OMB Watch Welcomes New Standard of Openness Heralded by Obama Administration's Open Government Directive
-For Immediate Release-
December 8, 2009
OMB Watch Welcomes New Standard of Openness Heralded by
Obama Administration's Open Government Directive
WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2009—OMB Watch applauds the Obama administration's latest effort to create a more open and accountable government: the release of the Open Government Directive. The directive has been in development since the first day of the Obama administration, when the president issued a memo tasking OMB and other key officials to develop the directive.
The results appear to be well worth the wait. The president demanded the directive be built around three main principles – transparency, participation, and collaboration. The new directive, issued today, delivers on all three principles with specific requirements and deadlines for all agencies.
Gary D. Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, noted that the new directive marks a new direction for the executive branch. "The directive’s presumption of openness – certainly a positive step – reflects a thoughtful understanding that achieving the goal of transparency requires a cultural shift in the way government operates," stated Bass. "The directive’s scope and specificity blends both rigorous timelines and agency flexibility that will likely achieve significant improvements in government openness across agencies. The key will be how the public, the White House, and federal agencies work together in implementing the directive," Bass added.
The directive is comprised of four main components centered on very simple but important themes – publishing information; creating a culture of openness; improving data quality; and updating policies to allow for greater openness. Each section tasks agencies and other key offices with specific goals, complete with deadlines.
A major new requirement found in the directive is for each agency to develop specialized Open Government Plans within the next 120 days. These plans must detail exactly how each agency will improve transparency and integrate public participation and collaboration into its activities. An attachment to the directive lays out the required components of the plan.
The content of the directive reflects many of the transparency recommendations collaboratively developed by the right-to-know community during a two-year process coordinated by OMB Watch. Those 70 detailed recommendations were delivered to the Obama transition team in a report called Moving Toward a 21st Century Right-to-Know Agenda. Among those recommendations were requests for creating incentives for openness, interagency coordination, and publication of high-priority data that is currently unavailable – all of which are addressed in the new directive.
The task before government now is to take the new policy provisions of the Open Government Directive and implement them. Agencies are required to establish an Open Government webpage on their sites and permit public participation on the development of the plans, as well as gather input on transparency issues on an ongoing basis. The White House website will also establish an Open Government Dashboard to track agency plans and performance. These will be the places to watch to see how well the next step in government openness proceeds.
Additionally, the directive will need to be complemented with clear policies to guide agencies on topics such as disclosure of meetings with those outside of government. These policies are to be developed by OMB within 120 days.
OMB Watch will make additional analysis of the Open Government Directive available this evening in The Watcher, the organization's biweekly e-newsletter. The Watcher is available at http://www.ombwatch.org/watcher.
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OMB Watch is a nonprofit government watchdog organization dedicated to promoting government accountability, citizen participation in public policy decisions, and the use of fiscal and regulatory policy to serve the public interest.