The launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an initiative that will bring together partners from many countries and sectors to support governments' efforts to become more transparent, accountable, and participatory, offers a unique opportunity to reinforce the openness work that has been going on the last few years, and to push the Administration's agenda wider. Countries that elect to participate in the OGP, including the US, must deliver a concrete action plan, developed with public consultation and feedback and commit to independent reporting on their progress going forward. Participating countries are also required to identify a forum to enable regular multi–‐stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation.
Yesterday the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), OpenTheGovernment.org and several of our coalition partners and other civil society allies sent the Administration a letter urging them to make the creation of a Presidential Advisory Committee on Open Government under the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 (FACA) a key objective in the initial U.S. OGP Action Plan. This Committee would help raise the profile of open government on the international stage, throughout the U.S. federal government, and set an example for other countries. OpenTheGovernment.org strongly supports this initiative and helped gather endorsements for the idea because we believe a Presidential Advisory Committee on Open Government, subject to the constraints and responsibilities of FACA, is a good model for effectively developing an action plan and can help build a stronger foundation for open government work.
FACA is a foundational open government policy, and is exactly the type of policy our government should be showcasing to international OGP participants. FACA ensures public participation through open access to meetings (with some exceptions) and requires Committee papers and records are maintained for availability to the public. FACA requirements also help make sure recommendations of the committee are not to be unduly influenced by any special interest. And, perhaps best of all, FACA creates a floor, not a ceiling, for open government; the law does not prohibit the advisory committee from holding itself to higher open government standards. Given the role of the proposed committee, the letter suggests additional steps the body should take to make it an example of how a modern advisory committee should operate.
The proposed Presidential Advisory Committee on Open Government could also reinforce the Administration's on-going open government work. In response to the Administration's Open Government Directive (OGD), agencies have put an impressive amount of energy and enthusiasm into developing – and improving – open government plans. However, a recent audit of agency's open government pages found that few agencies are complying with the Administration's most recent guidance on releasing useful information proactively. The advisory body could also serve as an ongoing forum to discuss the relative success and disappointments of open government initiatives and to recommend best practices. Additionally, if, as we suggest, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Open Government has a five-year term, with an option for renewal, it will help create an infrastructure for open government that is not bound by Presidential terms.
The Administration has been using its blog to solicit ideas for the US National Action Plan, and assures us they will post the ideas they have received in the near future for public comment. We urge you to keep an eye on the blog for opportunities to share your ideas and opinions.