The United States has released a new action plan for open government that lists existing policies and plans and includes new initiatives:
- The Open Government Partnership National Action Plan For The United States Of America (September 20, 2011) [PDF, 10pp]
- White House releases open government action plan with new initiatives, by Joseph Marks, NextGov (09/20/2011)
The Plan was developed as part of the United States' participation in the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The OGP is overseen by a steering committee of governments and civil society organizations.
Participating countries in the Open Government Partnership pledge to deliver country action plans that elaborate concrete commitments on open government. In each country, these commitments are developed through a multi-stakeholder process, with the active engagement of citizens and civil society.
The White House has released a new report, on open government:
- The Obama Administration’s Commitment to Open Government: A Status Report [the report, pdf, 34pp].
- A Status Report on the Administration’s Commitment to Open Government [announcement] by Steven Croley, The White House Open Gov Blog (September 16, 2011).
In an analysis, Steven Aftergood says the report, "downplays or overlooks many of the Administration's principal achievements in reducing inappropriate secrecy. At the same time, it fails to acknowledge the major defects of the openness program to date. And so it presents a muddled picture of the state of open government, while providing a poor guide to future policy.
- An Ambivalent White House Report on Open Government, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (September 19, 2011).
New Performance.gov website faces performance problems of its own, By Joseph Marks, NextGov (08/26/2011).
A last-minute deal between the Obama administration and House Republicans to avert a government shutdown in April cut fiscal 2011 funding for online open government initiatives by more than three quarters to just $8 million.
[An] OMB official said Thursday the administration does not consider the current version of Performance.gov to be compliant with the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act...
...The current version of Performance.gov does have a search bar, but it is only minimally functional. Searches for the names of federal agencies, such as "defense," "agriculture" and "transportation" for instance did not turn up any results.
When the funding deal with lawmakers was reached, then-federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra told Congress he would cut two planned open government initiatives and suspend planned improvements to others, including Performance.gov.
I'm in 2 minds about yesterday's announcement by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. On the one hand, I'm heartened by the fact that he stood up for the importance of the e-government fund and sites like data.gov and USAspending.gov and understood the importance of "governmentwide collection and governmentwide disclosure." On the other hand, I really worry about commercialized aggregations of data replacing free govt aggregations (statistical abstract, etc.) if the "pretty part" is not fully funded. If "governmentwide collection and disclosure" is not fully funded, what non-govt entity/company will be able to do that? Remember, according to the Census 2012 budget request, base funding for the Statistical Abstract = 24 FTE staff and $2.9 million (p.79). Data collection, aggregation, analysis, access and preservation cost money and these things won't be done by the "invisible hand."
And with that cheery thought, I'd again exhort our readers to help save the Statistical Abstract!
Issa pledges to keep transparency sites online
Federal News Radio
April 13, 2011
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Wednesday the $27 million cut to the E-Government Fund doesn't have to be the end of the sites such as Data.gov, USAspending.gov and many others.
"It was one of the things I begged my partners on the other side of the aisle to come back and say there is a price to pay to keep this up," Issa said during a panel discussion hosted by the Association of Government Accountants. "We will find a way, and this is a personal pledge, to make sure they are not shutdown. The specific funding goes away but reprogramming authority would still be available. Our view is on a case-by-case basis we will be able to keep them open."
Have we saved the data? Maybe, by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation, (April 5, 2011).
Online transparency programs will enjoy a reprieve from the chopping block if the short term budget resolution posted late last night by House Republicans were to become law. The latest proposal appears to continue funding the sites at the same level as last year instead of cutting them to virtually nothing as was originally proposed.... But we're not out the woods yet....
This short term continuing resolution would keep the government’s lights on through April 15 and fund the Department of Defense to the end of the year, but contains a number of provisions that many political leaders will be reluctant or unwilling to accept....
More on the proposed legislation:
G.O.P. Budget Proposal Cuts $5.8 Trillion in Spending, By CARL HULSE, New York Times (April 5, 2011).
Today, when there are active threats to open government and OMB is preparing to shut down several important open government web sites, it is a good day to remember why we have several of our most important open government laws.
The Nixon Presidential Library and Museum has opened a new Watergate exhibit. Jon Wiener, who teaches history at UC Irvine and is a contributing editor to The Nation, tells the story:
- At the new Watergate Gallery, the truth finally wins out, By Jon Wiener, Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, (April 5, 2011).
The Nixon Presidential Library and Museum's original exhibit about Watergate, designed in 1990 by Nixon loyalists before the National Archives took over operation of the library, explained Watergate as a third-rate burglary exploited by the president's enemies to reverse the results of the 1972 election. Now, with the long-awaited opening of the library's new Watergate exhibit, the public finally has a museum that tells the full story...
...Textbooks and journalists almost always conclude with Ford's pardon of Nixon. But the Nixon Library goes one big step further, closing with the legislation that resulted from Watergate: the broadening of the Freedom of Information Act to give individuals and journalists more tools to uncover government abuse of power; the Presidential Records Act, which forbids presidents from destroying their records; the creation of the Federal Election Commission to monitor campaign finance; and the Ethics in Government Act, which established the office of the special prosecutor. [emphasis added]
Landmark Public Online Information Act Jointly Reintroduced In House And Senate, by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation (April 4, 2011)
Today Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) reintroduced the landmark Public Online Information Act. If enacted, POIA would bring the government into the 21st century by requiring the government to embrace the presumption that government-held information, already required to be public, must be available online. Data should be free from the shadows of obscurity and brought into the sunlight of the Internet.
As noted here, many of the Obama administration's top open government initiatives (including USASpending.gov, Data.gov, FedRAMP, paymentaccuracy.gov, Apps.gov/now, and IT Dashboard) are set to be turned off in May or June. Here are two good articles that cover the issues very well:
- Why Cutting E-Gov Funding Threatens American Jobs, by Beth Simone Noveck, Huffington Post (March 25, 2011).
- Congress weighs deep cuts to funding for federal open government data platforms, by Alex Howard, GovFresh, (April 1, 2011).
This is just too depressing!
OMB prepares for open gov sites to go dark in May
By Jason Miller
Federal News Radio
Many of the Obama administration's top open government initiatives are set to be turned off by May 31.
Government sources confirm that the Office of Management and Budget is planning to take seven websites dark in two months because of a lack of funding.
One government official, who requested anonymity because they didn't get permission to discuss the topic, said funding will begin to run out on April 20 for public sites IT Dashboard, Data.gov and paymentaccuracy.gov. The source said OMB also is planning on shutting down internal government sites, including Performance.gov, FedSpace and many of the efforts related the FEDRamp cloud computing cybersecurity effort.
The official said two other sites, USASpending.gov and Apps.gov/now, will run through July 30 but go dark soon after.
[HT to John Wonderlich at Sunlight Foundation!]
This is an historic day for the open government movement and makes me proud to live in San Francisco! Yesterday, EB Boyd reported that the San Francisco Board of Overseers voted unanimously to approve the first municipal open data law in the United States*. This turns the executive order that San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom issued last year directing the city’s departments to make their data public into law.
**Commenter Phillip Ashlock corrected the reporting by noting that "Portland passed the first open data law in the U.S. about a year ago and their law was largely influenced by the legislation passed in Vancouver about six months before that. The major difference (and a very important one) with San Francisco's new legislation is that it is more explicit about using open licenses with the open data."
In the year since Newsom opened the data treasure troves, 200 sets of data have been released, and at least 50 apps have been built using them. Among the apps: EcoFinder, which helps people find recycling locations for all sorts of odds and ends; SpotCrime, which plots crime incidents and sends alerts to residents; and, possibly the favorite of the city's transportation-beleaguered residents, Routesy, which lets people plan tips on public transportation and provides real-time information about when the next bus or train is coming.