White House expands open government programs in new action plan

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The White House has released the third iteration of its Open Government National Action Plan, highlighting 40 new or expanded programs to make the federal government more transparent.

The plan “includes new and impactful steps the administration is taking to openly and collaboratively deliver government services and to support open government efforts across the country,” according to a blog post Tuesday co-authored by U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith and the National Security Council Senior Director for Development & Democracy Mary Beth Goodman.

The White House included a number of the programs from prior versions of the plan, including an updated Freedom of Informaiton Act portal, work related to data.gov and various actions taken to enhance public participation in government.

FedScoop has written about a number of projects incorporated into the plan, including a National Address Database, the recently launched College Scorecard, updates to the ‘We The People’ petition site, the U.S. Public Participation Playbook, work surrounding the DATA Act, and the Precision Medicine Initiative, among others.

Among the new projects included in the plan are updates to the federal challenges website, challenge.gov; the release of machine-readable tax information on U.S. nonprofits and charities; and the requirement of 11 federal agencies to publicly post information related to the permits and funding attached to large-scale infrastructure projects.

Some of the programs in the plan are controversial. The Electronic Frontier Foundation took issue with a section that describes increased transparency of trade policy and negotiations, saying the measures the White House took — appointing a chief transparency officer in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, publishing more trade information online and posting video of trade disputes — don’t go far enough.

“The administration’s failure to address these core issues in its latest [national action plan] is a disappointment, but not a surprise,” writes Jeremy Malcolm, EFF’s senior global policy analyst. “Despite a growing consensus that the manner in which trade negotiations are being undertaken is significantly out of step with the public’s expectations, the USTR again finds itself unable to meet this need for change.”

The plan also has a section devoted to strengthening whistleblower protections for government employees, calling for a training plan similar to what is covered under Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PDF), revisions to protect FBI whistleblowers and better compliance with PPD-19 inside the intelligence community.

The Obama administration has taken much criticism when it comes its handling of whistleblowers and leakers, with the White House charging more people under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations dating back to the act’s creation just after World War I.

The White House released the new plan as part of its membership with the Open Government Partnership, a coalition of 66 countries looking to enhance public access to government information.

You can read the full plan below.

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data analytics, Government IT News, open data, open government, Tech, White House
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