Federal Gov't Mostly Ignoring Obama Directive To Be More Transparent

from the the-opposite-is-happening dept

One of the first things that President Obama did upon taking office was promise a much more open and transparent administration from what came before. He issued a "directive" to federal agencies to start with the assumption of openness and only back down from it with good reason. And yet, as we've seen over and over again, federal agencies have been anything but transparent -- and a new study supports that. The AP looked at Freedom of Information Act requests and found that agencies are turning down FOIA requests at a much greater rate than the last administration, and doing so using a "deliberative process" exemption -- which Obama specifically told agencies to avoid if possible. Amusingly, the AP notes that the administration still hasn't responded to its own FOIA request about the gov't's new transparency plans.

Along those lines, rather than waiting for the government to just be proactive in being transparent, why not help them along? You may recall last year that Jim Harper set up a system to crowdsource a comprehensive collection of earmark data that was required to be released -- but which was released in a variety of different and confusing ways. Now that the feds are finally moving towards standardizing how earmark data is released, Harper along with Jerry Brito are trying to make sure that the standardized format is as useful as possible. They've set up EarmarkData.org to try to help create a standardized format that will actually capture and present the data in the most useful way.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    John (profile), Mar 17th, 2010 @ 5:45am

    Buck Stops at the Top

    Unfortunately for Mr. President, the failures of those beneath him to honor his campaign promise are his fault. Fair or not, the failures of subordinates are the failures of the managers.

     

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  2.  
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    DS, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 5:52am

    Well, let's not ignore the fact that he himself has not be as 'open' as he claimed that he would be.

    So it's just not the individual agencies, but Obama himself that didn't keep the rather easy promise.

    Of course, it doesn't help when you promise that someone else (Cspan) will give you unlimited airtime when you have no control over it(Cspan is an independent agency). Or when they agree, you show a short scripted segment of a meeting before kicking them out.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 6:18am

    "Obama Mostly Ignoring his own Directive To Be More Transparent"

    There, fixed it for you.

     

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  4.  
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    Krusty, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 6:32am

    Ah yes,

    "Change We Can Believe In"

    snicker

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 6:45am

    Guess he figured out it's easier said then done.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike D (profile), Mar 17th, 2010 @ 6:47am

    I think the word he was looking for was...

    Opaque.

     

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  7.  
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    Michael Lockyear (profile), Mar 17th, 2010 @ 7:02am

    Politicians will say whatever needs to be said to get into office...surprised that anyone is actually surprised!

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 7:15am

    We are only surprised because we thought this guy really really meant it, unlike those before him... right? lol

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 7:32am

    Naive

    A contact of mine within the German government gave me their (unofficial) assessment of President Obama and his staff after several meetings that took place both before and after he was elected. Their opinion was that he and his folks were very naive when it came to international relations and the world of politics in general.

    My assessment is that his organization is just as naive when it comes to national politics and policy. In the world of Chicago politics where he came from, when the boss said jump, the underlings didn't even bother to ask how high but just did it. It doesn't work that way in Washington.

    The entrenched civil servants in DC date back to all administrations since Carter (maybe from before?) and they don't change their allegiance easily, as the President is learning the hard way.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 8:16am

    Re: Naive

    I initially attributed some of Obama's shortcomings to being naive until he started promoting his stupid ACTA nonsense and keeping it secret to everyone but the industry. Also, Biden allowing only industry reps to participate in meetings was also nonsense. I just don't see how these very deliberate looking attempts to please the industry and deny the public the transparency he promised can be a product of being naive.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 9:01am

    Re: Naive

    The entrenched civil servants in DC date back to all administrations since Carter (maybe from before?) and they don't change their allegiance easily, as the President is learning the hard way.

    Bull. Insubordination is a fire-able offense, even for civil servants. If Obama were serious, he'd be doing some firing over this. He isn't, and he isn't.

     

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  12.  
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    Not surprised, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 9:06am

    Poor President Obama

    Maybe if he'd stop trying to cram his health care program down our throats he'd be able to keep some promises. Closing Guantamo, having a transparent administration, etc...

     

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  13.  
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    Pjerky (profile), Mar 17th, 2010 @ 9:26am

    Re:

    I am surprised that your surprised that anyone is actually surprised!

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Cowards, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Re: Naive

    Bull. Insubordination is a fire-able offense, even for civil servants. If Obama were serious, he'd be doing some firing over this.

    It's hard to prove insubordination. In the complex world of the federal bureaucracy, it's very easy for things to get lost in the system, take a wrong turn, be filed incorrectly, accidentally be erased, etc...

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Naive

    It's hard to prove insubordination. In the complex world of the federal bureaucracy, it's very easy for things to get lost in the system, take a wrong turn, be filed incorrectly, accidentally be erased, etc...

    Kind of like the military, huh? I mean, when the commanding General gives orders, he's lucky if anybody pays any attention at all because it's such a big organization.

    And if you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you.

    The truth of the matter is that Obama could easily correct such insubordination, if it really existed. But if you issue one directive publicly, and then tell your people behind closed doors to just ignore it, I don't guess that's really insubordination, is it?

     

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  16.  
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    DanVan (profile), Mar 17th, 2010 @ 8:16pm

    It is obvious that the first few days that Obama was in office, he must have gotten quite an over-whelming feeling They really must have told him a LOT of stuff to make his adminstration do this....would be interesting to see what they were

     

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  17.  
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    KevinCole509, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 8:40pm

    Really? He's surprised?

    Either the man was the most naive person ever to walk into the oval office (can't buy that theory myself) OR he is telling the public one thing and his people another. And of course, if so, he'd be the first politician ever to do that...

    Never in my LIFE have I been a conspiracy theorist. It's easier to believe that people who are out after political power are basically slimy. All of 'em. Something in the D. C. water, maybe. Or maybe just in that personality.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Cowards, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 7:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Naive

    Kind of like the military, huh? I mean, when the commanding General gives orders, he's lucky if anybody pays any attention at all because it's such a big organization.

    And if you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you.


    Nope, not exactly. The military doesn't have the civil service system or unions to deal with. I've worked outside of (thank goodness) but along side of federal agencies since the late 70's and saw first hand how federal bureaucrats work. The vast majority of them are hardworking, dedicated people doing their job and then some, but it only takes one or two to throw a monkeywrench into the works.

    Not unlike union shops in private industry, it is very difficult to fire or reassign a federal employee unless very detailed records have been kept. I can relate a story about one IT worker who refused to attend off site training session on a new computer system and could not be ordered to do so because her job description stated that her duty location was at a specific building. To change the job description or employ some sort of disciplinary action would have cost far more than it was worth so she was left in the job, unable to work on the new system, for the remaining time she had before retiring.

    It's hard to call it insubordination unless the person refuses to do something that is stated in their job description or union contract.

    Where about is this bridge?

    ;-)

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Naive

    Nope, not exactly. The military doesn't have the civil service system or unions to deal with.

    Oh believe me, the military has plenty of regulations of it's of it's own. I don't know why you would think it didn't.

    It's hard to call it insubordination unless the person refuses to do something that is stated in their job description or union contract.

    I really don't see how you can suggest with a straight face that this Obama's openness directive might be outside of his subordinates "job description" and thus something that they can just ignore. I seems more to me that you're just intent on defending Obama to the point of ridiculousness.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Naive

    Oh believe me, the military has plenty of regulations of it's of it's own. I don't know why you would think it didn't.

    You miss the point. In the military, people are expected to follow orders unless they are illegal. In the federal government unionized bureaucracies, people don't have to do what they are told unless it's in their job description or union contract and even then they can quite often do the task, but slowly or poorly enough that the overall project is delayed or fails, but because they fulfilled the letter of their job, they can't be disciplined.

    I'm not making excuses for the President's current predicament. I'm pointing out his ignorance of how Washington works. My opinion is that politicians who aspire to high federal office and only have state or local experience are normally not successful. We are looking at a perfect case study in progress at the present time.

     

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