For the past two years, the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA’s) Open Government Plan has provided our parent agency with a roadmap to increased transparency, participation and collaboration. Since that time, NARA’s leadership and staff have completed almost 70 tasks spelled out in that document. Never an agency to rest on its laurels, NARA just released an updated Open Government Plan with a whole new set of challenges.
One of the most exciting themes running through the updated Open Government Plan is the importance of people, rather than process, in providing excellent open government service. NARA is creating a culture of open government by investing in its employees, such as through an agency-wide mentoring program and increased opportunities for engagement. NARA will also continue its transformation with a new organizational structure that streamlines the agency and simplifies communication. Further, NARA will strengthen its own internal records management by developing a new Records and Information Management Network among agency staff members.
Open Government at NARA is defined not only by how its employees interact with each other, but also how NARA interacts with members of the public. In the next two years, NARA plans to further develop its Citizen Archivist Initiative, which encourages substantive contributions from the public, including tags, transcripts, and images to improve access and searchability of the agency’s vast archival holdings. NARA will also expand its digitization effort to help meet the demands of the public for records online.
Of course, no Open Government plan would be complete without a focus on FOIA. NARA plans to improve its FOIA program in several ways. It will address the issue of timeliness by expanding its ability to act on FOIA requests in a timely manner and actively working to decrease its backlog of pending requests. It will also facilitate the prompt review of classified records by agencies that have interests in the records and proactively disclose information that is of interest to FOIA requesters and the research community at large. Finally, NARA pledges to work with the Office of Government Information Services to mediate or resolve issues that prevent NARA’s ability to fully process a pending request. Sounds like a good plan to us!
If you have ideas for how NARA can increase openness, you can contact the agency at firstname.lastname@example.org.