Yesterday, President Barack Obama unveiled the U.S. National Action Plan during a meeting in New York of the member nations of the Open Government Partnership. Last Week, the White House also issued a Status Report on the Administration’s Commitment to Open Government.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve written a lot about how the work of the National Archives is based on the belief that citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records that document the actions of their government. The following are only a few of the areas where the National Archives is making significant contributions to strengthen open government and our democracy.
The backbone of a transparent and accountable government is good records management. Good government cannot be held accountable if it does not preserve – and cannot find – its records. The exponential growth of electronic records poses multiple challenges. The National Archives will continue to play a leadership role in finding and developing cost-effective IT solutions needed to meet the electronic records management challenges found in Federal agencies today.
National Declassification Center
The National Declassification Center (NDC) is strengthening open government by improving coordination among agencies and streamlining the declassification process throughout the Federal Government. The NDC is leading a multi-agency effort to address the backlog of 400 million pages previously accessioned to the National Archives, but inconsistently reviewed and referred by their owning agencies. The NDC also strives for transparency by inviting public input into its prioritization plan, making available reports on its progress and providing opportunities for public comment.
Online Access to Government Records
The National Archives will continue to strengthen online capabilities in order to foster the public’s use of records. Through streamlined search capabilities and innovative social media efforts, the National Archives is putting records into the hands of citizens. We will continue to foster engagement and encourage citizen archivists to contribute their time, talents, and expertise to help tag, transcribe, and digitize the 10 billion records of the National Archives.
The Office of the Federal Register continues to be a leader in democratizing government information. The Federal Register provides ready access to the official text of Federal laws, Presidential documents, and administrative regulations and notices. Modernizations plans are creating a “Federal Register 2.0” to meet the 21st century needs of citizens. The release of an Application Programming Interface for FederalRegister.gov demonstrates the National Archives’ commitment to collaboration with developers in the non-government sector to put government information in your hands.
Office of Government Information Services
The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), created to resolve Freedom of Information Act disputes, will participate in a multi-agency partnership to build an online FOIA portal, repository, and processing system. The portal will allow the public to submit and track a FOIA request and to search for and view the agency’s response. For agencies, the portal will allow secure, online access to assign and process FOIA requests, refer records to other agencies for direct response or consultation, post responses online, and provide metrics for FOIA reporting.
International Meeting of Archivists
In addition to the areas above, I am convening a meeting of international Archivists to discuss the role of archives in an open government. At this meeting, I would like to begin a dialogue with the heads of archives around the world to discuss the crucial role archives and records management play in an open government.