Steering Committee Notes, 4/21/10


Summary: Patrice summarized the January 20 – April 20 Coalition Activities Report.

  • The coalition has been particularly involved in working with the White House, agency personnel, and coalition partners on the Open Government Directive. The inter-agency working group tasked with developing "bonus criteria" for the White House’s evaluation of agencies’ open government plans shared their plans with the coalition, and incorporated much of our feedback into their final product. The coalition also has coordinated an independent audit of agencies’ open government plans using a tool the coalition developed to measure whether or not the plans live up to both the letter, and the spirit of the directive’s requirements.
  • The Sunshine Week webcast was filmed by C-Span, which has added the first panel to its video archive. Several funders also viewed the webcast. Next year, in addition to sending funders an invitation to come to, or watch, the webcast, a reminder email should be sent to them one to two days prior to the event. If we want to increase the number of local host sites participating in the event, we will have to find a way to set our agenda much earlier.
  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) just released the results of a self-assessment of electronic record keeping by agencies. This initiative was in the works before the appointment of the new Archivist, and is in part a reaction to pressure from the coalition and our partners for NARA to take a more pro-active e-records management role.
  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) included plans to build a FOIA Dashboard in its open government plan. DOJ has already reached out to the coalition and our partners to get our input on what the dashboard should include. The coalition also continues to facilitate meetings with the new Office of Government Information Services (OGIS).
  • The coalition has been asked to set up a meeting for members with the Chair of the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), Martin Faga, regarding fundamentally changing the classification system. The coalition continues to play a coordinating role in the community’s response to the Administration’s forth-coming Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) policy (expected at the end of the month), and is working with our partners on the Hill in case legislation is needed. Additionally, the coalition is still working with our coalition partners on a legislative strategy to pass state secrets reform legislation; allies on the Hill continue to look for legislative vehicles to attach the reform to, but, increasingly, it appears that the bill may not get any further through the legislative process this session.

Financial Report

  • The coalition should arrange bi-annual discussions of an informal "development subcommittee." Such a group exists and needs to meet on a more regular basis.
  • Patrice is beginning work on setting up a Funders Briefing in California. She will be in CA in late September and will see if a briefing can be coordinated prior to the conference she is attending. Open Government Initiative
  • The open government plans vary greatly in quality, and agencies are taking several different paths in promoting/ collecting feedback on the plans – some much more successful than others. One of the best developments is that several agencies refer to the plans as "living documents;" one of the worst is that many agencies appear to be "planning to plan."
  • The community needs an agreed-upon "open government floor" that spells out the minimum an agency needs to be open about/ pro-actively disclose to be considered "transparent." The beginning of such a list has been pulled together by Sean Moulton at OMB Watch. He will soon be setting up a meeting to make sure everyone has input into/ agrees with the list.
  • The open government plan evaluations coordinated by the coalition will be released prior to the White House’s own evaluations. To maximize the impact, all of the evaluations should be released at once, with a joint press release. Once the press release is out, evaluators can feel free to blog about their evaluation/ use it for their own press purposes. The feedback from the evaluators will not be public, but will be shared with the agencies. If an agency makes substantive improvements to a plan, the evaluator will re-score the component (however, the original score will remain public, and the reason for the change will be noted).

Transparency Caucus

  • Rep. Issa’s staff manning the new Transparency Caucus would like to set up a call with the coalition members; they are trying to decide on a legislative strategy.

FOIA legislation

  • Coalition should start thinking now about how FOIA or the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) could be amended to support increased pro-active disclosure, or how to build the "open government floor" into law; Congressional champions must be identified and fostered.

Strategic Plan

  • Strategic plan needs to be revised to make it clear what the coalition is taking a lead on and which group/ who is excepted to handle other parts of the plan, and completed items need to be checked off.
  • On-line discussion of the revised plan, and top priorities will occur before next steering committee meeting in July.

Next meeting – July 21, 2010, noon to 2pm (EDT)

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