Too early to judge Obama administration on transparency? 

President Obama has promised to make the federal government more transparent to citizens than it has ever before been, and his administration has launched a number of initiatives in the executive branch designed to achieve that goal.

President Obama has promised to make the federal government more transparent to citizens than it has ever before been, and his administration has launched a number of initiatives in the executive branch designed to achieve that goal.

How is the Obama administration doing on this score? Changing the way the federal bureaucracy responds to things like Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests is not unlike doing a U-turn on an aircraft carrier - it's not easy and it takes a lot of time. For that reason, I am reserving judgement on the issue, but there is a steadily growing list of indicators one way or the other, some good and some not so good.

I participated in a Jan. 28 panel on this topic recently (see video below) hosted by OMB Watch, a liberal non-profit advocacy group headed by Gary Bass. Gary and I don't agree on much in the partisan realm, but we do agree on the need for far greater transparency in government.

We worked together with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, and then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, and their capable legislative staffs on the landmark Federal Financial Accounting and Transparency Act of 2006. That law mandated establishment of USASpending.gov where you can now find most federal spending data in an easily accessible format.

Also on the panel was Norm Eisen, representing President Obama, Sarah Cohen, formerly of The Washington Post and now a professor at Duke University, Meredith Fuchs of the National Security Archive, and Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation. You can watch the entire panel discussion here.

 

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Mark Tapscott

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