Government agencies are busy working on their data quality guidelines with many looking to a draft release for public comment in May. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidelines, issued January 3, 2002, each agency must implement agency specific information quality guidelines by October 1, 2002.
On March 19, a little over six months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the White House took action to "safeguard information" in the name of homeland security. The White House released two memos providing steps agencies should take to protect government information from being used by terrorists.
On March 25, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) stopped accepting comments on its ideas for limiting public access to "critical energy infrastructure information" (CEII). FERC first released an initial policy statement addressing this issue in October 2000, and followed it up with a January 16 Notice of Inquiry (NOI) in the Federal Register. The Notice of Inquiry sought public input on possible regulatory changes that would allow the agency to restrict unfettered general public access to CEII, but still permit those with a "need-to-know access to such information.
The Washington Post reported last week that a previously undisclosed study by the Army surgeon general concludes that as many as 2.4 million people are at risk of being killed or injured in a terrorist attack against a U.S. toxic chemical plant in a densely populated area. This shocking number is twice as high as previous government estimates of possible casualties of a worst-case scenario involving terrorist attacks on chemical plants.
Data Quality meetings abound in Washington DC this week. The National Academy of Sciences is hosting a public workshop focused on OMB's "Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies" on March 21 and 22. This workshop is being organized by the Ad Hoc Committee on Data Quality under the auspices of the Science, Technology, and Law Program of The National Academies. The registration deadline is Tuesday, March 19 and there is no registration fee.
On March 14, 2002 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emailed an announcement to Envirofacts users explaining that it will no longer allow direct access to the Envirofacts databases. In the email to Direct Connect Users, EPA stated that, "As part of our continuing efforts to respond to Homeland Security issues . . . starting April 1, 2002, Direct Connect access will no longer be available to the general public. Direct Connect access to Envirofacts will only be available to U.S. EPA employees, U.S. EPA Contractors, the Military, Federal Government, and State Agency employees."
The federal government's plan for managing information is inadequate to meet potential challenges of the post-September 11th environment, as well as broad information challenges the government may face as it becomes more electronic, according to a new report from the General Accounting Office -- the investigative arm of Congress.