On February 28, the Administration issued updated guidance for agencies to use as they develop 2014 open government plans. The guidance is part of the Administration's Open Government Partnership commitment to support and improve agency implementation of these plans.
Under the 2009 Open Government Directive, agencies are required to seek public input and issue an open government plan every two years. The current guidance also requires agencies to share a copy of a two page outline of their updated plan with the Open Government Working Group by April 1, 2014. To encourage outside stakeholders to provide targeted input and feedback on what should be in the plan, we encourage agencies to make these outlines publicly available. Agencies are required to post new plans by June 1, 2014.
The updated guidance incorporates many of the initiatives the Administration launched in the last 5 years, including the digital government strategy and whistleblower protections. It also requires agencies to include a list of all privacy compliance reports in the report, and to describe how they will make more information publicly available.
Overall, the guidance is helpful for putting agency open government efforts back on officials' priority lists. Also, making information about how an agency is carrying out its various open government responsibilities easily available in the plan will help Administration officials and watch dog groups keep a closer eye on what is happening at the agency level.
While the guidance may not include any "new" requirements, each agency does have an opportunity to use the creation and release of an updated open government plan to launch a new "flagship initiative." As we discussed during a meeting with the Administration's Open Government Working Group a few weeks ago, the flagship initiative creates opportunities for agencies to work together to address problems that are preventing many or all agencies from being more open. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used its 2012 open government plan to trumpet the launch of FOIAonline, a central portal that makes it easier for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesters to make and track requests at several agencies, and helps make information released under FOIA publicly available. During the meeting we suggested a set of "Open Government Community Challenges," including making ethics information more available and usable and making more agency spending information available.