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Even though this is good news for transparency, it's no surprise that the media didn't think this latest move by the Obama administration worthy of reporting. And it's equally unsurprising that the communications arm of the administration failed to make sure they did. If there's one thing that's been proven throughout the Obama administration; it's that messaging has not been their strong suit.

But it is what it is... and this is definitely good news for those who believe transparency is an imperative for good democratic governance.

The Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch) has the story:

On May 9, President Obama signed Executive Order 13642, "Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information." The new policy reaffirms the administration's commitment to transparency and lays a framework for agencies to improve public access to, and use of, government data.

The order was accompanied by an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memo detailing the new policy and its implementation, as well as a set of tools and resources to assist agencies in implementing the policy.

This executive order will provide the public more access to vital information about issues that effect our daily lives in significant ways such as product safety, environmental conditions, government spending and others. The new policy also contains a number of far-reaching reforms to modernize processes and practices of information disclosure in all areas of government, thereby reducing bureaucratic inaction that sometimes ends up leaving information valuable to the public locked away.

It must be added, however, the order will leave in place the federal government's current practice of leaving decisions regarding the timing of the release of specific information up to individual agencies instead of establishing government wide standards.

That said, the new policy will work in conjunction with federal data and web policy reforms already instituted by the administration, in particular,, the government-wide catalog of open datasets. In addition, the Open Government Directive, introduced back in December 2009, requires each agency to publish three specific datasets previously unavailable to the public, and subsequently develop plans to release additional data.

An executive order President Obama signed back in April of 2011 improving customer service prompted an OMB memo in July of that year regarding the reformation of all government websites. The following September, the administration included a commitment in its National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership to update policies governing federal websites. In turn, that commitment evolved into the Digital Government Strategy in May 2012, which went even further by committing the OMB to issue an open data policy.

Lots of evolving going on. And in this case... that's a good thing.

More from the article regarding some key features of the new policy:

Dataset Inventories: The policy requires that in the next six months, agencies prepare and make public an inventory of agency datasets. The inventory will indicate whether the data can be made public and whether it is currently available. In addition, the policy requires agencies to consult with the public to determine priorities for expanding and improving available data. The inventory will solve the chicken-and-egg problem that leaves the public unable to provide input on which agency datasets should be released first because the public doesn't know what datasets agencies possess. Our March recommendations to the administration specifically called for disclosure of dataset inventories.
Plan for Openness from the Beginning: The policy requires agencies to plan from the earliest stages of data collection for public use and reuse of data. For instance, the policy states that "information should be collected electronically by default." This approach applies to creating particular information as well as IT systems as a whole. This reform addresses technical barriers to transparency, which can lead agencies to argue that providing public access could be cost-prohibitive due to the expense of creating "workarounds" for current legacy systems. Our March recommendations called for agencies to "create IT systems that have efficient information access built in to their design." In addition, the reforms will facilitate public use of data once released, such as by providing better metadata and utilizing open formats.
Integrate Openness into Agency Activities: The policy integrates the new requirements into existing agency activities, such as strategic planning and performance reporting. The policy also addresses potential challenges – for instance, by noting that thoughtful planning for openness may cost more upfront but should be considered a capital investment because it will result in long-term savings to the agency. This will help to ensure that the new policy is effectively put into place and does not get siloed or sidelined by agencies.
Support for Implementation: To support robust implementation, Project Open Data provides a bevy of resources to agencies, including checklists, specific guidelines, and ready-to-use software. The CIO Council also will create a working group to assist and encourage agencies in implementing the new policy. This will ensure that agencies with limited resources or technical know-how will have backup in applying the new policy.
The new policy aims to integrate new requirements into existing agency activities like strategic planning and reporting on performance. Potential challenges will be addressed by the policy as well. Higher costs incurred on the front end are expected. But initial capital investments will result in long-term savings overall.

As for the future, besides the timing of the data releases, one of the most rigid limitations that really isn't addressed in the new policy is that individual agencies will still make decisions on what information will be released, a process repeatedly used by the Obama administration even amidst calls for more overall transparency. Advocates are calling for disclosure of data from every agency on a consistent basis.

Without standards, agencies have often avoided posting datasets that shed light on key agency operations, such as data on lobbyist visits to agency offices. The lack of specific and measurable actions by all agencies has also contributed to charges of weak enforcement and oversight for open government policies. Inconsistent agency performance on various open government issues was one of the top complaints about the Obama administration's first-term efforts on open government.
Sounds like the president needs more time to evolve.

Nevertheless, time will tell. Commitments made by the administration in September of 2011 indicated changes to the...

"... management, look and feel, and structure of Federal Government websites."

But so far in the evolution process, policy still fails to make access to data from websites and interfaces easier. However, a number of agencies have created new user-friendly websites and intuitive tools for analyzing data, and the administration plans on scaling those innovations to fit every agency in the executive branch.

It's not enough; not from the president who promised the greatest expansion of government transparency in U.S. history. But it is a significant step in the right direction. And, even though empty promises of more transparency have been a staple of every presidential campaign during my lifetime, it seems this president is at least attempting to fulfill one.

This is the kind of change that just can't happen soon enough.

Originally posted to markthshark on Thu May 23, 2013 at 03:41 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (32+ / 0-)

    "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone" - John Maynard Keynes

    by markthshark on Thu May 23, 2013 at 03:41:58 AM PDT

  •  A bit too little... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stevej, erush1345

    A bit too late.

    "There's a conceptual zone within which the romanticized historical past and the immanentizing historical future converge in a swamp of misapprehension and misstep. It's called 'the present'." - David Beige

    by Superskepticalman on Thu May 23, 2013 at 04:05:05 AM PDT

  •  Transparency means to look through, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lunachickie, MKinTN, Larsstephens

    not look into. Public inspection is not a desideratum, although references to "open government" indicate an understanding of the issue.
    The lust for power is hard to tamp down, so the attachment to secrecy, power's handmaiden, is difficult to sever. Indeed, the "right to privacy" is being increasingly cited as an excuse for not granting access to inspect records.
    To a certain extent, the deprivation of fair monetary compensation for public service is used as an excuse by people in public office to enhance their powers. That is, they reason to themselves that "because I don't get paid enough for my work, I'm entitled to "take it out" in autonomy." Congress rationing dollars plays into the hands of the power mavens. But then, that's to be expected of people whose main interest lies in acquiring and exercising power.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Thu May 23, 2013 at 04:31:25 AM PDT

  •  color me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


  •  Great news and not at all (10+ / 0-)

    unsurprising to me that Obama actually is trying to make slow steady changes to transparency.  What I disagree with is your inference that this administration sucks at messaging.  I don't know a single person on the left that does not suck at messaging today in this horribly stacked media.  When major news conferences and speeches are completely blocked from the public by major "news" agencies, or when they do decide to run snippets of the announcements or speeches and then proceed to tear them apart by highly partisan pundits and critics, the fix is in.  It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't thing.  The days of the "Fireside Chat" are long gone.  

    That said I believe that they have found ways to get message out but, if it's the plan, it's a bizarre but brilliant one.  I think the Democrats have wisely chosen some potential rising stars that have huge potential for national spotlight if they can get plenty of air time.   Elizabeth Warren is one, Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders.  Each of these people have been handed controversy, things to be outraged about, and here's the intriguing part.  Those issues shine dispersions on the administration who's enjoying that lame duck final term and doesn't have to run again.  These masters of populist outrage are getting on the media because the media believes they see controversy, splintering, drama....ratings.  Meanwhile the issues people are up in arms about find ways of working out and these folks can show up as heroes.  

    •  ^^^^ THIS ^^^^ /nt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sam Sara, Larsstephens, NedSparks

      "I don't love writing, but I love having written" ~ Dorothy Parker // Visit my Handmade Gallery on Zibbet

      by jan4insight on Thu May 23, 2013 at 08:27:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Don't forget Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley (6+ / 0-)

      These guys are serious progressive heroes, particularly Whitehouse who is relentless on taking action on global warming.  Merkley of course is continuing to fight against Citizens United and is one of the biggest fighters we have on that front.

    •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      markthshark, Larsstephens
      I don't know a single person on the left that does not suck at messaging today in this horribly stacked media.  
      Not relevant when discussing Obama.

      That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

      by enhydra lutris on Thu May 23, 2013 at 12:07:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The messaging has been lacking at best... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Libbylalala, Larsstephens

      and at worst inept, considering the fact that everything this administration has accomplished for the benefit of the people has either been demonized, marginalized or deemed counterproductive.

      What I disagree with is your inference that this administration sucks at messaging.
      Yes, the White House has been pitted against a recalcitrant party seeking to both negate his power and discredit his accomplishments. And they've been forced to deal with a media that would rather throw water on a grease fire and stand back to watch it burn than to take the time to explain to the public how the president's policies really affect them.

      That said, it doesn't matter how good or bad at messaging the Democratic party is. The president has a bully pulpit and it's incumbent on all administrations to take the lead on messaging and subsequently rise above all the propaganda, misdirection and obfuscation spewed by corporate lackeys, both in the media and in congress. He's done some good things like healthcare for one. But in four years, he hasn't even been able to convince a majority of the country to realize that fact.

      When it comes to messaging, success cannot be measured by citing how the rhetoric is clear and understandable to us kossacks and other people on the left who deal in reality and can separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff. It has to be measured in the aggregate of all Americans. And using that metric, this White House has been forced to react instead of act.

      "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone" - John Maynard Keynes

      by markthshark on Thu May 23, 2013 at 04:27:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nope (0+ / 0-)
    it's no surprise that the media didn't think this latest move by the Obama administration worthy of reporting. And it's equally unsurprising that the communications arm of the administration failed to make sure they did
    To your first point--I'd have to find the link, but it was somewhere on this here very blog--the EO in question was determined to A) not do a whole lot for "transparency" which doesn't already exist in any directive and B) doesn't really address the issue that brought this to light to begin with (the AP fishing expedition).

    To the second point--if the first point is correct, then the administration obviously wouldn't want to make a big deal out of their signing of today's EO, because it would, in fact, invite further scrutiny.

    "The “Left” is NOT divided on the need to oppose austerity and the Great Betrayal. The Third Way is not left or center or even right. It is Wall Street on the Potomac."--Bill Black

    by lunachickie on Thu May 23, 2013 at 09:43:25 AM PDT

  •  'Bout time. And truly, who else, but Obama, would (5+ / 0-)

    even try to put this forward.  It's always been his goal...and he's about as open a President as we've ever had.  Amazed how people, even here, fail to see the good in this President.

    Change takes time, especially when steering the ship of bureaucrats.

  •  Read bills before they're voted on - would be nice (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but they don't seem to be ready to do that yet.  

    It's a nice effort, however, to move in the direction  of more transparency.  We need this at the state level, too.

    "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being up there."

    by Betty Pinson on Thu May 23, 2013 at 10:02:49 AM PDT

  •  Sure, read it all (0+ / 0-)

    but if you blow the whistle, look out.

    A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

    by onionjim on Thu May 23, 2013 at 10:38:21 AM PDT

  •  Except for the 99.765% that is classified or (0+ / 0-)

    otherwise sekret. 2009 redux.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Thu May 23, 2013 at 12:05:52 PM PDT

  •  The amount of impenetrable techno-corporate speak (0+ / 0-)

    that has to be waded through, in this government document in favor of easy and open access to information, is really damn impressive.

  •  Yeah but Obama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Won't get credit for doing the right thing. Rolls eyes. I believe decades from now people will give Obama credit for what he's done, unfortunately he'll probably be dead.

  •  "Messaging has not been their strong suit"? WTF? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, Libbylalala

    Which administration have you been watching for the past four years?  I think what you mean is that the administration doesn't tailor their messaging to hyper-informed people like yourself, which one would think you would know and understand the rationality of.  Instead you just have to not only insert that "Yeah, but..." in good news, but as a preface to it.  Why?  

    Process defines product.

    by Troubadour on Thu May 23, 2013 at 06:50:11 PM PDT

    •  Some here prefer the Medea Benjamin school. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, Libbylalala

      Which is basically the other side of the partisan coin.
      And rightly mocked and derided by those intent on progress.

      So much more effective in persuasion and winning
      hearts and minds. Not so much for elections though.
      I wonder why that is? Is it because people reject
      naturally reject extremists? History says otherwise.

      Thanks for all of your efforts.

  •  Obama "does" still there has to be criticism. This (0+ / 0-)

    time it's "messaging"??????? I don't know of any administration of the past that was criticized for bad messaging.... This is laughable.

    This is because the President's accomplishments were always reported not hidden under Right Wing and Left Wing criticism.

    The Right does not report anything positive on this administration and those on the Left who despise the President, as much as the Right, carp on everything he does.

    They too do not want to see positive stories on the President. If they show up in diaries like this one it is to level criticism otherwise they will avoid these diaries like the plague. Ever notice how they swarm negative Obama diaries?

    I've often found it amusing how some will report hitches in the healthcare law with an air of almost breathless excitement, because some here do not want the healthcare law to succeed. It is quite clear.

    In the past, Presidents do good and the good is reported. This President apparently has to hire a PR Firm, and even then his message will be buried....

    Messaging? ....Yeah, sure

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