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1/19/2011
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Obama Directs Agencies To Post Regulatory Information Online

Federal agencies must make rulemaking and enforcement information available for the public to view, download, and search.

Obama's Tech Tools
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Slideshow: Obama's Tech Tools

In another step toward government transparency and accountability, President Obama has ordered federal agencies to post regulatory compliance and enforcement information online and make it available for public download.

In a presidential memo issued Tuesday, Obama said that greater disclosure of this type of information "fosters fair and consistent enforcement of important regulatory obligations" and will help keep the government honest about compliance and enforcement. It also will help agencies identify and address enforcement gaps, according to the memo.

The executive order was accompanied by an Obama-penned editorial in the Wall Street Journal explaining the significance of the move.

Several agencies, such as the Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency, already have begun to post this information online, and Obama in his memo encouraged other agencies to follow their lead.

Specifically, the president ordered that within 120 days, agencies "with broad regulatory compliance and administrative enforcement responsibilities," such as the Food and Drug Administration should have a plan to make public information about rulemaking and enforcement accessible online and available for download. People also must be able to search the information, he said.

Obama also called for U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra and CTO Aneesh Chopra to work with each agency to make the data available and searchable on the government's central open-data repository, Data.gov.

Kundra and Chopra also are charged with coordinating efforts with the Office of Management and Budget and agency CIOs and CTOs to find efficient and legal ways to share enforcement and compliance information across the government. Information sharing in this way can help agencies identify gaps in compliance and improve enforcement flexibility and coordination, according to the memo.

One of Obama's moves after taking office was to issue the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, which created the Open Government Directive, a federal mandate to use technology to improve the government's transparency, accountability, and public engagement.

Since then every agency has developed and is implementing specific plans for how to comply with the directive, and the government as a whole is transforming the way it interacts with the public through moves like the one Obama mandated in Tuesday's memo.

Other federal open-government moves the Obama administration has made include Data.gov; USAspending.gov, a site that reveals where federal money is going; an interactive tour of the White House; the federal IT dashboard; and others.

A recent survey found that both federal employees and the public are largely behind the government's transparency moves, although agencies say there is still much progress to be made.

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