SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 19
March 11, 2010

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

WHITE HOUSE PROMOTES PRIZES FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT

Executive branch agencies should "increase the use of prizes and challenges as tools for promoting open government," the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a memorandum to agency heads this week.

"It is Administration policy to strongly encourage agencies to utilize prizes and challenges as tools for advancing open government, innovation, and the agency's mission," OMB said.

The memorandum, as promised in the December 2009 White House Open Government Directive, is intended to provide "a framework for how agencies can use challenges, prizes, and other incentive-backed strategies to find innovative or cost-effective solutions to improving open government."

The substance of the desired improvements was not spelled out in the latest memo, but the earlier Directive said that "The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government." None of these principles is instinctive or can be taken for granted, and the prize program is an evidently sincere effort to help overcome bureaucratic resistance to greater openness.

"A prize should not be an end in itself, but one means within a broader strategy for spurring private innovation and change," the new OMB memo said.


ARMY: FOIA REQUESTERS ARE "NOT AN ADVERSARY"

Slowly and unevenly, the Obama Administration's open government message is filtering down to the agency level.

We have entered "a new era of open government," Army officials informed a government audience recently. There will be "increased emphasis on the Freedom of Information Act... Agency FOIA programs must be improved... Commanders need to direct all agency personnel to place a higher priority on timely assistance to FOIA personnel."

The FOIA requester "is not an adversary," the Army FOIA Management Conference was told, according to November 2009 briefing slides that were released last month.

In reality, many FOIA proceedings are quite adversarial. But perhaps the Army meant that both FOIA requesters and FOIA responders are part of the same process, and therefore ought to cooperate as far as possible. It's a wholesome message to send.


CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT, AND MORE FROM CRS

New Congressional Research Service reports obtained by Secrecy News that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

"Visa Security Policy: Roles of the Departments of State and Homeland Security," March 8, 2010:

"Legislative Options After Citizens United v. FEC: Constitutional and Legal Issues," March 8, 2010:

"FY2011 Budget Documents: Internet and GPO Availability," March 8, 2010:

"House Committee Markups: Manual of Procedures and Procedural Strategies," February 25, 2010:

"Congressional Oversight: An Overview," February 22, 2010:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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