Open government directive sets tight deadlines

OMB chief Peter Orszag issued the memo on behalf of President Obama. OMB chief Peter Orszag issued the memo on behalf of President Obama. Saul Loeb/Newscom
The White House issued on Tuesday a highly anticipated directive outlining how federal agencies should make operations more open and solicit public opinions, setting an aggressive timeline for them to implement the new practices.

The guidance, which President Obama announced on his first day in office, is intended to promote an open government, in which the public is more involved in its daily business. The 11-page document adheres to principles Obama has detailed throughout his first year in office: transparency, in which disclosing government information is the default; participation, which incorporates citizen input in policymaking; and collaboration, which creates partnerships inside the government and with industry.

Agencies must deliver on many initiatives in the directive. Depending on the requirement, deadlines are 45, 60, 90 or 120 days. For example, agencies have 45 days to publish online at least three new downloadable data sets. The contents of the statistics must help citizens hold the government accountable, learn about the agency's work, find a financial opportunity or meet some other need the public has conveyed to the agency. In addition, within 45 days each agency must appoint a high-level senior official to oversee the quality of the federal spending data that is posted on the Web.

In a nod to complaints about the accuracy of stimulus job-creation data, the directive calls for separate guidance within 120 days that demands agencies report quarterly on their progress in enhancing the quality of spending information. Lawmakers and citizens have berated the administration for what they say is erroneous data posted on, the official stimulus-tracking Web site, and, a database that is supposed to track all federal contracts and loans.

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