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United States

Tracking OGP Implementation (US0080)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy will work with an existing interagency open government group made up of individuals from across the Executive Branch to develop guidelines for Federal agencies as they update their Open Government Plans in 2016. These guidelines will require agencies to publish annual progress reports describing implementation progress and will include updating agencies’ Open Government web pages. The Administration will solicit input from civil society organizations for the updated guidance.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 28. Track Implementation of Open Government Plans

Commitment Text:

Track Agency Progress of Open Government Plan Implementation

The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy will work with an existing interagency open government group made up of individuals from across the Executive Branch to develop guidelines for Federal agencies as they update their Open Government Plans in 2016. These guidelines will require agencies to publish annual progress reports describing implementation progress and will include updating agencies’ Open Government web pages. The Administration will solicit input from civil society organizations for the updated guidance.

Responsible Institutions: Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Supporting Institutions: Civil society organizations

Start Date: Not Specified ....... End Date: Not Specified

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to leverage an interagency open government group to develop guidelines for agencies working on agency-specific Open Government Plans in 2016, specifically by requiring agencies to update their open government webpages and publishing progress reports annually.

Status

Midterm: Limited

At the midterm, the government had made limited progress on this commitment, as the government did not issue the Guidelines referenced under the commitment until July 2016. [397]

End of term: Complete

This commitment is complete at the end of term.

On 14 July 2016, the government issued “Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies” (hereafter M-16-16). [398] The memorandum comprises the guidelines described in the commitment text, and requires federal agencies to update their open government webpages to include their open government plans no later than 16 September 2016. The memorandum also requires that agencies “publish progress reports… at least annually,” with agencies soliciting “public input and feedback” on their open government plans. The memorandum applies to all federal agencies subject to the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, which includes 15 federal cabinet agencies and nine federal non-cabinet agencies. [399] As far as civic engagement, a request for comments on the guidance was sent out previously to civil society organizations via the US Open Government Google Group in January 2016. [400]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

Civic Participation: Marginal

At the agency-level, compliance with the new guidelines has been inconsistent. With respect to the online publication of agencies’ open government plans, a Sunlight Foundation study

[397] For government confirmation, see Open Government Partnership. “United States of America Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015–2017.” p.30. September 2016. https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf. Consulted 2 October 2017.

[398] Scott, Tony and Megan Smith. Executive Office of the President; Office of Management and Budget. 14 July 2016. “Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies.” M-16-16. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/memoranda/2016/m-16-16.pdf. . Consulted 17 September 2017.

[399] For a discussion of this act in the context of agencies’ requirements to publish open government plans, see Howard, Alex. “Federal Agencies Subject to CFO Act Near Full Compliance with Open Government Directive.” Sunlight Foundation. 4 January 2017. https://sunlightfoundation.com/2017/01/04/federal-agencies-subject-to-cfo-act-near-full-compliance-with-open-government-directive/. Consulted 17 September 2017. For the text of the act, see “Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990.” HR5697. https://www.congress.gov/bill/101st-congress/house-bill/5687. Consulted 17 September 2017.

[400] US Open Government Google Group, 8 January 2016, https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/us-open-government/7hy0hN4gR_M.

[401] found that eight out of 15 federal cabinet agencies had not published them as of 16 September 2016, as required under the 2009 Open Government Directive and the 2016 Memorandum. By the end of 2016, an updated study by the Sunlight Foundation found that plans were available for 13 of out of 15 agencies, with plans outstanding for the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of the Interior. [402] At the close of the end-of-term evaluation period, neither department had posted its open government plan online. [403] Per this same study, all nine non-cabinet agencies had published their 2016 open government plans online by the end of 2016. [404] However, given that these plans represent an updating of agencies’ intentions and practices with respect to open government on a bi-annual basis—a requirement that agencies have largely compiled with in the past—the progress in publishing the plans does not constitute a change in government practice as it relates to access to information.

Progress reports documenting implementation progress for federal agencies’ 2016 open government plans, as required under M-16-16, were not publicly available for any federal cabinet agencies at the end of term. However, as all agencies’ current plans date from September or October 2016, [405] any such reports are not required to be released until after the close of the end-of-term reporting period. The improved tracking of the implementation of open government plans—the main intended outcome of this commitment—will therefore take place after the period of this action plan.

With respect to civic participation, this commitment marginally opened government with respect to civic participation. As noted in the US Open Government Google Group, four government agencies—the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Archives, and NASA—all solicited inputs for potential inclusion in their open government plans via online fora, [406] representing an opportunity for civil society to engage with government. Relatedly, during an Open Government Consultation Session held on 23 August 2016, the government provided civil society organizations with an opportunity to provide recommendations pertaining to federal agencies open government plans through a series of “lighting talks.” [407]

However, the IRM researcher did not observe evidence of any further engagement with civil society beyond the aforementioned calls for comments and lightning talks, with the former covering a small number of agencies and the latter perceived as rushed and insufficiently interactive [408] by at least one civil society participant. Moreover, a related study by the Sunlight Foundation indicated that only three out of 15 federal cabinet agencies (the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, and Transportation) actually provided a draft plan for public comment, [409] further highlighting the limited magnitude of civic participation under this commitment.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this commitment will be carried forward. Federal agencies should nevertheless make attempts to comply with the M-16-16 in order to offer the public a fuller view of agencies’ open government activities. In light of the limited opportunities for civil society to engage with government agencies on the development of their open government plans, the federal government should further aim to broaden opportunities for inputs by members of civil society (both in-person and online), and develop a public-facing online platform that contains a centralized listing of all opportunities for public commenting on agencies’ open government plans. Further advancements could also include real-time reporting on agencies’ implementation of their open government plans, representing an improvement in access to information regarding agencies’ progress on this front.

[401] Howard, Alex. “Half of US Cabinet agencies fail to comply with Open Government Directive.” Sunlight Foundation.16 September 2016. https://sunlightfoundation.com/2016/09/16/half-of-u-s-cabinet-agencies-fail-to-comply-with-open-government-directive/. Consulted 17 September 2017.

[402] Howard, Alex. “Federal Agencies Subject to CFO Act Near Full Compliance with Open Government Directive.” Sunlight Foundation. 4 January 2017. https://sunlightfoundation.com/2017/01/04/federal-agencies-subject-to-cfo-act-near-full-compliance-with-open-government-directive/. Consulted 17 September 2017.

[403] The most recent available plan for the Department of Veteran Affairs dates from 2010. See US Department of Veteran Affairs “Open Government.” https://www.va.gov/open/. Consulted 17 September 2017.The most recent plan for the Department of Veteran Affairs dates from June 2014. See US Department of the Interior “Open Government Initiative.” https://www.doi.gov/open. Consulted 27 September 2017.

[404] These agencies include the Agency for International Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, the General Services Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Personnel Management, the Small Business Administration, and the Social Security Administration. For the complete list and plan tabulation, see Howard, Alex. “Federal Agencies Subject to CFO Act Near Full Compliance with Open Government Directive.” Sunlight Foundation. 4 January 2017. https://sunlightfoundation.com/2017/01/04/federal-agencies-subject-to-cfo-act-near-full-compliance-with-open-government-directive/. Consulted 17 September 2017.

[405] The months indicated here derive from the IRM Researcher’s review of agencies’ 2016 open government plans on an agency-by-agency basis.

[406] US Open Government Google Group. “Public Participation Regarding Open Government Plan Updates: Which Agencies are Consulting?” 22 August 2016. https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/us-open-government/_zTju6CB1sc. Consulted 17 March 2018.

[407] US Open Government Google Group. “RE: Open Gov Plan Consultation Session.” 24 August 2016. https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/us-open-government/q9GAPmEyUQY. Consulted 17 March 2018.

[408] Ibid.

[409] Howard, Alex. “Federal Agencies Subject to CFO Act Near Full Compliance with Open Government Directive.” Sunlight Foundation. 4 January 2017. https://sunlightfoundation.com/2017/01/04/federal-agencies-subject-to-cfo-act-near-full-compliance-with-open-government-directive/. Consulted 17 September 2017.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership