Obama Opens O-Government

The day that recommendations for a more open government are due to the president, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) plans to file a <a href="http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2009-12026_PI.pdf">request</a> for public input, prompting questions galore.

The day that recommendations for a more open government are due to the president, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) plans to file a request for public input, prompting questions galore.

Months ago, President Obama asked department heads to compile recommendations for an open government directive that will instruct agencies to take steps toward a more transparent, collaborative and participatory government. Government transparency groups instantly urged the president to let them participate in creating a more participatory government, too. That was Jan. 21. The deadline for agency submissions is Thursday, May 21.

Now, the government is finally giving the public what it wants, in the form of an expected May 21 Federal Register notice asking for "comments, ideas, and proposals" on possible initiatives to increase openness in government. The deadline for public submissions is June 19.

Questions left unanswered:

  • Did Obama authorize an extension for agency recommendations?
  • Is the White House waiting for Chief Technology Officer Nominee Aneesh Chopra to be confirmed? The president had tasked the federal CTO with organizing the recommendations.
  • When will he issue the actual directive?
  • How much of it does the public get to see?

"While this is a very positive step, it is disappointing that it took so long for such a simple invitation of public participation," according to a blog post by OMBWatch, a group of government accountability advocates. "The notice does not appear to include any draft recommendations or specific issues the government plans to address. You would think that after 120 days the government would have some draft ideas to test out with the public. The good news is that the directive is moving forward and the public is being involved."

The May 21 Federal Register notice states:

Members of the public are invited to participate in the process of developing recommendations via email or the White House website at www.whitehouse.gov/open offering comments, ideas, and proposals about possible initiatives and about how to increase openness and transparency in government.

DATES: Comments must be received by June 19, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments by one of the following methods:

  • http://www.whitehouse.gov/open
  • E-mail: opengov@ostp.gov
  • Mail: Office of Science and Technology Policy, Attn: Open Government Recommendations, 725 17th Street, ATTN: Jim Wickliffe, Washington, DC 20502.
  • *********************

    The Presidential Memorandum requests recommendations to inform an OMB Directive that will instruct executive departments and agencies on specific actions to implement the three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration.

    The purpose of this Federal Register notice is to solicit public participation in the development of those recommendations. There is a great deal of dispersed information among the nation's citizens. With twenty-first century tools, the United States is in a unique position to take advantage of that dispersed information to inform the policymaking process. Our goal is to use the principles of open government to obtain fresh ideas about open government itself.

    Comments on open government may relate to government-wide or agency-specific policy, project ideas, and relevant examples. Comments may address law, policy, technology, culture, and practice on issues such as:

  • What government information should be more readily available on-line or more easily searched?
  • How might the operations of government be made more transparent and accountable?
  • How might federal advisory committees, rulemaking, or electronic rulemaking be better used to improve decisionmaking?
  • What alternative models exist to improve the quality of decisionmaking and increase opportunities for citizen participation?
  • What are the limitations to transparency?
  • What strategies might be employed to adopt greater use of Web 2.0 in agencies?
  • What policy impediments to innovation in government currently exist?
  • What changes in training or hiring of personnel would enhance innovation?
  • What performance measures are necessary to determine the effectiveness of open government policies?