DOJ Flagship Initiative: Lost at Sea

DOJ Flagship Initiative: Lost at Sea

Michael
Fraley

 

Is it just me, or does the Open Government logo, chosen
to represent the DOJ Open Government Initiative, engender a feeling wholly other
than openness and transparency?

If one peruses their home page, one will see the
touting of the Memorandum
on Transparency and Open Government
and Open
Government Directive
. Why, there is even an Open Government
Plan
.

Who can argue with the noble intent of the following blurb, so
prominently displayed?

In the 21st Century, democracy demands an innovative approach to
policymaking – an approach built on transparency, participation, and
collaboration. These foundational qualities are the keys to creating a more
effective government that taps the creativity and diversity of an entire nation
to generate solutions to the challenges we face.

Implementing the
President’s Memorandum on Open Government

Central to
this new spirit of government transparency is the Flagship Initiative,
or FOIA Dashboard. This is to be a central “dashboard”, full of information
regarding FOIA compliance, that “transforms this information from static data in
annual reports into readily visible, usable, and ‘mashable’ information that
will provide key insights on agency FOIA activities, government-wide.”

The Dashboard will be an interactive Web site containing
comprehensive data on FOIA compliance by all 94 federal agencies that are
required to report on FOIA data. At present, federal agencies compile and
publish this data each year in Annual FOIA Reports, and the Department makes
those reports available at a single location on its Web site. For the first
time, however, the Dashboard will present the annual reporting data graphically
where it can be easily tracked and compared from year to year and agency to
agency. The Dashboard will also take this previously available information and
present it in new, easy-to-understand, interactive
formats.

Sounds terrific! So, I try to find this new
flagship “dashboard” and stumble across the following: “Current plans indicate
that in early August 2010, Dashboard development will reach a stage at which
public evaluation and input will be of great …”

I continue to search,
following this link, then another, then yet another, following a circular course
which brings me back to this
statement
:

Over the next year, we will launch the Dashboard and upload a full
set of FOIA compliance data. We expect that the bulk of the work will be
completed by March 2011.

So, it being March 2011, and all, I
figure there must be something awesome out there…this is, after all, their
Flagship Initiative!

Finally, I discover the hidden treasure – a link to that glorious “flagship.”
Huh…not much of a flagship…something more akin to the S.S. Minnow.  What I
discover is a grid of “self-assessments” regarding FOIA compliance, and such.
And wouldn’t you know? The vast majority rate themselves as “Meets Expectations;
a few rate themselves as “Progress Toward Expectations”; not a single “Fails to
Meet Expectations” anywhere! Gee…they must be REALLY transparent and
open…just like they tell us all the time…while never really answering a
question…and all the while breaking granting FOIA requests only
to their favorite liberals
.

Some dashboard! I’m left to wonder how
many tax dollars were spent on this little junket (a three hour tour). I’m left
to wonder if this so-called “flagship initiative” has run aground on an
uncharted desert isle.

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