The Trump administration released its two-year plan for open government initiatives Feb. 21, and many of the policies reiterate the strategies outlined in legislation and prior policy.

The Open Government National Action Plan is a required biennial document from each member nation of the Open Government Partnership, which was started by President Barack Obama at the U.N. General Assembly in 2011 and had 684 action plans submitted in 2016.

This fourth iteration of the national action plan, also known as NAP4, was supposed to have been released in 2018 under that time table but experienced slight delays, which Data Coalition Senior Policy Director Christian Hoehner called an “obvious concern” in a statement on the plan.

NAP4 has eight initiatives for promoting an open U.S. government:

  1. Leverage data as a strategic asset by publishing a comprehensive federal data strategy — This initiative was already a core component of the President’s Management Agenda, with a development team set to have released a strategy in January 2019. Due to the government shutdown, that release has been delayed. 
  2. Ensure accountability for grants — Spending transparency was a core component of NAP3, released in 2015 under the Obama administration, and federal agencies are already required to report their grant data to the Department of the Treasury under the 2014 Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, though data accuracy has historically been a problem. NAP4 designates the System for Award Managements as the core system for certifications and representations required of grant recipients.
  3. Provide public access to federally funded research — Expanding public engagement with taxpayer-funded research was an established policy in NAP3. The new strategy sets priorities for creating data standards in scientific research and promoting open science efforts in the federal government.
  4. Foster the expansion of workforce data standards — Also a priority in NAP3, the new policy specifies pursuing transparency in education outcomes, job posting data and skills or credentials that lead to “family supporting jobs.”
  5. Create agency-level chief data officers — The OPEN Government Data Act, which became law in January 2019, already requires federal agencies to create CDOs responsible for data governance policy, though as the bill is still new, not all agencies have officially established these roles.
  6. Use open data to fuel innovation in public health — NAP3 created a precision medicine initiative that aimed to use donated health and research data to speed outcomes in healthcare. This strategy specifically calls out the opioid crisis, Lyme and other tick-borne diseases and value-based healthcare.
  7. Implement the intelligence community enterprise objective for privacy, civil liberties and transparency — Where the NAP3 committed to a more open and transparent intelligence community, NAP4 commits to incorporating privacy and civil liberties into IC policies.
  8. Expand public participation in developing future national action plans — The strategy says that the administration will conduct consultation sessions, in-person meetings and live-streamed discussions with the public into the development of the next Open Government National Action Plan.

Despite its many similarities to the previous plan, NAP4 is noticeably shorter than its predecessor and doesn’t address certain components of the previous plans.

“Regrettably, key commitments from the 2015 Third National Action Plan are no longer incorporated. For instance, ‘Increase Transparency in Spending,’ which emphasized the requirements of the DATA Act, is no longer included. We are also disappointed that the Data Coalition’s calls to include a commitment to adopt a universal Legal Entity Identifier across the federal government were not acknowledged in NAP4,” said Hoehner.

“We are happy to see the creation of federal grant reporting data standards called out as a priority. Making these reforms to grant reporting data standards will help simplify and harmonize federal grant recipient reporting obligations. However, as we have recently noted in public comments on the administration’s draft standards, there should be more explicit alignment with existing data standards created under the DATA Act, which the unanimously House passed Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency Act would legally require."

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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