Mister Accountability

— This article by Jerry Cates, first published on 29 October 2012, was last revised on 28 April 2014. © Govinthenews Vol. 3:10(03).
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The following memorandum is posted on the White House website, and has been posted in the Federal Register. It mirrors a number of important promises Mr. Obama made during his initial campaign for president, and lays out a laudable agenda, one that anyone with a sense of history and a respect for the critical need for openness in government must applaud. When I first heard him utter his famous promise to make his presidency and administration the most transparent, open, and accountable in the history of this great nation, I was moved. Today, nearly four years into his presidency, we have those words to study against the backdrop of an extensive period of time when he was constantly challenged by momentous events and circumstances to prove his commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability. Has he done so? This article seeks to examine that singular question, and arrive at a fair and honest answer:

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Transparency and Open Government

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.

Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperateamong themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

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These were his words. How is he doing? You be the judge…

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— Questions? Corrections? Comments? e-mail jerry.cates@govinthenews.info. You may also register, log in, and leave a detailed comment in the space provided below.

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