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Agencies issue self-evaluations for open government plans

Ahead of schedule, the White House has posted assessments of agencies' plans for incorporating Obama's principles of open government into their missions.

Each agency was required on April 7 to submit a roadmap for increasing civic participation, private sector collaboration and transparency in government. White House officials that day said, by May 1, the administration would hold agencies accountable by evaluating the plans based on criteria outlined in a December directive. Instead, the administration chose to have each agency evaluate its own plan against the directive's requirements and post those self-evaluations on Tuesday.

"The assessments show that we are off to a good start -- but have much more work to do as we transition our overall efforts towards effective agency implementation," wrote federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra on a White House blog.

The self-reviews were based on a checklist of 30 criteria, such as the inclusion of a key, flagship activity. Detailed evaluations are located on each agency's open government homepage and a summary assessment is posted on the open government dashboard. Agencies that met a criterion got a green flag, while those that have more work to do got a yellow flag. Many of the flags are colored yellow.

Three cabinet and other key agencies -- the Health and Human Services and Transportation departments, and NASA -- earned a green flag for across-the-board excellence. All others -- including the agencies where Kundra and Chopra work, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology, respectively -- have not satisfied every requirement in the directive. The White House has called on the public to provide feedback for improving all the plans.

Government transparency group openthegovernment.org and other watchdog organizations are in the process of finishing their own assessments. Many were concerned that the White House would not conduct a thorough evaluation, given that compliance oversight so far has been lax, according to activists. Openthegovernment intends to publish its findings on Thursday.

"The fact that there are so many yellows is indicative that it wasn't just a check-the-box kind of exercise," said Amy Fuller Bennett, program associate at openthegovernment.org. She said she is looking forward to seeing the public's input, "especially since this is all about increasing transparency, collaboration and participation with the public."

But, she added, "it's great that we even have open government plans and evaluations to pick at."

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