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.

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.