Steering Committee Meeting
2040 S St. NW, Bauman Conference Room
July 20, 2011 12 – 2pm
Participants: Gary Bass, Lynne Bradley, Kenneth Bunting (on phone), Danielle Brian, Kevin Goldberg, Robert Leger (on the phone) Conrad Martin, Katherine McFate, Sean Moulton, Reece Rushing, David Sobel (on the phone), Anne Weismann, John Wonderlich, Patrice McDermott, Amy Bennett, and Abby Paulson.
Steering Committee Business
- The Steering Committee welcomes the addition of OMB Watch’s new Executive Director, Katherine McFate. As decided by the Committee, both Sean Moulton and Katherine will be members of the Steering Committee and attend meetings, but will only have a single vote.
- The next meeting of the steering committee will be: October 19, 2011
- The Coalition is on track or below on spending compared to the 2011 budget.
- The next budget will be approved in October. Payroll, Physical Location
- Patrice spoke to committee members prior to the meeting on the possibility of moving payroll to the Fund for Constitutional Government and the physical location of OTG to POGO’s offices.
- The Fund has done preliminary work on the impact of the move, but has not finished. The Fund will consider the interests of the coalition, its members, and the staff of OTG.
- The Committee will be asked to vote on the proposal once all analysis has been completed.
Review of Activities Report
- OTG is now working heavily on FOIA following the Milner v. Department of Navy decision. It is training a close eye to agency attempts to widen the scope of information that can be withheld from the public. Agencies accomplish this by inserting exemptions into large pieces of authorizing or appropriations legislation. Once the provision is signed into law, information covered by it can be withheld under the Freedom of Information Act’s (FOIA) exemption b3 (exempt by other statute).
- Under a bill signed into law last year, provisions in legislation including new exemptions from public disclosure (known as b3s) must cite FOIA (5 USC 552). The Sunlight Foundation is working on a system that would send an e-mail alert when a bill includes a reference to FOIA or other specified language.
- A clearer explanation of the role of the website and overview of the web stats would be helpful for committee members.
- Packaging important posts or reports in a way easily publicized by other partners could help the coalition function more effectively in supporting each other’s work and the work of OTG. The coalition should try to track when partners re-post our material.
Discussion on the Open Government Partnership (OGP)
- Members discussed inviting Nathaniel Heller of Global Integrity to an upcoming meeting to discuss the initiative, and to involve him in the coalition.
- In the coming week, coalition staff and several members of the Steering Committee will participate in separate meetings set up over the course of the next few weeks by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). These meetings are with White House officials and other stakeholders to hear our thoughts on a proposed US National Plan per the Open Government Partnership (http://www.opengovpartnership.org/). The meetings are intended to be a chance for White House officials to listen and hear “input on a US National Plan to meet the four core open government principles as laid out by the Partnership: transparency, citizen participation, accountability, and technology and innovation.” The US Open Government Plan will be released in September. As we are unsure what will happen at these meetings or the scope issues the plan could address, Members are asked to share information with the list after each meeting. Members are also encouraged to promote the “7 asks” developed by the openness community, plus their own organization’s priorities.
- To clear up some of the confusion about how the US plans to develop its plan, Gary Bass will contact Cass Sunstein to ask for clarification on the process and what he believes in the scope of issues that the plan can address. Patrice will ask the organizers for a list of people who have been invited and who have attended the OMB meetings.
- The coalition should encourage the OGP team to build on the work we have been doing over the last few years, and should be “willing to be unhappy” if the plan is not really moving the agenda forward.
- The coalition should set up a subcommittee of Steering Committee members to help deal with the politics and complexity of the OGP.
- It was emphasized that OTG will focus on sharing ideas as a domestic representative and model, but will not get involved in foreign governments’ plans and policies.
FOIA, FOIA.gov Concerns
- Concern about the lack of change in processing and the continued inability of outside groups to monitor that change.
- FOIA.gov is plagued with technical glitches and bad and missing data. It is also not clear when agencies change data.
- The coalition will circulate a letter to Tom Perelli, the Department of Justice’s Chief FOIA Officer, outlining our concerns with FOIA.gov and asking for list of all know issues with the site with a timetable for fixing the problem.
- The Center for American Progress is holding a meeting next week to discuss a new initiative they are launching to encourage agencies to publicly post all material they release in response to FOIA requests.
- A proposed Department of Defense (DOD) cybersecurity rule could undermine the Administration’s attempt to provide clarity to the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) universe by grandfathering into the new CUI system all of the markings DOD has used as a matter on internal policy but which do not qualify for inclusion on their own merits.
- The proposed rul would also create a new and unprecedented category, “non-public” (but unclassified) information, and make it “protected.” As this is an acquisition (FARS) regulation, it is possible to see the rule (if implemented) as ‘governmentwide policy’ which would make mandatory its inclusion in the CUI Registry (under development). Additionally, this overly broad definition is clearly in conflict with the presumption of release that agencies are supposed to follow.
- OTG is in touch with officials at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) who are in charge of the CUI effort about the issue, and have shared the specific language in the rule that is of concern with OMB and the White House.
- The Committee suggested possible Congressional champions who could weigh in on the issue, but recognize it may be hard to get Congress involved since it has been wrapped up in a legitimate cybersecurity issue.
- The Government Printing Office (GPO) has removed from its website all copies of materials related to a project on future models for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). This project involved a great deal of public consultation and is of great concern to the library community and to the broader community concerned with preserving public access to digital government information. To date, GPO has not agreed to re-post the material. The coalition will be circulating a letter on this issue.