In 2009, the Obama administration entered the White House and called for a more open and transparent government. They sought sweeping initiatives that planned to make information more easily accessible and set goals for streamlining the FOIA process. However, in the quest for a more open and transparent government, they encountered a rocky, winding road and for the past five years and their quest has been more of a struggle. Headlines and growing backlogs have led some critics to claim it to be one of the more closed and secretive administrations in history. Alas, the Obama White House is not deterred, and a recent February 24th memorandum from the Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park, underlines the administrations reignited pursuit for a more open and transparent government. A well-timed memo to say the least, with the Annual Sunshine Week celebrating open government and transparency beginning next week.
The 2014 Agency Open Government Plan outlines a new open government directive that is based on the 2009 directive, but also adds new initiatives including the request for all federal agencies and departments to develop their own “Flagship Initiative” by April 1, 2014. “Flagship Initiatives” are as described in the memo, “bold, ambitious new open government initiatives.” These initiatives seek to improve transparency, participation, and collaboration with federal agencies and departments.
In addition to these initiatives, agencies and departments are directed to focus time and resources on increasing openness and transparency in areas such as, FOIA, open data, proactive disclosure, privacy, whistleblower protection, and websites. The administration is also calling on federal agencies and departments to find means, especially through collaboration, declassification, participation, public notices, and records management, for the government to be more accessible for the citizenry.
The Obama administration’s memo without a doubt signals the White House’s revisited commitment to open government and transparency. With 2016 quickly approaching, this could possibly be the Obama administration’s last attempt at establishing and legacy that includes a positive score in the areas of open government and transparency.