Obama scores high marks on transparency, watchdog group says

President Obama has made “tremendous progress” in increasing government transparency in his first 100 days in office but still has work to do in making more information available to the public, according to an assessment from a watchdog group.

The president has satisfied three out of five specific transparency goals for the first 100 days that were recommended by OMB Watch and 300 other individuals and advocacy groups in November 2008, according to an April 29 report from OMB Watch. The remaining two recommendations were partially satisfied.

The coalition’s agenda included five specific recommendations for the president’s first 100 days, and 70 recommendations overall, for making the federal government more open and accessible.

“President Obama has made transparency a high priority and has started significant efforts in what will be a long process of getting government to be more open,” OMB Watch said in the nine-page report. “On the specific recommendations for the first 100 days from the 'Moving Toward a 21st Century Right‐to‐Know Agenda' report, the administration has made tremendous progress.”

However, there are still many areas of unfinished business. The administration has announced plans to launch Data.gov to make various federal databases accessible but so far has provided few details on the project, the report said.

In addition, transparency advocates are still waiting to learn what types of discussions are being held, or have been held, to develop an Open Government Directive by mid-May, as Obama promised when he issued a directive on the Freedom of Information Act on his first day in office.

“In fact, there has been no formal public process to discuss the directive, creating concern that public access topics might be developed without public input, defying the very principles that the Obama memo called for,” OMB Watch wrote.

Obama has not yet made clear progress on the handling of Controlled Unclassified Information; nor has there been a change in vice presidential disclosure requirements, the report said. Also, the administration has not created a position of government transparency officer, though several officials, including Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, have been assigned transparency responsibilities, OMB Watch said.

Obama administration officials' decision to maintain Bush administration interpretations of executive branch power on the question of state secrets is also blocking progress, the report said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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