Time Running Short to Meet First OGD Deadlines

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Executive branch departments and agencies are under tight deadlines to comply with President Obama’s high-profile Open Government Directive [PDF], with the first round of actions due Friday, January 22. Additional steps must be taken in 15, 45, and 60 days.

Both the administration and watchdog organizations like the Sunlight Foundation are monitoring each agency’s compliance with the OGD. This will make for easy comparison among the agencies to see who is ahead of the curve.

Here are three milestones that agencies should now be meeting:

First, by this Friday, each agency should have completed the following tasks:

  • Identified and published online in an open format at least three high-value data sets and registered those data sets via data.gov.
  • Designated a high-level senior official to be accountable for the quality and objectivity of, and internal controls over, the Federal spending information publicly disseminated through such public venues as USAspending.gov or other similar websites. The official shall participate in the agency’s Senior Management Council, or similar governance structure, for the agency-wide internal control assessment pursuant to the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act.
  • Planned for the tasks due in the upcoming weeks.

Second, each agency should have established an OGD team.

That team likely should include people with the following backgrounds: senior leadership, information technology, new media, FOIA, legal, communications, strategic planning, and legislative affairs. It should be able to act rapidly and decisively, with its members able to work on multiple issues simultaneously. Now is the time to assess the team’s progress and compliance with the OGD.

Third, each agency should have developed a skeleton model of their /Open website, which must be operational by February 6.

Sunlight has held several meetings to discuss the /Open page, generated a list of suggestions for what it should contain, identified principles by which data on those pages may be evaluated, and will shortly release a wireframe model of a /Open website.

Subagencies have responsibilities under the Open Government Directive as well. They must help identify high-value data sets, pro-actively use modern technology to disseminate useful information, publish information online in open formats, and work to resolve their backlog of FOIA requests. It is likely that OMB will issue further requirements as to how government information must be made available online in a timely fashion.

The OGD is a high priority for the administration, as evidenced by the President’s Feb. 24 memorandum and the symbolism of the January 22 due date. It is likely that this initiative will broaden over time and continue to be a focus of government policy for years to come. Agencies should plan for robust compliance with the Directive.

The Sunlight Foundation welcomes the opportunity to assist agencies with meeting and exceeding the requirements of this Directive.

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