Plan Puts U.S. on the Cutting Edge of Open Government

-For Immediate Release-
September 20, 2011

Contact: Brian Gumm, (202) 683-4812,

Plan Puts U.S. on the Cutting Edge of Open Government

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2011—President Barack Obama today announced the United States’ Open Government Partnership (OGP) plan to further strengthen the transparency and accountability of the federal government. OMB Watch praised the plan as an important step, not just for U.S. transparency, but also for raising the international profile of open government issues.

"This bold, ambitious plan will push the U.S. toward fully realizing the president’s goal of making our national government as transparent as possible and fully open to citizens," said Katherine McFate, President and CEO of OMB Watch. "The 26 commitments made in the plan incorporate a number of recommendations from open government advocates. We are impressed by their reach, inspired by their commitments, and look forward to working with the administration to implement these changes over the next year."

President Obama delivered the plan at the UN General Assembly, where a year ago, he made the call for the partnership effort by challenging countries to "bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; and to leverage new technologies." Governments participating in the partnership agree to develop open government plans and to share their ideas with other countries. In addition to the United States, seven other governments released plans at the meeting, including Brazil, which is serving with the U.S. as co-chair of the partnership, as well as Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. At the same event, 38 additional governments announced their commitments to join the partnership, bringing the total participating countries to 46. The newest partner countries will present their plans in March 2012.

McFate continued, "Having conceived of and nurtured this international initiative for over a year, it was important that the Obama administration set a high standard and stretch itself. This plan does that. In particular, U.S. involvement in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the commitment to more open reporting on foreign aid is potentially transformative. This is a huge step forward for those concerned with more equitable global development."

OMB Watch applauds several commitments in particular:

  • Improving and enriching federal spending transparency – Given the debates around fiscal policy in the U.S. today, tracking spending and ensuring all public monies are wisely spent is of critical importance. The administration has already made great strides in this area by applying lessons learned from the unprecedented reporting required in the Recovery Act to all federal spending. The OGP plan would broaden and deepen that commitment to allow anyone to track the flow of federal funds from recipients to sub-recipients and vendors. This will allow government and citizens to better assess contractor and grantee performance and spending by states and communities.
  • Increasing use of FOIA technology – Allowing citizens to have access to public information is a central value of democracy. Twenty years ago, only a handful of countries had freedom of information laws; now, more than 80 do. However, it is still difficult to obtain information in many places. Investing in technology will make it easier for Americans to file and government agencies to process Freedom of Information Act requests. We are pleased the White House has committed itself to improving response times and reducing the FOIA backlog.
  • Improving public access to regulatory enforcement information – successfully centralized federal rulemaking into one site. Under the Obama administration's plan, the site will be overhauled to make it more interactive and intuitive to everyday Americans. This will help citizens understand how public standards and protections are created. More importantly, the administration is committed to making enforcement and compliance information available to the public, so Americans can ensure the water, environment, and workplaces in their communities are safe.
  • Improving the online interface between the government and the public – As online information exchanges become standard practice in the private sector, governments need to ratchet up the way they provide information, too. Some federal agencies have made good strides improving government websites, complete with interactivity and visualizations, but we applaud the plan's commitment to ensure every government website provides citizen-useful information and is user-friendly.


The Obama administration will report on its progress toward achieving the plan's goals after one year. In addition, the Open Government Partnership will independently monitor and report on each country's progress.

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OMB Watch is a nonprofit research and advocacy 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. Find OMB Watch on Facebook and Twitter.

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