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Happy Sunshine Week, the week where we celebrate government transparency, FOIA and all things open government information! There’s lots happening this week including the upcoming 1/2 day live and streaming celebration at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). But there’s also work to be done. Evidently, appropriators are holding up the smart, pro-transparency “HR 736 Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act” scheduled for a floor vote on Tuesday. Contact your Representative today and tell them to pass this important act!
There’s too much news happening this week to list it all — make sure to subscribe to the First Branch Forecast weekly newsletter published by Daniel Schuman and his crack team at Demand Progress to keep up to date! — but I did want to highlight the good news coming out of the LIBRARY of Congress. Slowly but surely, they’re expanding the number of Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports being published on their site crsreports.congress.gov. They still don’t have the coverage of EveryCRSReport.com which includes 14,742 CRS reports (and still growing) but LoC is getting there so good on them. Celebrate Sunshine Week by leaving LoC a comment and contacting your Representative to tell them to vote for “HR 736 Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act”. Sunshine is the best disinfectant!!
Since launching, we’ve added hundreds of new reports and are working hard to include the back catalog of older CRS reports – a process that is expected to be complete later this month. Today, you can access more than 2,300 reports on topics ranging from the Small Business Administration to farm policy.
Starting this week, the Library is making additional product types available on the site. The site now includes In Focus products, which are two-page executive level briefing documents on a range of policy issues. For example, recent topics include military medical malpractice and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant. Another newly-added product type is the Insight, which provides short-form analysis on fast moving or more focused issues. Examples of topics include volcano early warning systems and Congressional Member Organizations. Users can filter by product type using the faceted search on the left hand of the search results page.
McClatchyDC reports that The White House comment line is shut down, that new signatures aren’t being counted on petitions posted on the White House’s website, that Federal agencies are not allowed to respond to requests, that transcripts, executive orders and news releases aren’t being posted online, that social media accounts, including Flickr, Pinterest and Tumblr, are no longer in use, and that sending information to the Federal Register is delayed.
- Trump White House is leaving the public in the dark. Is it growing pains – or a plan? by Anita Kumarakumar, McClatchyDC (February 3, 2017 3:33 PM ).
The report also says that the Trump administration revamp of the the White House website eliminated references to gay and lesbian issues and global warming and the Spanish-language website.
Ben Marchi, a Trump supporter and longtime Republican operative is quoted as saying, “It’s far too early to sound the alarm bells.”
When asked if he thinks these problems are intentional or a normal part of the overwhelming task of a transition, Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, said, “I don’t know because no one is telling us.”
The White House did not respond to a request from McClathyDC for comment.
The news out of Washington DC is not good if you’re a government information librarian or an open government advocate. In the last 24 hours, the Trump administration has put a freeze on EPA grants and contracts and ordered USDA science researchers to “cease publication of ‘outward facing’ documents and news releases.” Not only does this have a massive negative impact on scientific research — and the thousands of researchers and students who rely on federal grants to do their work and live on a day-to-day basis! — but it also shuts the door on our government’s communication with its citizens. Stay tuned and aware that this is going on, and by all means contact your representatives to let them know that this is NOT all right!
And so it begins. The Trump administration is targeting government agencies which produce “politicized science” — or as most of us call it, “science”! — and will be looking to defund those agencies. This story from the Guardian focuses on NASA, but no doubt EPA, NOAA, and other agencies which work on climate change and other areas of scientific research that the Republican party thinks of as “politicized science” will be targeted for budget cuts and more. It’ll be interesting to analyze the 2016 End of Term .gov crawl to see just how many .gov sites fundamentally change or completely disappear in the coming months.
Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.
Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century.
This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change, with the Earth science division’s budget set to grow to $2bn next year. By comparison, space exploration has been scaled back somewhat, with a proposed budget of $2.8bn in 2017.
This is extremely disappointing, especially given Obama’s presidential memorandum, signed on his first day in office in 2009, that instructed all government agencies to “adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government.”
The Obama administration has long called itself the most transparent administration in history. But newly released Department of Justice (DOJ) documents show that the White House has actually worked aggressively behind the scenes to scuttle congressional reforms designed to give the public better access to information possessed by the federal government.
The documents were obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports journalism in the public interest, which in turn shared them exclusively with VICE News. They were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — the same law Congress was attempting to reform. The group sued the DOJ last December after its FOIA requests went unanswered for more than a year.
The documents confirm longstanding suspicions about the administrations meddling, and lay bare for the first time how it worked to undermine FOIA reform bills that received overwhelming bipartisan support and were unanimously passed by both the House and Senate in 2014 — yet were never put up for a final vote.