Notes about my COVID-19 Federal Spending Dashboards

Identification and evaluation of a data source represent a necessary critical thinking step when consuming information presented in a dashboard. This page provides contextual information about my COVID-19 dashboards.

Disclaimer: I am an ordinary citizen with only a basic understanding of the Federal Acquisition System gained only through practical experience. I produce these dashboards simply to demonstrate skills in data analytics, not to influence opinions. The Federal Acquisition System is intricate and complex. As a result, before making any decisions based on my dashboards, I recommend you independently validate findings and confirm the proper use of the data fields presented. I welcome feedback and constructive advice for improvement and revisions.

Data Source

My dashboards present data retrieved from the U.S Federal Government’s authoritative data source for contract data reports, Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation (FPDS). The FPDS User Manual and FAQ provide general information about the available data. The Data Dictionary contains the complete specification (found on the Worksite page in the right-hand column under V1.3 Specifications ).

Data Completeness

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), instituted under the United States Code (USC) Title 41—Public Contracts, governs the procurement of goods and services by the Executive Branch of the U.S Federal Government. The FAR specifies the requirements for data stored in FPDS-NG and made available to the public. The data consumer should consider that, while FPDS contains a massive amount of information, some notable gaps exist.

Please be aware of the following limitations:

  • FPDS only contains information about procurements conducted by agencies and government organizations subject to the FAR
  • FPDS contains information about “Contracts whose estimated value is $10,000 or more” (link)
  • A 90-day delay on Department of Defense (DoD) acquisitions (see DoD Data Availability)

Data Quality

Naturally, data quality depends on the knowledge and skills of the individuals entering and updating the data in various systems. Multiple efforts across the U.S. Federal Government strive to improve the quality of data. Give potential discrepancies, I recommend considering the value of general interpretations while maintaining a skeptical point of view on hard facts and assertions. For example, a statement that approximates spending is greatly preferred over a statement specifying exact amounts.

Data Collection

My COVID-19 dashboards rely on data collected using a manually executed Python script that queries the FPDS ATOM feed, parses the data, and saves it to a Google sheet shared to the Tableau Public platform. You can review the script on my FPDS-NIA-Code-P20C GitHub repository. Each weekend, I run the script to update the data to add the previous week’s information.


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