Letter to President Obama on OMB open-government plan
We, the undersigned organizations, are concerned about the failure of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to comply fully with a presidential memorandum on transparency and open government. Although OMB released an open-government plan in 2010, it failed to release an open-government plan in 2012 and 2014, and we believe it is on course to fail again. By comparison, every other agency obligated to issue a plan in 2014 ultimately did so. We respectfully request your attention be given to this matter and that you direct OMB to take immediate action to fulfill its obligation.
Your 2009 presidential memorandum on transparency and open government “instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum.” OMB issued an implementing open-government directive in accordance with the memorandum; it requires “each agency [to] develop and publish on its Open Government Webpage an Open Government Plan that will describe how it will improve transparency and integrate public participation and collaboration into its activities…. Each agency’s plan shall be updated every two years“ (emphasis added). The purpose behind the directive, and the plans, is to encourage agencies to articulate how openness helps them fulfill their missions, address public concerns and build openness into the way they operate.
In February 2014, the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) issued guidance to help agencies update their Open Government Plans for 2014. The guidance instructed agencies to incorporate new subjects into their plans, based on the administration’s Open Government National Action Plan, which included 23 new or expanded open government commitments. Despite crystal clear update requirements, the 2014 guidance, the standing White House memorandum, and recommendations and repeated communications from outside stakeholders, OMB did not update its plan and declined to provide a timeline for when an updated plan might be published. More than a year has elapsed since the due date.
Many of us have repeatedly expressed concern over the failure of OMB to meet this obligation in multiple forums. The failure is particularly troubling because OMB is an agency with a central oversight role on information policy, it has responsibility for implementation of this plan, and it often serves as the right hand of the president.
We urge you to direct OMB to take immediate steps to comply with the Open Government Directive and update its Open Government Plan in line with the 2014 guidance.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. If you have any questions, please contact Patrice McDermott, executive director of OpenTheGovernment.org, at [email protected], 202.332.6736 or Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress, at [email protected].
American Association of Law Libraries
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
American Society of News Editors
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Cause of Action Institute
Data Transparency Coalition
Defending Dissent Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Global Financial Integrity
National Security Archive
Government Accountability Project
PEN American Center
Project On Government Oversight
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
 Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, Transparency and Open Government, The White House, Jan. 21, 2009: http://1.usa.gov/1SHPCHr.
 Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments Agencies, Open Government Directive, Office of Management and Budget, Dec. 8, 2009: http://1.usa.gov/1OcRMQZ.
 Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments Agencies, 2015 Agency Open Government Plans, Memo from Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer, Office of Science and Technology, Feb. 24, 2014: http://1.usa.gov/1lWHDvz.
 See, e.g., Crew Submits Open Government Plan Recommendations, May 20, 2014: http://bit.ly/1ZfThQh.
 See, e.g., the January 2015 Civil Society Progress Report on the Implementation of the United States’ Second Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, which emphasized that OMB had yet to publish an updated plan since its first version was issued in 2010, and highlighted that civil society organizations had attempted to provided ideas to OMB for an updated plan: http://bit.ly/1O7asyN