Policy

Groups want OMB to reconsider info policy revisions

Shutterstock image (by Andrii_M): computer binary code.

The federal government is giving interested parties until Dec. 5 to comment on proposed revisions to Circular A-130, the Office of Management and Budget's baseline IT policy document.

A 15-day extension was granted in response to a request from 11 organizations interested in the public information and access sections of the revised document. Patrice McDermott, executive director of OpenTheGovernment.org, wrote the letter requesting the extension based on concerns that language about the importance of information in a democracy and the right of the public to access government information had been excised from the previous version.

A veteran of information policy battles, McDermott said she welcomes the updates on acquisition and cybersecurity but does not want to lose sections of the document "that we fought really hard to get in there" in previous editions.

"The new A-130 is focused on information as data and focused on information for innovation and entrepreneurship," McDermott said in reference to the updates that enshrine the Obama administration’s open-data efforts in official policy.

But the update also deletes language that frames the statement, "The free flow of information between the government and the public is essential to a democratic society," as a basic assumption.

McDermott’s concerns are shared by a number of organizations that signed onto the request, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the American Library Association, the Government Accountability Project and the Sunlight Foundation. They want officials to restore the earlier language and emphasis on the importance of information to a democracy.

"Some important parts of the baby are being thrown out with the bathwater," McDermott told FCW.

A-130 is the policy guide for government information professionals. Although it does not have the force of law or regulation, it is essentially a playbook for the CIO community to use in acquiring, deploying and managing information systems. The proposed revision is the first in 15 years.

"It's important to maintain the philosophical discussions [and] the reasoning about why information is important -- not just for encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship but why it's central to who we are as the public in these United States," McDermott said.

She and her colleagues are not alone in voicing objections to the revised A-130. Others have complained that the new document does not do enough to capture advances in software development best practices and does not include any of the various playbooks on acquisition, design and development created by new high-tech teams at 18F and the U.S. Digital Service.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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Reader comments

Tue, Nov 24, 2015 Glenn Schlarman Annandale, VA

The deletion of such a foundational statement regarding the value of information to our citizens is curious. It is not a throw away tag line. Not being on the inside any longer I'll give the benefit of the doubt to my former OMB colleagues and for the time being presume they have sound reasons for the deletion. However, it seems to reflect a lost appreciation that the American citizen taxpayers trust to their government a great deal of their hard earned resources to finance the collection and use of all types of information and rightfully expect, to the maximum extent practicable, their government will not secret it away within the bowels of an ever growing bureaucracy. I would expect a complete explanation for the deletion and, if it was an oversight, would view it as troubling as an intentional deletion. As a former member of and then chief of the branch responsible for A-130, I recognize the tough work involved in reworking it. It was long overdue. But, I too encourage you to not throw the baby out with the bath water.

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