OMB Watch Assesses Obama Administration's Progress on Open Government Recommendations

-For Immediate Release-
March 18, 2011

Contact: Brian Gumm, (202) 683-4812,

OMB Watch Assesses Obama Administration's Progress
on Open Government Recommendations

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2011—OMB Watch today published an in-depth analysis of the Obama administration's progress on a wide-ranging set of open government recommendations. The recommendations were crafted by a diverse group of organizations and individuals as part of the 21st Century Right to Know Project, which was coordinated by OMB Watch in 2007 and 2008.

The recommendations, presented to Obama's transition team and the incoming leadership of the 111th Congress after the 2008 elections, urged quick action on a number of key government openness issues while also encouraging a more systematic, longer-term approach to transparency problems that plague the federal government. The recommendations were endorsed by more than 300 organizations and individuals from across the political spectrum.

The new assessment takes the opportunity of Sunshine Week 2011 to examine the progress on each recommendation near the midpoint of the president’s term. It explains the activities of the administration and Congress on the issues addressed in the 2008 recommendations and offers some insights on those actions. It should be noted that as part of Sunshine Week, the administration and Congress have announced several new transparency initiatives, which are not included in the assessment.

Gary D. Bass, Executive Director of OMB Watch, said, "As you read this report, you will be amazed at how many of the 70 recommendations the administration has undertaken. It demonstrates a strong commitment to openness and a dedication of government resources to address the many items."

Key findings of the report include the following:


  • Strong and consistent leadership on government openness from White House and other high offices that conveys the importance of the issue
  • Strong utilization of e-government and Web 2.0 technologies, with concerted effort to engage the public
  • New executive order on controlled unclassified information improves transparency, predictability, and oversight, but implementation has not yet begun


  • New state secrets policy represents minor reform, and administration is continuing to use the privilege broadly to dismiss entire cases
  • No high-level effort to improve electronic records management and preservation government-wide
  • Implementation of improved FOIA policies has significantly lagged, and there has been only minor investment in new technologies to improve FOIA processing

In looking at some of the strengths and weaknesses described in the assessment, Bass noted, "The whole does not yet seem to be greater than the sum of its parts. Overall, government transparency still can be vastly improved. Too often, implementation lags behind the vision created by the policy."

Despite this, Bass concluded, "It is not easy to transform government from a culture of secrecy to one of openness, yet we are comforted by having an administration that is committed to strengthening government openness, and we continue to advocate for the administration to live up to that commitment."

The assessment is available online in PDF and browser-based e-book formats at

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OMB Watch is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting government accountability, citizen participation in public policy decisions, and the use of fiscal and regulatory policy to serve the public interest. Find OMB Watch on Facebook and Twitter.

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