President Obama made openness a priority of his Administration, committing to an “unprecedented level of openness in Government” on his first full day in office.
In the years since that declaration more information has been released under Freedom of Information Act, and made available on government websites, than ever before. The federal government continues to use technology in innovative ways that harness government information to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
As President Obama today signs the Open Government Partnership declaration, the Justice Department is proud to highlight some of the ways that it has advanced America’s open government agenda and created a more efficient and effective government through greater transparency, participation, and collaboration.
As the “flagship initiative,” of its Open Government Plan, the Justice Department pledged a new “FOIA Dashboard.” The site, FOIA.gov, launched earlier this year. It is a comprehensive resource for government-wide FOIA compliance data and educational information.
FOIA.gov presents data on agency FOIA processing, including the numbers of FOIA requests made and processed by each agency, the disposition of those requests, the time taken to respond, and any backlogs of pending requests. That data can be compared and contrasted between agencies and over time. Users can select the criteria they want to examine and then run a report on the site.
As an educational resource, FOIA.gov contains material about how the FOIA works and what to expect during the process, and also provides contact information for all government agencies with links to their FOIA websites.
The department has also begun posting newly digitized reference materials – including legislative histories and archived speeches of former Attorneys General. These materials were previously available only to department employees.
The legislative histories track the development and passage of laws that were deemed of interest to the department or in which the department played a vital role.
In addition, speeches from past Attorneys General are being digitized and posted online. Dating from 1933 to 2009, many of these documents have never before been widely available. These documents will prove to be a treasure trove to librarians, researchers and anyone else interested in the department’s history and documents.
An open and good government is much more than releasing information. It is about harnessing the skills and talents of the American people, establishing greater collaboration among Federal agencies, and ensuring that the taxpayer’s money is wisely spent. To that end, today, the department is recommitting itself to the principles that the President announced on his first day in office and exemplified in our work since then.
In the upcoming months the Department of Justice plans to convene an Interagency Technology Working Group to focus on expanding the use of technology in the core elements of FOIA administration.
Agencies across the government have already embraced technology to assist in receipt and tracking of requests and generation of Annual FOIA Reports. The next step is to improve and streamline administration of the FOIA. Improving this process will allow agencies to respond to requests more quickly and will further reduce backlogs.
In the coming months, the Office of Information Policy, will seek input from interested stakeholders and lead an effort to transform the administration of the FOIA.
For more information on the Justice Department’s Open Government efforts, visit justice.gov/open.