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The BLM Promised Its Move Out West Was The Best Possible Option. A Watchdog Report Says Otherwise. By Caitlyn Kim March 6, 2020.
“If the goal behind the Bureau of Land Management’s move out west is about reform, a Congressional watchdog agency says the Department of the Interior has not used best practices to make it happen.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: BLM LEADER TOUTS BENEFITS OF AGENCY’S HEADQUARTERS RELOCATION TO WEST “Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley recently traveled to Grand Junction, Colorado where the new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters will be located. He met with leadership across the BLM and provided details on the relocation efforts taking place. He also sat down with the Grand Junction Sentinel to discuss the importance and positive impact of the move.”
“The BLM is relocating its headquarters functions and other supporting offices to the American West. This move will benefit the public we serve as well as the bureau and our employees. Moving the people who make critical decisions about the lands and programs we manage will help provide a greater on-the-ground understanding and will also foster better partnerships with communities and organizations there.”
“The Bureau of Land Management announced in 2019 that most of its employees in Washington, D.C., will be transferred to offices in western states. We assessed the bureau’s reorganization efforts against key practices for agency reforms. The bureau established goals for the reorganization, but did not establish performance measures. We also found that the bureau’s implementation plan did not include milestones, which would help ensure that the reforms are being achieved as intended and in a timely manner. We recommended that the bureau establish outcome-oriented performance measures to assess the effectiveness of the reorganization.”
“Based on the documents we reviewed, BLM partially addressed key reform practices for using data and evidence when developing reforms. (See fig. 4.) Specifically, in a draft white paper on the relocation of BLM’s headquarters to the West, dated May 16, 2019, BLM presented data and evidence on leasing rates, demographics, and lifestyle attributes in Washington, D.C., and four western locations. The white paper generally, but not always, included sources for the data it presented. However, it did not describe a methodology for choosing a location for BLM’s new headquarters. For example, it did not explain how information would be evaluated or how BLM would rank factors to select the preferred location. The white paper also noted BLM was working with Interior’s Office of Policy, Management, and Budget to create a report that analyzes the most suitable location for a western headquarters. However, as of February 20, 2020, BLM had not provided us such a report. Other documents included some discussion of potential costs and benefits but noted that more analysis was needed to make a determination. We requested this information, but as of February 20, 2020, BLM had not provided it to us.” Page 8
A librarian searched the DOI website including their FOIA page for the white paper mentioned in the GAO report without success and has initiated a FOIA request for it.
co-published on govdoc-l and freegovinfo.info.
Kian Flynn and Cass Hartnett have just published a solid article in Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(3) called “Cutting through the Fog: Government Information, Librarians, and the Forty-Fifth Presidency” (full citation below!). In it, they broadly highlight the current govt information landscape — kindly mention several projects including LOCKSS-USDOCS! — and then come to a very positive conclusion:
Going forward, librarians must face the present—and the future—state of government information in order to cut through this fog. We need to work together to pursue collaborative partnerships to safeguard past, present, and future government information for the public’s long-term access and consumption, and to promote services that encourage our users to critically evaluate and interrogate all information. Our collaborations must move in two directions at once: (1) We need to ensure that official legal processes are in place to best manage government information (the hoped-for outcome of Title 44 reform). And (2) we need to create nongovernmental solutions to preserve secondary “use copies” of government information as well (read: backups), holding the information in trust together. The solutions we create today need to be adaptable for the government information landscape of the future.
One thing I thought I should mention. In their section on highlighting collections, they helpfully point the reader to publications from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and Congressional Research Service (CRS) as particularly valuable and relevant for their “dispassionate, scholarly, ‘just the facts’ approach.” I think it should be noted that none of these are hosted on GPO’s govinfo.gov platform, only the GAO has a partnership in place w GPO to permanently preserve their documents, the CBO has been under an unprecedented attack on its legitimacy by the GOP, and CRS reports, until recently — and after a 20 year grassroots effort! — were never made publicly available or distributed via the FDLP. It takes a village of libraries to assure permanent public access!
Please read and forward to others who may be interested. Thanks Kian and Cass!
Flynn, K., & Hartnett, C. (2018). Cutting through the Fog: Government Information, Librarians, and the Forty-Fifth Presidency. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(3), 208-216. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.57.3.6608
The U.S. Constitution — Article I, Section 2, clause 3, as modified by Section 2 of the 14th Amendment — requires a population census every 10 years for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. However, in the wake of US Census Bureau Director John Thompson’s abrupt resignation in May — which garnered a rash of editorials and news articles decrying his resignation at this critical time! — and the Trump administration and GOP-led Congress failing to fully fund the 2020 effort, the 2020 census could be “heading for a train wreck” as Terri Ann Lowenthal, the former co-director of the Census Project, put it so succinctly.
Accordingly, the Government Accountability Office has added the 2020 US census to its high risk list. Issues which raised the threat level for GAO include cancelled field tests for 2017, critical IT uncertainties, information security risks, and “unreliable” cost estimates which do not “conform to best practices.”
Strap in folks, we’re in for a bumpy couple of years for the census. If you have a Senator on the Senate Appropriations Committee or Representative on the House Appropriations Committee, please contact them early and often and ask — nay plead! — that they fully fund the US Census Bureau in order to complete the constitutionally mandated decennial census.
For more background on the US census, see this CRS Report “The Decennial Census: Issues for 2020.”
Every 2 years at the start of a new Congress, GAO calls attention to agencies and program areas that are high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or are most in need of transformation. The 2017 update identified 3 new High Risk areas and removed 1 area. The update is available below.
Steven Aftergood says that “The Government Accountability Office this week quietly published a list of titles of its restricted reports that have not been publicly released because they contain classified information or controlled unclassified information.”
- GAO Posts Titles of Restricted Reports by Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists, Secrecy News (Oct.16, 2015).
There are several limitations to the new disclosure policy. It does not reflect restricted GAO reports that were generated prior to 2014. It will not cite titles that are themselves classified. And it will not include reports that focus on an individual intelligence agency.
- Restricted Products Government Accountability Office.
- A listing of GAO restricted report titles from 1971-2011 [pdf] copies of the first page of each GAO report issued prior to 1972 that remains classified, [pdf] GovernmentAttic.org.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week that criticized management of information technology at the Library of Congress.
Strong Leadership Needed to Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses, U.S. Government Accountability Office. GAO–15–315 (Mar 31, 2015).
Here is a roundup of some of the news and commentary about the report:
America’s ‘national library’ is lacking in leadership, yet another report finds, By Peggy McGlone, Washington Post (March 31, 2015).
Watchdog: Library of Congress Lacks a Digital Blueprint – And Doesn’t Know How Much It Spends on Technology, By Jack Moore, NextGov (April 1, 2015).
GAO: Library of Congress continues to suffer poor IT management, By Stephanie Kanowitz, FierceGovIT (April 2, 2015).
Lawmakers want Library of Congress reforms but not librarian’s resignation, By Peggy McGlone, Washington Post (April 2, 2015).
Digital Neglect at the Library of Congress, By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times (April 5, 2015).