Making Government Operations More Open

Identify Disclosure Priorities Using FOIA Trends

The Open Government Directive should establish a mechanism for setting information disclosure priorities. This process should be overseen by a responsible official within each agency, someone in a position to understand the broad scope of the agency’s information holdings. Several complementary approaches to identifying disclosure priorities make sense:

• Agencies should first look at which records the public is already making an effort to obtain under the FOIA. Each agency maintains a log of the FOIA requests that it receives and some agencies already are using their logs to determine frequently requested categories of records.

• In addition, each agency should systematically identify groups of records that would be of significant current interest to the public by reviewing media and public affairs requests and key decisions or events involving the agency. Some agencies, such as the CIA and the State Department, have historical advisory boards that could assist with prioritization efforts and agencies could initiate a process to solicit public input.

• An interagency process overseen by the office tasked with transparency leadership should be convened to coordinate and exchange best practices and consideration should be given to employing a public advisory board or boards to assist with prioritization efforts.

• On a government-wide scale, the Office of Management and Budget should use interactive technologies, such as an online survey, to seek input from the public and federal employees on identifying priority information needs.

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Idea No. 564