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The State of Open Government in the U.S. – A Comparative Empirical Analysis of U.S. Performance under NAP3 Relative to U.S.-NAP2 and OECD Peers

by Jason I. McMann, PhD

This paper uses the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) assessment methodology and difference-in-means tests to conduct a comparative empirical analysis of U.S. performance under the federal government’s third National Action Plan (NAP3) relative to its own performance under the previous action plan (NAP2), and relative to a group of OECD peer countries. The paper yields four key findings. (1) On average, U.S. performance under NAP3 is statistically indistinguishable from its performance under NAP2. (2) On average, U.S. performance under NAP3 is statistically indistinguishable from that of its OECD peers, with the exception of minor differences in mid-term completion rates. (3) On average, the U.S. under NAP3 advanced commitments with low potential and actual impact that only marginally opened government. U.S. performance in this regard is nevertheless statistically indistinguishable from its own performance under NAP2 and that of its OECD peers, reflecting a high historical prevalence of low-impact action plans, both within the U.S. and globally. (4) For the first time in its assessment history, U.S. performance under NAP3 resulted in a closure of government, as reflected in a ‘Did-It-Open-Government’ score of ‘Worsened’ for two commitments. Collectively, these findings suggest that while the U.S. performs well on commitment completion (in both absolute and relative terms), it continues to advance low-impact commitments that only marginally shift the needle toward more open government. U.S. backsliding and the delayed release of NAP4 cast doubt on the U.S.’ commitment to creating a more open government.

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