Obama: Open government can rebuild public trust

President Obama calls for greater transparency to restore faith in the federal government

In his first State of the Union address President Barack Obama lamented the fact that the the public has lost faith in the federal government, and said government must work hard to to regain that trust.

“We face a deficit of trust—deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works,” the president said.

The first step on the road to repairing that relationship is greater transparency in government, according to Obama, who called on his own administration and Congress to weed out the influence of lobbyists and other special interests so that “[we can] do our work openly and to give our people the government they deserve.”

In December 2009, the administration issued its Open Government Directive, a new transparency mandate for all agencies that requires federal agencies to make more information available online to the general public. Agencies must release at least three high-value data sets on the Web; officials want that data to be able to fundamentally change the way government operates or that can spawn more ways to get more information to the public.

Following the address, Obama administration officials will host a chat session with top policy officialson the White House Web site.

In his speech, Obama urged Congress to post all earmarks online. “Restoring the public trust demands more,” he told the joint session of Congress. The president believes Congress should publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before it comes up for a vote. The point is to let the Americans see how legislators are spending their money, he said.

He also talked about getting his administration's leaders in place. When it comes to confirm his nominees for top jobs in agencies, he said senators should not obstruct them. "The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators," Obama said.

For nearly a year now Martha Johnson, Obama’s pick to be administrator of the General Services Administration, has been on hold. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee quickly gave Johnson its blessing to head GSA, but one senator has prevented her nomination from going forward.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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