Tucked away within the more than 1,500 pages of the omnibus budget bill is a small paragraph with potentially big effects for transparency efforts.Continue reading
In anticipation of Sunshine Week 2014, we’re preparing several posts on FOIA. We'll be writing about our experiences, and inviting others to contribute theirs. To start, here’s a quick rundown of the Freedom of Information Act.Continue reading
The Sunlight Foundation has filed a new FOIA request, seeking information on which agencies truly complied with the White House's open data executive order -- and which are keeping their data secret.Continue reading
The first major deadline for agency compliance with President Obama's open data Executive Order arrived this past Saturday. Agencies were required to, among other things, provide the Office of Management and Budget with an "Enterprise Data Inventory" and release a list of all their public data via a /data page on their websites.
We had hopes that some agencies might choose to publicly release their entire Enterprise Data Inventories, providing a full picture of their data holdings. Unfortunately, so far, that does not seem to have happened. Until the full inventories are available, the public will still be stuck in the dark, not knowing what we don’t know about government data holdings.
Nonetheless, most cabinet level agencies, as well as a number of independent agencies that were not required to comply, have taken steps to publicly fulfill the other aspects of the Executive Order. Levels of compliance have been varied, but we will try to highlight some of the worst and best examples below.Continue reading
November 30th marks the first major deadline for agency compliance with President Obama’s Open Data Executive Order and accompanying Memorandum M-13-13. In addition to representing an important step in the march towards open government and proper data management, this is an opportunity to evaluate agencies, identify best practices, and advocate for change. The Executive Order will continue to be implemented over the coming months and years, but agencies should, and will, be judged on how much effort they put into this first deadline. The level of agency compliance now will be a clear representation of how seriously they take the Executive Order.
Guidance issued alongside the Executive Order provides a strong roadmap for agency participation, but leaves some important points up for interpretation. Notably, agencies are given too much leeway to keep even the existence of their data secret.Continue reading
Just two days after the filing of Sunlight’s first lawsuit, and after more than five months of agency recalcitrance, we received the documents we sued for under the Freedom of Information Act.Continue reading
Today the Sunlight Foundation filed its very first Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. In May 2013, we sent a FOIA request to the General Services Administration (GSA) requesting a copy of all contract notices that had been posted on Fedbizopps.gov since 2000. These notices would allow members of the press, researchers, and our developers to analyze government spending patterns, to look for inaccuracies, corruption, and waste.
Despite our repeated inquiries and reminders, Sunlight never heard back from the GSA about our FOIA request in the more than five months since then. So we decided to take action.Continue reading
If the government shutdown had not occurred, today, November 1, would have been an important deadline for federal agency transparency. The first major deliverables to come out of President Obama’s May 2013 Executive Order “Making Open and Machine Readable the new Default for Government Information,” and its accompanying Office of Management and Budget memorandum on “managing information as an asset,” were originally scheduled for November 1, but that deadline has officially been pushed back to November 30.
The executive order and accompanying OMB memo demand progress from agencies on four key areas: instituting enterprise data inventories, releasing public data listings, creating mechanisms for public comment, and documenting if data cannot be released to the public. Over the coming week’s we’ll dig a little deeper into these areas, discussing what we hope to see come November 30.
President Obama’s Executive Order is the latest in a series of executive actions that have cleared the path towards open and useable Federal government data. This most recent step is the surest yet and, coupled with detailed guidance released by OMB and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, should allow agencies to confidently move towards open and machine readable data as their default.Continue reading
During this week’s Open Government Partnership meeting in London, the Obama Administration announced the broad strokes of its National Action Plan 2.0 Freedom of Information Act reforms.
The Administration’s announced plan has several goals: the implementation of an online FOIA portal, drafting of a unified set of FOIA regulations, creation of an interagency working group and an advisory committee to improve FOIA processing, and improved FOIA trainings for agency employees.
While these plans do give the transparency community reason to be cautiously optimistic, it is important to note that there is no mention of proactive disclosure anywhere in the plan. Proactive disclosure is integral to any effective transparency plan. It meaningfully increases public access while easing the burden on FOIA processing by eliminating duplicative request processing.
As for the efficacy of the goals included in the NAP 2.0 plan, the new FOIA proposals could be very positive or could make things even more difficult for requesters - the devil really is in the details.Continue reading
The Obama Administration is expected to release the second version of its Open Government Partnership National Action Plan this fall. The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is the primary multi-national initiative for open government, founded in 2011. The original US plan, released on September 20, 2011, covered a lot of ground, but also suffered a lack of detail and ignored several of the most pressing transparency issues. (Both money in politics and national security went uncovered.)
Given the US’s leadership role in the world (and in OGP), and the variety of issues the country faces, we hope the US National Action Plan will demonstrate how an administration can use transparency reform to help address some of the most fundamental challenges it faces.
The following are four Sunlight priorities for the upcoming US National Action Plan, and are priorities that we’ve often repeated to White House officials in our work.Continue reading