Obama WANTS YOU to comment on the Open Government Directive

A request for public comment on the Obama administration’s Open Government Directive has just been published in the Federal Register.

The directive—aimed at promoting transparency, collaboration and participation in government—was envisioned in a presidential directive signed by Obama on his first full day in office.

That document charged administration officials with developing the directive within 120 days, a four month deadline which is up today.

Yet today’s Federal Register notes that comments don’t have to be in until June 19. It’s not yet clear if that means the directive proper won’t be produced until after that date, making it at least a month overdue, or if some draft version will be presented later today. This of course means that the directive is either late, or was drafted without the benefit of comment from the general public—an ironic situation for a policy aimed at increasing citizen participation and collaboration.

Regrettably, as of posting, the White House web page where citizens are being asked to submit their thoughts, www.whitehouse.gov/open is not, in fact, yet open for business.

But once it is up and running, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has taken the lead role in forming the directive, would love to hear from you on the following:

What government information should be more readily available on-line or more easily searched?
How might the operations of government be made more transparent and accountable?
How might federal advisory committees, rulemaking, or electronic rulemaking be better used to improve decisionmaking?
What alternative models exist to improve the quality of decisionmaking and increase opportunities for citizen participation?
What are the limitations to transparency?
What strategies might be employed to adopt greater use of Web 2.0 in agencies?
What policy impediments to innovation in government currently exist?
What changes in training or hiring of personnel would enhance innovation?
What performance measures are necessary to determine the effectiveness of open government policies?

UPDATE: In comments, Stephen Buckley suggests that Obama’s January 21 directive was written with a bit more nuance in regards to the 120 day timeline. Indeed, I just got off the phone with Rick Weiss, a spokesperson in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, who told me that OSTP viewed developing the set of recommendations (enacted today) that will solicit and develop open government ideas from the public as “hopefully technically fulfilling the president’s hope for a recommendation” by the 120 day marker.

As Shii points out, the website is now open for business. Weiss tells me that the process laid out on the website will result in a more formal set of recommendations, which will be passed on to the Office of Management and Budget, as per the President’s January directive, where they will at an indeterminate time be formed into a formal, final, Open Government Directive.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.