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Spotlighting Open Government Progress During Sunshine Week

As we mark “Sunshine Week,” we’re reminded that our democracy is stronger and healthier when government is open, transparent, and accountable to the American people.

As we mark “Sunshine Week,” we’re reminded that our democracy is stronger and healthier when government is open, transparent, and accountable to the American people.

Too often over the years, the Federal government failed to meet that standard, operating in a closed-door culture of secrecy that left many Americans rightfully skeptical about the way important decisions were made and taxpayer dollars spent.

From his first days in office, President Obama has taken unprecedented steps to begin changing that legacy by bringing greater transparency and openness to the business of government. And today, just three years later, we have a great deal to show for those efforts, particularly when it comes to transparency into government spending and other data. Key highlights to date include:

  • To provide the American people with greater insight into how their tax dollars are spent, the Administration has taken important steps to improve and expand – a site that now provides an unprecedented level of spending data (searchable by state, zip code, or Congressional district) on Federal contracts, grants, loans, and other programs.
  • We launched to provide the American people a new window in to the Administration’s efforts to deliver a more effective, smarter, and leaner government. The site supports our efforts to cut waste, streamline government, improve performance, and boost accountability with regular updates of progress on government-wide management priorities. For major agencies, the site shows longer-term strategic goals and 103 near-term priority goals, plus 14 priority goals that cut across agencies. 
  • Excess real estate data: From the outset of the Administration, the President has been committed to cutting costs by reforming the Federal government’s real estate portfolio and shedding excess properties.  Step one of this process is a full and public accounting of what the government owns.  That is why the Administration has established an interactive online map of excess Federal real estate that allows the public to identify and drill down to the properties in their area and across the country. 
  • The Administration has also made tremendous strides in reducing the amount of improper payments made in critical programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and others, in line with the ambitious goals set out by the President in 2009.  To help the American people track this progress and the work that remains, the President established, which provides detailed data on where payment errors occur and what is being done to address and recapture them.
  • IT Dashboard: The Administration first launched the IT Dashboard back in 2009. The Dashboard, which was updated just last week to reflect the Presidents FY 2013 budget proposals, now includes data on more than 700 major IT investments across the Federal government, allowing visitors to see how an agency CIO rates the performance of each investment as well as whether the investment is on budget and on time.
  • Launched in 2009, was designed to increase the public’s ability to access, download, and use datasets that are generated by the Federal government. The site now includes close more than 390,000 datasets, ranging from real-time, worldwide earthquake data to data on work-related injury and illness. Posting this data publicly not only brings an unprecedented level of openness to Federal data, but also encourages creative use of that data beyond the walls of government.
  • Just last week, the Administration took one of its latest step to promote openness and transparency with the creation of – a new website that brings lobbying, ethics, campaign finance, and other data from across the Federal government under one roof, making it easier and simpler for the American people to hold public officials to account. 
  • Federal Taxpayer receipt: In his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Obama vowed to create a tool that would allow American taxpayers to go online and see exactly how their tax dollars are spent, and the Federal Taxpayer Receipt does just that. As we approach tax season, the taxpayer receipt tool will again be available online.

These steps represent real progress, but we’re not done yet. The work of making government more open and accountable to the American people is not a one-time proposition – it requires a sustained, coordinated effort that draws on every tool and resource at our disposal. 

And in the year ahead, we’ll continue to do everything we can to protect the progress we’ve already made, to expand our transparency efforts even further, and to deliver the American people the open, accountable government they expect and deserve. 

Danny Werfel is Controller of the Office of Management and Budget