Transparency, social-media policies stuck in limbo

DOD’s social-media policy and the Open Government Directive remain MIA

Two highly anticipated government reports could be published this month: the Defense Department's social-media policy and the White House’s open-government directive.

Government sources and media reports suggest the reports are likely to come this month. But both are weeks overdue.

In July, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn ordered a review to detail the threats and benefits associated with using social-networking tools. An aggressive deadline of Aug. 31 was set and missed.

DOD officials are close to completing the social-networking policy, and a final meeting is scheduled to take place this month for the team negotiating the strategy, said Defense Deputy Chief Information Officer Dave Wennergren.

President Barack Obama’s memo, issued on his first full day in office, laid out his administration’s goals for open government and requested that recommendations be drafted by May 21. Despite getting input from the public and federal government employees, White House officials still have not issued the directive.

Even though the two forthcoming documents are receiving a lot of attention, the delays are not slowing open-government and social-media efforts, several experts say.

For example, Data.gov — a Web site designed to provide machine-readable data to the public — launched in May. The open-government directive will likely encourage agencies to pursue projects such as Data.gov, said Molly O’Neill, former assistant administrator and CIO of the Office of Environmental Information at the Environmental Protection Agency and now a vice president at CGI Federal.

Drafting the social-media policy and open-government directive isn't easy because of the reams of laws and regulations federal agencies must follow, O’Neill said.

For example, agencies must comply with the Administrative Procedures Act — enacted in 1946 — when establishing new regulations.

“How do those kinds of things that were written years ago apply today?” O’Neill asked. “What do they mean now that we’re talking about being much more open and using technology to do that? I’m not saying these are barriers, but they are things that need to be addressed.”

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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