Today, the Biden-Harris Administration released the U.S. Government’s Fifth Open Government National Action Plan to advance a more inclusive, responsive, and accountable government. The plan includes commitments to increase the public’s access to data to better advance equity, engage the public in the regulatory process, make government records more accessible to the public, and improve the delivery of government services and benefits. The publication of this plan builds on months of engagement with the public, including six public engagement sessions with hundreds of participants, over 700 public comments, and consultations with a range of civil society organizations.
“Government works best when we create channels for members of the public to regularly engage with us—and hold us accountable for improving the lives of all people, including those communities that have been excluded from social, economic, and civic life,” said Alexander Macgillivray, Deputy Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer. “This Action Plan creates and deepens these channels across the Federal Government.”
“Support for a more transparent, responsive, and inclusive Federal Government has always been important, but it is especially vital today,” said Sabeel Rahman, Associate Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget. “At a time when the principles of equality and democracy are threatened around the world, it is imperative that the U.S. lead by example and prove that democracies can deliver for their people.
Building on the historic commitment that the Biden-Harris Administration has made to advancing equity, the Fifth U.S. Open Government National Action Plan prioritizes a cross-cutting focus on promoting inclusion of communities that have experienced marginalization, exclusion, and discrimination. This government-wide commitment informed the manner in which the Federal Government approached drafting the Fifth Open Government National Action Plan, drawing from voices of more communities that have not typically participated in the work.
Drawing on public engagement, including through Executive Order 13985, as well as alignment with Biden-Harris Administration priorities, this plan features commitments across five themes:
- Improve Access to Government Data, Research, and Information
- Increase Civic Space to Engage the Public
- Transform Government Service Delivery
- Counter Corruption and Ensure Government Integrity and Accountability to the Public
- Ensure Equal Justice Under the Law
Specific commitments in the fifth Open Government National Action Plan include:
- Creating feedback mechanisms through which members of the public can request and access data that will help them to hold government accountable for advancing equity, including through partnerships and collaborations with different levels of government, community-based organizations, and researchers.
- Improving opportunities for members of the public to participate in the development of regulations, which touch countless areas of Americans’ lives—from benefit programs, to workplace safety, to health protections. This will include developing tools, guidance, and other resources to better explain the steps in the regulatory process and opportunities for engagement that meet members of the public where they are.
- Addressing barriers and burdens faced by the public in accessing public benefits and services through implementation of the Paperwork Reduction Act, including by better estimating the different burdens faced by members of the public and identifying high-priority burden reductions through engagement with civil society, including members of underserved communities.
- Developing and sharing effective equitable data practices—including around improving feedback loops between public data users and Federal data stewards, public engagement, transparency, and accountability—by creating a government-wide community of practice, including a listserv, learning assets such as “how to” guides, and regular webinars to share lessons learned across agencies, through the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Subcommittee on Equitable Data.
- Publishing a Federal Evidence Agenda on LGBTQI+ Equity and sharing the Agenda with public stakeholders; State, Tribal, local, and territorial governments; and academic researchers, through the NSTC Subcommittee on Equitable Data Interagency Working Group on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, launched through the Executive Order on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals (Executive Order 14075).
- Improving the National Archives Catalog of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) over the next 2 years by launching a new site with improved search experience and a new optical character recognition tool and by enhancing the Catalog with expanded user contribution types. In addition, NARA commits to using shared Federal web design standards and a human-centered design approach to update its flagship website, archives.gov, over the next 2 years, as well as to engaging with underserved communities to identify and prioritize records in NARA’s holdings that are important and impactful to those communities.
- Issuing an updated Department of Justice (DOJ) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Self-Assessment Toolkit, originally issued in 2017, to reflect, among other things, additional milestones for proactive disclosures, use of technology, and requirements of the Attorney General’s new FOIA Guidelines, released March 15, 2022, and developing shared FOIA business standards through a Chief FOIA Officer Council working group, led by DOJ, to make it easier for agencies to acquire FOIA technology and, in turn, improve efficiency and consistency in processing requests across the Federal Government. In addition, DOJ commits to enhancing the user experience on FOIA.gov, the Federal Government’s central website for FOIA, by developing an interactive tool to help members of the public more easily locate records that are already available online or find the right agency to submit their FOIA requests when information is not already posted online.
Erratum: The original version of this post misattributed the quote from Alexander Macgillivray.