congress to understand, and this complexity enabled debt and spending to spiral out of control.

His solution at the time? To harmonize all government expenditures in one place:

If to this can be added a simplification of the form of accounts in the treasury department, and in the organization of its officers, so as to bring everything to a single centre, we might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant’s books, so that every member of Congress, and every man of any mind in the Union, should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them.

– Thomas Jefferson, Library of Congress (1802)

Hollister notes that it is only now that Jefferson’s vision has been realized.

Hopefully, with some refinement and continued buy-in from government and industry stakeholders, this means more transparent government finances for the foreseeable future.

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Interactive Map: Tracking Global Hunger and Food Insecurity

Every day, hunger affects more than 700 million people. This live map from the UN highlights where hunger is hitting hardest around the world.

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The World Hunger Map

Interactive Map: Tracking Global Hunger and Food Insecurity

Hunger is still one the biggest—and most solvable—problems in the world.

Every day, more than 700 million people (8.8% of the world’s population) go to bed on an empty stomach, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

The WFP’s HungerMap LIVE displayed here tracks core indicators of acute hunger like household food consumption, livelihoods, child nutritional status, mortality, and access to clean water in order to rank countries.

The World Hunger Map

After sitting closer to 600 million from 2014 to 2019, the number of people in the world affected by hunger increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, 155 million people (2% of the world’s population) experienced acute hunger, requiring urgent assistance.

The Fight to Feed the World

The problem of global hunger isn’t new, and attempts to solve it have making headlines for decades.

On July 13, 1985, at Wembley Stadium in London, Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially opened Live Aid, a worldwide rock concert organized to raise money for the relief of famine-stricken Africans.

The event was followed by similar concerts at other arenas around the world, globally linked by satellite to more than a billion viewers in 110 nations, raising more than $125 million ($309 million in today’s dollars) in famine relief for Africa.

But 35+ years later, the continent still struggles. According to the UN, from 12 countries with the highest prevalence of insufficient food consumption in the world, nine are in Africa.

Country % Population Affected by HungerPopulation (millions)Region
Afghanistan 🇦🇫93%40.4Asia
Somalia 🇸🇴68%12.3Africa
Burkina Faso 🇧🇫61%19.8Africa
South Sudan 🇸🇸60%11.0Africa
Mali 🇲🇱60%19.1Africa
Sierra Leone 🇸🇱55%8.2Africa
Syria 🇸🇾55%18.0Middle East
Niger 🇳🇪55%22.4Africa
Lesotho 🇱🇸50%2.1Africa
Guinea 🇬🇳48%12.2Africa
Benin 🇧🇯47%11.5Africa
Yemen 🇾🇪44%30.0Middle East

Approximately 30 million people in Africa face the effects of severe food insecurity, including malnutrition, starvation, and poverty.

Wasted Leftovers

Although many of the reasons for the food crisis around the globe involve conflicts or environmental challenges, one of the big contributors is food waste.

According to the United Nations, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of wasted food per year, worth approximately $1 trillion.

All the food produced but never eaten would be sufficient to feed two billion people. That’s more than twice the number of undernourished people across the globe. Consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa each year.

Solving Global Hunger

While many people may not be “hungry” in the sense that they are suffering physical discomfort, they may still be food insecure, lacking regular access to enough safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development.

Estimates of how much money it would take to end world hunger range from $7 billion to $265 billion per year.

But to tackle the problem, investments must be utilized in the right places. Specialists say that governments and organizations need to provide food and humanitarian relief to the most at-risk regions, increase agricultural productivity, and invest in more efficient supply chains.

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Mapped: Where are the World’s Ongoing Conflicts Today?

In 2021, we live in a time of relative peace, however, as this map reveals, that does not mean there are no conflicts in the world today.

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Mapping World's Ongoing Conflicts

Where are the World’s Ongoing Conflicts Today?

We live in an era of relative peace compared to most of history, however, this does not mean that there are no conflicts in the world today.

This map using data from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reveals where the world’s 27 ongoing conflicts are today, and what type of conflicts they are.

Note: conflicts are categorized by definitions laid out by the CFR.

Detailing the Conflicts

Many people alive today have never lived through a war on their country’s soil, especially those in the West. But conflict, wars, and violence are by no means things of the past.

According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), as of Q2’2021 alone:

  • Violence against civilians resulted in over 5,000 deaths worldwide
  • Battle related deaths numbered over 18,000
  • Explosion/remote violence led to more than 4,000 deaths
  • Riots resulted in over 600 fatalities

Most of the world’s conflicts are concentrated in Asia and Africa and the most common forms are territorial disputes and civil wars. While terrorism often strikes fear in people, only three of the world’s ongoing conflicts are linked to terrorism, according to the CFR.

Conflict NameTypeCountries Involved
Civil War in South SudanCivil War🇸🇸 South Sudan
War in YemenCivil War🇾🇪 Yemen
Civil War in LibyaCivil War🇱🇾 Libya
War in AfghanistanCivil War🇦🇫 Afghanistan
Civil War in SyriaCivil War🇸🇾 Syria
Instability in IraqCivil War🇮🇶 Iraq
Criminal Violence in MexicoCriminal🇲🇽 Mexico
Confrontation of U.S. & IranInterstates🇺🇸 United States
🇮🇷 Iran
Conflict of India & PakistanInterstates🇮🇳 India
🇵🇰 Pakistan
North Korea CrisisInterstates🇺🇸 United States
🇰🇵 North Korea
Violence in the DRCPolitical Instability🇨🇩 DRC
Instability in EgyptPolitical Instability🇪🇬 Egypt
Political Instability in LebanonPolitical Instability🇱🇧 Lebanon
Instability in VenezuelaPolitical Instability🇻🇪 Venezuela
Tigray War in EthiopiaPolitical Instability🇪🇹 Ethiopia
Boko Haram in NigeriaSectarian🇳🇬 Nigeria
Violence in Central African RepublicSectarian🇨🇫 Central African Republic
Rohingya Crisis in MyanmarSectarian🇲🇲 Myanmar
Nagorno-Karabakh ConflictTerritorial Disputes🇦🇲 Armenia
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan
Conflict in UkraineTerritorial Disputes🇺🇦 Ukraine
🇷🇺 Russia
Israeli-Palestine ConflictTerritorial Disputes🇮🇱 Israel
🇵🇸 Palestine
Turkey & Armed Kurdish GroupsTerritorial Disputes🇹🇷 Turkey
South China Sea DisputesTerritorial Disputes🇨🇳 China
🇻🇳 Vietnam
🇵🇭 Philippines
Tensions in East China SeaTerritorial Disputes🇨🇳 China
🇯🇵 Japan
Destabilization in MaliTerrorism🇲🇱 Mali
Al-Shabab in SomaliaTerrorism🇸🇴 Somalia
Islamist Militancy in PakistanTerrorism🇵🇰 Pakistan

As an example of a more typical conflict, Myanmar’s civil unrest began in February 2020 when the military overthrew the democratically elected government and arrested the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The civilian population has been protesting heavily but to no avail. According to a BBC report, more than 860 people have been killed and around 5,000 have been detained.

This is just one of the many examples of persistent violence today including recent events like Mexico’s midterm election violence, Ethiopia’s fighting in the country’s Tigray region, and the fighting between Israel and Palestine over the Sheikh Jarrah evictions.

Finally, though the United States military has now withdrawn from Afghanistan, and the Taliban has taken control of the country, the outlook for the country remains uncertain.

War and Peace

While there are conflicts today, deaths from violence and wars have and wars have decreased over time. For example, battle death rates in state-based conflicts have reduced significantly in a period from 1946 to 2016.

However, according to the UN, although battle related deaths have been decreasing, the number of conflicts occurring in the last few years has actually been on the rise (they have simply remained less deadly). Most conflicts have been waged by non-state actors, like organized criminal groups and political militias.

The UN found that the most common causes of conflict today are:

  • Regional tensions
  • Breakdowns in the rule of law
  • Co-opted or absent state institutions
  • Illicit economic gain
  • Scarcity of resources exacerbated by climate change

Traditional war between countries and war-related deaths may be becoming a thing of the past, but the threat of violence is still very real. Many countries know this as they continue to build up armies and spend significant amounts on military and defense.

The Future of Warfare

War and conflict are still extremely relevant in the 21st century and impact millions of people. However, traditional warfare may be changing its shape and may become less deadly as a result.

For instance, issues like climate change will create further exacerbations on conflicts, and new forms of technological and cyber warfare could threaten countries’ elections and manipulate populations.

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