WASHINGTON, D.C.–President Obama hailed the release Wednesday of open government plans by all Cabinet agencies – the latest milestone in his Administration’s unprecedented efforts to erase the long-standing barriers between the American people and the government. These plans are the agencies’ strategic roadmap for making transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration part of the way they work.
“For too long, Washington has closed itself off from the oversight of the American public, resulting in information that’s difficult to find, taxpayer dollars that disappear without a trace, and lobbyists that wield undue influence,” said President Obama.
“That’s why my Administration is taking concrete steps to build a government that’s more transparent, open and accountable. And now that these plans are published online, we hope the American people will play their part and collaborate with us to provide oversight and improve upon this information. Together, we won’t just build a more efficient and effective government, but a stronger democracy as well.”
The plans released Wednesday make agency operations and data more transparent, while creating new ways for citizens to have an active voice in their government. In addition, each agency has identified at least one “flagship initiative” – a signature open government innovation in the agency. Examples include:
· Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Health Data Initiative: This initiative will publish online a large-scale Community Health Data Set — a wealth of easily accessible, downloadable information data on community health care costs, quality, access, and public health. HHS will work with outside experts and citizens to take advantage of the new data to raise awareness of community health performance and spark improvements.
· Department of Energy’s Open Energy Information Initiative: DOE has launched Open Energy Information (OpenEI.org), a new open-source web platform that opens DOE resources and data to the public. The free, editable, and evolving wiki-platform will help to deploy clean energy technologies across the country and the world. OpenEI.org also will provide technical resources, including U.S. lab tools, which can be used by developing countries as they move toward clean energy deployment.
· Department of Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative: The VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) will invite VA employees, private sector entrepreneurs, and academic leaders to contribute the best ideas for innovations to increase Veteran access to VA services, reduce or control costs of delivering those services, enhance the performance of VA operations, and improve the quality of service Veterans and their families receive. The VA Innovation Initiative will identify, prioritize, fund, test, and deploy the most promising solutions to the VA’s most important challenges.
· Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Homelessness Prevention Resources Initiative: Many agencies and organizations struggle with the task of capturing information about the homeless. Even more difficult is the task of predicting when and where homelessness will strike. HUD believes that homelessness can be averted by combining information from multiple agencies and using the data to identify communities that may be at a tipping point towards increased homelessness. HUD will work to develop a set of tools and processes to help predict at-risk communities, allowing the Department to take proactive steps to combat it.
The White House website tracks the progress of those agencies required to meet the open government milestones. Independent agencies are not mandated to participate, though many, like the Peace Corps and the Corporation for National and Community Service, have taken on the challenge to open their practices to greater transparency and public participation.
In addition to the Open Government Plans, the Administration is releasing new policy guidance involving the use of social media and the Paperwork Reduction Act, improving transparency in the rulemaking process, and setting the process by which the government will collect and publish, for the first time ever, subaward data for all federal grants and contracts. This last piece is in line with the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which then-Senator Obama coauthored in 2006 with Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
The Administration’s open-government efforts began on the President’s first full day in office, when he signed a presidential memorandum that established transparency, participation, and collaboration as the hallmarks of a more efficient, accountable government. That same memorandum directed the Federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to issue recommendations for creating a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative government.
To that end, the White House Open Government Initiative and the CTO partnered with the American people to solicit expertise from outside of Washington. The three-phase public consultation involved thousands of Americans commenting on and shaping policy approaches that were incorporated in the December 2009 Open Government Directive. The Administration released an Open Government Progress Report to coincide with the Directive, outlining the steps that the federal government has implemented to break down those barriers to public participation and agency transparency.