Open government plans updated, criticized

Energy, GSA, HHS, Interior submit Version 1.1 plans

Agencies are rolling out updated versions of their open government plans and preparing for more scrutiny from watchdog groups.

For example, the General Services Administration on June 25 made several changes that included an eRulemaking section and updated information on its Better Buy wiki in Version 1.1 of its Open Government Plan. The Interior Department provided new progress reports and an updated timeline in its Version 1.1 plan, also on June 25.

In recent weeks, the Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Transportation and Treasury departments also have released updated versions of their plans on the Web. According to the Openthegovernment.org watchdog group, a total of 23 federal agencies have submitted updated plans.


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Under the White House’s Open Government Directive issued in December 2009, departments and agencies were required to produce open government plans by April 7 that outlined their activities to advance transparency, participation and collaboration.

The Office of Management and Budget has published an Open Government Dashboard on its Web site that features self-assessments of 29 agencies’ plans. A coalition of watchdog groups, working as Openthegovernment.org, released an audit of the 29 federal plans in May.

The watchdog groups intend to release an audit of the updated plans sometime this month, said Amy Bennett, program associate for Openthegovernment.org. The audit will evaluate whether the plans live up to the letter and the spirit of the requirements.

Several of the updated plans provide an index of changes so that it is easy to see where updates were made. For example, GSA includes an appendix in its updated plan describing about three dozen updates, including a new chart on governance, an update to the IT dashboard, and a new communications plan.

HHS and other departments noted that they made changes to respond to feedback from the initial plan.

“We’ve added more clarity, specificity, and depth of explanatory policy detail in multiple areas throughout the plan. We’ve also included exciting updates on our work to implement the plan,” that department said on its HHS Open Web site.

In the watchdogs’ audit of the first round of 29 open government plans, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Housing and Urban Development ranked high, while DOD, Energy, Justice and OMB were at the bottom.

“Of particular disappointment to many of the evaluators is the low ranking of plans developed by OMB and Justice. Given that OMB has responsibility overseeing portions of the Open Government Directive, the evaluators expected the agency to seize this opportunity to lead by example,” the groups said in the audit.

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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