It’s been about a month and a half since the Office of Management and Budget responded to a Sunlight Foundation FOIA request by releasing agency Enterprise Data Inventories (EDIs). While most agencies were able to quickly provide their EDIs for release — with some redactions as appropriate under FOIA — several appear to be struggling with the release requirement.
As of today, we are still waiting on five agencies to publicly release their EDIs:
- Department of Homeland Security;
- Department of Justice;
- Department of State;
- and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, several of these agencies — Homeland Security, Justice and State in particular — are notoriously tight-lipped with their information. Unfortunately, these agencies also hold information that is not only interesting, but vital for public oversight and understanding of our government. It’s also worth noting that a similar agency, the Department of Defense, released its EDI, but it contained no redactions or “non-public” datasets — a strong indication that it’s only indexing data it wants to index.
Others, such as NASA, hold a lot of data and may have reasonable excuses for delay. That said, plenty of agencies that hold vast stores of data (the Department of the Interior, for instance, has about 70,000 datasets in its index) quickly released their EDIs with little problem and appear to have deftly met the new guidance on nonpublic datasets so far.
Project Open Data has always been pitched and understood as an iterative process, underscored by OMB’s recent embrace of continued openness of EDIs. We hope that these lagging agencies will release what they can as soon as possible and continue to build out their data indexes — that way the public will have the fullest knowledge of all agency data holdings — not just the information they choose to release.