Under the terms of the Open Government Directive (OGD), the Administration encouraged agencies to view their open government plans as "living documents" that should be regularly revisited, and required agencies to update the plans every two years. Accordingly, on April 9, the White House put up a blog post celebrating the release of open government plans 2.0. The celebration was a bit premature, though, given that several agencies hadn't yet actually posted their plans for the public, and one major agency – the Department of Labor – has not posted a single update since its Version 1 of the plan was released on April 7, 2010.
According to the results of the collaborative effort we organized to evaluate and rank agencies based on the strength of their original open government plans, the Department of Labor produced a fairly good Version 1. The evaluation shows that, while the plan did not include much specificity, it did make significant amounts of information publicly accessible and set out a clear timetable for placing even more information into the public domain. Labor did not join the majority of agencies whose plans we reviewed who took us up on our offer to re-evaluate any plans that were updated within a few months of the original release.
The goal of the OGD is to make sure agencies have thought through how open government helps agencies achieve their missions, and to bake open government in to the way the agency operates. Language from Labor's first open government plan, such as, "We did not want this to become an exercise in checking an "open government" box, or adding an additional layer of work for our employees" hints that the agency was getting the Administration's message. Labor’s failure to post a revised plan is even more troubling/puzzling given this history.
Producing refreshed and revised open government plans is not busy work. Updated plans are important not only because the timelines and commitments from the original version are out of date, but because the new plans require agencies to think critically about what they were and were not able to accomplish from their first draft, and to make new commitments. Some agencies have even used the development of a new plan as an opportunity to get fresh input from their stakeholders and others.
The Obama Administration committed to Support and Improve Agency Implementation of Open Government Plans and to monitor agency implementation of the plans as part of the US National Action Plan. We hope they will remind Labor to get back with the open government program soon.