Federal agencies should do more to cooperate with the government's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ombudsman, according to recommendations approved June 5 by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). The recommendations also called for the ombudsman, known as the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), to continue efforts to assist people who make FOIA requests. The recommendation is a positive step for helping people access public information under FOIA.
On June 6, the interagency working group that President Obama formed in the wake of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion released its report to the president, conveying its recommendations for improving chemical facility safety and security. The report outlines many of the significant problems facing chemical facility safety in this country, including limited information sharing, incomplete and incompatible regulations, and the need for greater use of safer technologies. The recommendations on these problems point in the right direction but leave the details to the individual agencies to resolve as they move forward on possible regulations and policy changes.
On May 28, President Obama acknowledged the need for increased transparency about the administration’s national security activities, particularly with regard to lethal strikes by drone aircraft. However, Congress recently missed an opportunity to bring about such disclosure.
The April release of Medicare’s vast trove of payment data has triggered a torrentofreports illustrating just how useful this data can be for patients and providers. While many of the articles have focused on how much Medicare pays doctors, the data have also provided valuable context for broader pieces on the state of American health care.
On May 9, President Obama quietly signed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) into law. Congress and open government advocates across the political spectrum worked for years to refine and pass the spending transparency legislation. The new law, if properly implemented, will be a big win for everyone.
Vehicle safety is a significant concern for many Americans. As the ongoing General Motors recall has shown, problems with automotive parts can adversely affect millions of people. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the federal agency that sets safety standards for motor vehicles and investigates defects. To keep customers informed, NHTSA's Safercar.gov provides a portal to information about potential problems with cars and automotive equipment.
On April 2, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, striking down aggregate limits on the contributions that individuals can give to political candidates. Coupled with the court's earlier rulings that loosened restrictions on corporate spending on election ads, this decision makes comprehensive and timely disclosure of campaign spending even more important. Voters should be able to see who is financing campaigns.