Agencies release transparency roadmaps

Federal agencies today published online their plans to improve transparency

Federal agencies today released their plans to improve transparency, public participation, and collaboration.

The Obama administration said the move was a major step forward for its push to improve transparency governmentwide. Agencies published their Open Government Plans to comply with a directive from the Office of Management and Budget.

“Today marks a major milestone in the president’s commitment to permanently break down the long-standing barriers between the American people and the federal government,” Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra told reporters in a conference call.

The administration will review agencies' plans by May 1 for how well they meet the administration’s requirements, Chopra said. OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition of groups concerned with government transparency, is also evaluating the plans and plans to score them for how well they meet the administration’s requirements.

Agencies’ plans are available through their Web sites or via the administration’s open government dashboard. Agencies had been building their Open Government Plans to describe how they will improve transparency and integrate public participation into their activities since the administration released its Open Government Directive last December.

Each agency’s plan is supposed to explain how the agency plans to improve transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Agencies are also supposed to describe at least one new, related program that’s being put in place, or soon will be.


Related Story:

Open-government groups set to score agencies' transparency plans


The administration highlighted programs from the Health and Human Services, Energy, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development departments, as positive examples. Meanwhile, Amy Bennett, a program associate with the OpenTheGovernment.org coalition, said she was happy to see that the Justice Department plans to put in place a dashboard to help the public keep track of how agencies are responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

In general, open-government advocates are still digesting the plans, many of which are lengthy.

John Wonderlich, policy director at the Sunlight Foundation, said the plans he has reviewed so fare are a mixed bag but that today was a "huge" step forward for transparency.

Wonderlich said his foundation is looking for agencies’ commitment to making new information available. He said some agencies had identified a variety of high-value datasets in their plans, but other seemed to be more in the planning to plan stage.

Meanwhile, Heather West, a policy analyst for the Center for Democracy and Technology who was also still reviewing the plans, said some of the plans have exciting elements such as Justice’s FOIA dashboard, but her initial impression was that the plans are less concrete than she would have liked.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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