White House lists new transparency goals
New national open government plan released Sept. 20
The Obama administration intends to modernize federal records management, improve whistleblower laws and track all U.S. financial assistance to foreign governments, according to a new national plan.
White House officials published the National Action Plan for the United States of America on Sept. 20. It outlines 26 new and ongoing programs for open government in the coming months.
The plan was developed as part of the administration’s commitment to the international Open Government Partnership, formally announced Sept. 20 by President Barack Obama at the United Nations Assembly.
The plan builds on ongoing federal open government efforts, which “are now entering a new phase, as we collaborate with other countries,” the document states.
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The U.S. is co-chair of the partnership, along with Brazil, with eight countries to date having fulfilled initial commitments. Another 36 countries are in the process of making commitments.
The U.S. action plan contains multiple transparency-related agenda items to fulfill three broad goals for open government — for increasing public integrity, for managing public resources and for improving public services.
Many of the U.S. programs are governmentwide, including improvements to Freedom of Information Act enforcement, federal document declassification efforts and whistleblower protections; and more public disclosure of data on federal spending, industry compliance activities and legal entity registration and activity.
There also are some agency-specific and industry-specific proposals, such as a plan to disclose payments by gas, oil and mining companies for access to public lands.
The plan also lists a goal of modernizing records management policies and practices across the executive branch.
“We will launch an initiative that will recommend reforms and require reporting on current policies and practices,” the plan states. “The initiative will consider changes to existing laws and ask how technology can be leveraged to improve records management while making it cost-effective. The initiative will seek a reformed, digital-era, governmentwide records management framework that promotes accountability and performance.”
The administration said it plans to direct all federal agencies that administer foreign aid to provide timely and detailed information on budgets, disbursements, and project implementation, within common data fields.
The information collected will be released in an open format and made available on a central Web portal, ForeignAssistance.gov, to be updated quarterly, it states.
The plan states NASA and space agencies around the world are to launch an International Space Apps competition in which scientists and the public will compete to develop solutions for global problems such as severe weather and depletion of oceans.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.