How to Strengthen Transparency in the U.S. Open Government Plan

by Gavin Baker, 9/1/2011

Yesterday, OMB Watch submitted its recommendations for the Obama administration's national plan for the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The administration will unveil its plan, with new concrete commitments to increase transparency, at the international OGP meeting on Sept. 20.

Seven other countries will also announce their national open government plans at that summit, organized around the United Nations General Assembly meeting. For the U.S. as well as the other participants, OGP has been an impetus to action for transparency. The national plan to be released in September is an important opportunity for the administration to expand on its progress in strengthening open government in order to empower Americans and build a better democracy.

In blog posts on Aug. 8 and Aug. 22, the administration asked for feedback on six topics to inform the development of its national plan. Reforms in these areas, including improving federal websites and promoting corporate accountability, would constitute a positive agenda for the U.S. Open Government Plan.

Our comments offer recommendations on each of the six topics. Among the ideas offered, OMB Watch encouraged the administration to:

  1. Transform Regulations.gov into a one-stop shop for citizens to learn about rulemaking
  2. Establish federal website standards that encourage proactive disclosure, identification of public priorities, and visualization tools
  3. Improve Data.gov with common data formats, identifiers, and user-friendly interfaces
  4. Strengthen records management with smarter IT investments and email policy
  5. Make regulatory compliance information more user-friendly
  6. Promote corporate accountability with better disclosure

In addition to these comments, OMB Watch has consulted with the administration on other topics that would make excellent contributions to the U.S. Open Government Plan. Meaningful reforms to the six consultation topics would be a significant step forward, but we hope that the administration will consider additional initiatives as well. For instance, the White House could establish an award, similar to the SAVE Award, to recognize the best contributions to open government by federal employees. Such an award could be an important way to foster a culture of openness within government and would be a helpful complement to the policy reforms the administration is considering.

We invite readers to join the discussion by sending their thoughts on the six topics by email to opengov@ostp.gov.

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