White House Announces New Open Government Directive

The National Journal’s Under The Influence Blog published a post on the new White House directive instructing federal government agencies to increase the amount of information available on government websites and available to the public.  The directive from Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, provides:

The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government. Transparency promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the Government is doing. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise so that their government can make policies with the benefit of information that is widely dispersed in society. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of Government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the Federal Government, across levels of government, and between the Government and private institutions.

This Open Government Directive establishes deadlines for action. But because of the presumption of openness that the President has endorsed, agencies are encouraged to advance their open government initiatives well ahead of those deadlines. In addition to the steps delineated in this memorandum, Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this year issued new guidelines1 for agencies with regard to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). With those guidelines, the Attorney General reinforced the principle that openness is the Federal Government’s default position for FOIA issues.

Previous Obama Administration open government initiatives have been the subject of criticism for releasing unreliable information.  For example, the report on the “number of jobs saved or created” from the stimulus included data for fictitious Congressional Districts such as Arizona’s 15th Congressional District.   The goal of an open government can only be achieved if the underlying data is reliable.

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