Minimum Standards of Open Government – updated 2016

OTG has updated a 2011 review of federal agency implementation of Minimum Standards of Open Government, a list of information that should be released by all federal agencies to meet a basic standard of open government in several key areas:

  1. Communications with Congress
  2. FOIA Requests and Released Documents
  3. Agency Visitor Logs
  4. Employee Directories and Contact Information
  5. Calendars of Top Officials
  6. Federal Advisory Committees’ Information 

The list is an iteration of the “Openness Floor” released by OTG and several of its partners in 2011. 

2016 updates include:

Communications with Congress

  • In March 2011, the White House announced in a blog post that agencies would begin to post Congressional testimony and mandated reports. As of March 2016, most agencies have begun to post some of this information online, although it is frequently not centralized but rather posted separately by each department (such as in the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Defense). 
  • OMB has a page dedicated to agency communications to Congress, where you can click on agencies to see the pages on their respective sites.
  • The Department of Justice posts Congressional testimony organized by Congressional committee on one, central page.

FOIA Requests and Released Documents

  • FOIAonline, the multi-agency FOIA portal, was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Commerce, and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and launched in October 2012. It now includes the Navy, GSA, DOJ’s Office of Information Protection, and several other agencies.
  • Beginning August 2, 2015, DHS conducted a pilot program to publish all documents released under FOIA to its website. The DHS FOIA main page also contains links to FOIA logs at each of its components.
  • The State Department has a search function on its virtual reading room to see many documents previously released under FOIA.

Employee Directories and Contact Information

  • In March 2011, the White House announced in a blog post that agencies would begin to post agency directories. An analysis by OpenTheGovernment.org in July 2011 found that around half of agencies were complying with the directive. Several other agencies have since included directories on their websites, such as the USDA and the Departments of Commerce and the Interior, although some are posted in difficult formats or with incomplete information.

Calendars of Top Officials

  • The State Department releases the Daily Public Schedule that includes the appointments for the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary and, as appropriate, Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries.
  • The US FDA calendar includes meeting with FDA officials.

Federal Advisory Committees’ Information 

  • The FDA posts meeting materials, webcasts for meetings, waivers given to conflicted members, and instructions for public involvement on its website.
  • The Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments (H.R.2347), which passed the House in March 2016, would require additional disclosure of information about federal advisory committees.

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