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Happy 2022! We were on a brief hiatus here at FGI but are back in the saddle and looking to return to active blogger status in 2022. We’re always looking for others to help us track on government information and libraries, so contact me if you’d like to try your hand at posting (freegovinfo AT gmail DOT com).
It’s only fitting that our first post back should be to honor the great Steve Aftergood. Aftergood is the long-running author of the brilliant Secrecy News newsletter from the Federation of American Scientists, publisher of thousands(!) of Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports and all kinds of other critical formerly secret and/or hard-to-come-by government publications – many of which made their way into library collections and catalogs, rippling out to students and researchers for many years to come! Steve’s work has been so impactful on many disciplines and on many people (whether they know it or not, and that, IMHO is the mark of a great person!). His long and distinguished service to government policy and accountability should be lauded by all.
For those who don’t know him – and for those who do! – you’ll be better for reading his autobiographical essay “H-Diplo Essay 359- Steven Aftergood on Learning the Scholar’s Craft”.
Our sincere thanks and gratitude to Steve Aftergood!
Steve Aftergood, the scholar who authored the amazing Secrecy News newsletter for two decades, gathered and published tens of thousands of CRS reports over the decades, was responsible for publishing the Intelligence Community’s top line budget number, and successfully brought a scientific bent to questions of government policy — especially around government secrecy — has discontinued his program at the Federation of American Scientists, where he was first hired in 1989. Steve assures me he has not retired and merely is in transition. His essay on his experiences are worth reading, he still replies to emails, and we owe a debt of gratitude for Steve’s long service towards advancing government transparency and accountability and his collegiality towards all of us who have spent our careers learning from him.
[HT Daniel Schuman at First Branch Forecast who let us know about this breaking news!]
I’ve been very impressed with the research and thought that goes into the First Branch Forecast, the weekly newsletter focusing on transparency and governance issues being considered by Congress. There’s always something of interest in the newsletter, so I highly recommend that everyone subscribe.
One item of interest in a recent Forecast was about Congressional Budget Justifications (CBJs). In my work as a research librarian, Federal budget analysis, information and data are frequent requests as the Congressional appropriations process is about as clear as mud to most people – and I also *highly* recommend bookmarking the regularly updated CRS report “The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction” to better understand the kabuki-like procedural elements that go into this process. So the FBF research into CBJs offers both insight into and problems with the budget process and access to the information and data that go into this annual rite. I’ll let them explain in detail, but please read the entire post and don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter.
Congressional Budget Justifications (CBJs) are plain-language explanations of how an agency proposes to spend money it requests that Congress appropriate, but how easy is it for congressional staff and citizens to find these documents? Demand Progress surveyed 456 federal agencies and entities for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 and found:
7.5 percent of the 173 agencies with congressional liaisons, i.e., 13 agencies, published their CBJs online for only FY 2018 or FY 2019, but not both. (Agencies with congressional liaison offices routinely interact with Congress). If you exclude subordinate agencies whose reports traditionally are included in a superior agency’s reports, that figure becomes 3.3 percent, or 5 agencies, out of 152 agencies published a CBJ for FY 2018 or 2019. The failure of one agency to publish their report impacts a number of sub-agencies. Among the agencies/entities inconsistent in their reporting is the Executive Office of the President, which houses the Office of Management and Budget, the National Security Council, and the Office of the Vice President.