Fact Sheet: Open Government Flagship Initiatives

Today, Federal departments and agencies are putting forward concrete plans for making operations and data more transparent, and expanding opportunities for citizen participation, collaboration, and oversight.  These steps will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness across the government.

Open government is not the work of any single office.  The entire Obama Administration is moving forward to translate the values of openness into lasting improvements in the way government makes decisions, solves problems, and addresses national challenges.

Below are summaries of selected open government flagship initiatives that Federal departments and agencies are undertaking to make the government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.  These are the hallmarks of each agency’s open government plan, and will result in lasting change in the way that the Federal government works for and – equally important – with the American people.

Department of Agriculture

National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule

The National Forest System New Forest Planning Rule provides the overarching framework for individual forests and grasslands to use in developing land management plans. The Forest Service (FS) is inviting the American public to collaborate in developing the rule. In doing so, FS will expand the use of the latest technologies (such as the Planning Rule Blog) to facilitate this collaboration.

Department of Commerce

Virtual CommerceConnect

CommerceConnect is an initiative designed to streamline access to government services and solutions to aid American businesses.  A primary goal of CommerceConnect is to provide a virtual “one-stop shop” for information, counseling, and access to the breadth of services that help a business transform itself into a viable and competitive enterprise. This initiative will begin with a pilot in Michigan.

Department of Defense

Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record

On April 9, 2009, President Obama announced a groundbreaking vision for the future of electronic health data sharing:  the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER).  VLER “will ultimately contain administrative and medical information from the day an individual enters military service, throughout their military career and after they leave the military.”  VLER is a strategic objective for both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  This standardized and secure exchange of information will allow for unprecedented, seamless delivery of both health care and benefits for our nation’s service members and veterans by the two largest departments in the United States government.

Department of Education

ED Data Express Flagship Initiative

Parents need to know the strengths and weakness of the schools in their community. Teachers need to know which instructional methods meet the needs of their students. School administrators and policy makers need to know which programs are most effective in improving outcomes for students. Researchers need access to information to help determine what works and what does not. ED Data Express is a web site designed to improve the public’s ability to access and explore high value State-level data collected by the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) data in downloadable formats as well as collaborate with stakeholders to present the most important data in accessible and user-friendly ways and encourage researchers to translate information into useful knowledge. In launching this education data portal, the aim is to be able to make policy choices informed by empirical evidence.

Department of Energy


Open Energy Information is a participatory web platform that opens energy data to the public.  The data and tools housed on this free, editable, and evolving wiki-platform will spur the adoption of clean energy technologies across the country and around the world.  The site currently houses more than 60 clean energy resources and data sets, including maps of worldwide solar and wind potential, information on climate zones, and best practices. People can upload additional data to the site and download the information in easy-to-use formats.  Residents in the developing world can also take advantage of the tools on the site to accelerate their move toward clean energy deployment.

Department of Health and Human Services

The CMS Dashboard

A new interactive web tool, the CMS Dashboard allows the public to visualize and analyze Medicare spending with unprecedented ease and clarity – starting with inpatient hospital spending.  One of several major new CMS initiatives articulated in the open government plan,, the initial version of the Dashboard allows users to track and graph Medicare spending on inpatient hospital services by state, by the top 25 “diagnosis-related groups” (DRG), and by top 10 hospitals for each state and diagnosis-related group over time.  Users can also see how much Medicare is spending to support important public policy goals, such as the provision of medical education, additional funding to hospitals that take a disproportionate share of low-income patients, additional payments to rural hospitals, additional funding to hospitals who take cases that incur extraordinarily high costs of treatment, and adjustments for the underlying costs in different geographic regions. 

Community Health Data Initiative

This initiative will provide free of charge to the public a wealth of easily accessible, downloadable data on community health care costs, quality, access, and public health and then work with outside experts to use that data to develop programs and tools that spark improvements in community health performance.

Department of Homeland Security

Virtual USA

Virtual USA (vUSA) is an innovative information-sharing initiative that draws on practitioner input to help Federal, state, local and tribal first responders collaborate to make fast, well-informed decisions by enabling them to share real-time access to interstate operational information—such as weather conditions; traffic; the location and operational status of critical infrastructure, fuel supplies, availability of emergency shelters and medical facilities.  Additional capabilities will be added that will support stakeholder outreach as well as providing additional citizen services and creating mechanisms for dialogue, innovation and feedback.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Proactively Allocate Homelessness Prevention Resources Utilizing Predictive Analytics*

Many agencies and organizations struggle with the task of capturing information about the homeless.  Even more difficult is the task of predicting when and where homelessness will strike.  HUD believes that much can be done to avert homelessness before it happens by actively combining information from multiple agencies and using it to identify communities that may be at a tipping point towards increased levels of homelessness.  HUD will develop a set of tools and processes that can help to predict communities that are at risk so that resources can be allocated to prevent homelessness from occurring.  The Department’s effort is unique because it will seek to predict the future course of homelessness in a community, and allow HUD to proactively allocate the resources necessary to combat it.

Build a Business Practices Exchange for Housing Authorities to Share Ideas

HUD not only wants to ‘bust bureaucracy’ within its own corridors, but also act as a catalyst for change among the various state, local, and tribal housing authorities that it cooperates with.  The Department will create a best practices repository, where housing authorities may upload programs they consider to be successful for review by other interested parties.

Department of the Interior

Enhancing Information Management Capabilities in Support of Climate Change

This initiative will provide transparency into the information associated with climate change that is used to support resource management plans.  Public participation will be sought and prizes and challenges will be pursued to draw on the creativity and talent of the public in use of climate change information.

Department of Justice

FOIA Dashboard

The Dashboard will be an interactive Web site containing comprehensive data on FOIA compliance by 92 Federal agencies and enable the public to “shine a light” on the government’s compliance with the FOIA.  The FOIA Dashboard will apply the principles of transparency and openness to the administration of the FOIA itself, allowing the public to easily track information about FOIA compliance. The Dashboard will also take this previously available information and present it graphically, in new, easy-to-understand, interactive formats. The Dashboard will allow the public to generate statistics on FOIA compliance across the government and from year to year.  Not only will this visual report card promote transparency, it should also have the effect of encouraging the Department’s FOIA offices – and FOIA offices across the government – to improve their compliance efforts and release as much information to the public under FOIA as possible.

Department of Labor

Online Enforcement Database

This database provides the public with access to enforcement data collected by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in one location and searchable along a series of common dimensions. This database also provides access to a variety of previously unpublished enforcement information. Subsequent releases will further increase transparency by allowing access to the raw data files and enabling more user-specific search results; promote participation by encouraging public feedback in prioritizing new features and functionality; and encourage collaboration by offering contests or prizes that highlight innovative visualizations and mashups.

Department of State


The Department of State is leading a new US Government initiative to establish a HumanRights.gov website on the Internet.  This new site will serve as the Federal Government’s focal point for information sharing and collaboration with external partners on human rights issues. Currently, a great deal of human rights information is scattered among the web sites and databases of numerous Federal agencies and there is no central repository or web site. HumanRights.gov web site will provide such a central repository and enhanced engagement platform.

Department of Transportation

Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) Partnership

Transportation’s flagship initiative launched on April 1, when Secretary Ray LaHood announced an unprecedented partnership with Cornell University to increase public involvement and collaboration in the transportation rulemaking process.  The Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) partnership will make the Federal regulatory process accessible to the public through Regulation Room, an online public participation environment where people can learn about and discuss proposed Federal regulations and provide effective feedback to the department.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Innovation Initiative

The VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) will invite VA employees, private sector entrepreneurs, and academic leaders to contribute the best ideas for innovations to increase Veteran access to VA services, reduce or control costs of delivering those services, enhance the performance of VA operations, and improve the quality of service Veterans and their families receive. The VA Innovation Initiative will identify, prioritize, fund, test, and deploy the most promising solutions to the VA’s most important challenges.

Council on Environmental Quality


The Council on Environmental Quality’s flagship initiative is GreenGov, a government-wide effort to implement the President’s Executive Order on Sustainability “GreenGov” efforts include an online participatory forum to solicit “grassroots” ideas to green the government, a forum for cross-agency sharing of best practices, a conference, and an awards program recognizing excellence in many aspects of sustainable operations.

Environmental Protection Agency

Community Engagement

Community Engagement refers to a broad spectrum of activities intended to promote a greater understanding of, participation in, and contribution by individuals regarding the issues that affect or interest them most. To implement the flagship initiative, EPA is selecting a number of projects - each designed to involve the public and/or a particular segment of the population in greater depth than activities typically conducted.

General Services Administration

Challenges and Prizes Platform

Federal agencies will soon be able to use challenges, prizes, and other strategies backed by incentives to find innovative or cost–effective solutions to improving open government. Within the next 120 days, the administration plans to release a web-based platform to manage contests and prizes. This web-based platform will allow the Federal Government to post problems and invite users to suggest, discuss and judge solutions.

Citizen Engagement Platform

GSA is building a fully-functioning software service storefront. The storefront will allow government agencies to easily deploy tools like blogs, wikis, forums, and a url shortener to help engage with citizens in a simple, cost-effective way. The tools are modeled after industry-standard best practices for delivery similar to those used by Google and GoDaddy. The storefront is currently available within GSA, but will be expanded to all agencies in the spring.


Open Source Software Development

Open source at NASA gives the public direct and ongoing access to NASA technology. Its adoption by NASA also helps lower the barrier to entry into space by enabling private industry to better make use of NASA investments.  In addition, NASA has created the NASA Contributor License Agreement to provide a path for non-NASA developers to contribute to on-going NASA projects.

Nebula Cloud Computing Platform

NASA technology has created “Nebula,” the U.S. government’s only cloud computing platform, which offers an easier way for NASA scientists and researchers to share large, complex data sets with external partners and the public.

National Science Foundation

Funding Research on Public Participation

In support of the open government enterprise, NSF will exploit its ability to invest in innovative research by investing in activities that explore and study, in an attempt to understand, public participation in large scale scientific activities as well as mechanisms and tools to enable the assessment of research investments made by the government.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Enhancing Stakeholder Engagement

This flagship initiative will expand the agency’s stakeholder community and engage a broader public audience.  The use of the World Wide Web and mobile technologies has become commonplace, providing more creative and cost effective ways to engage current and new stakeholders in the agency's regulatory processes. The NRC’s flagship initiative will focus on employing these technologies to foster public engagement and implement incremental improvements as part of a continuous improvement cycle.

Office of Management and Budget

OIRA Regulatory Review Dashboard

For over a decade, OMB’s Office of Information and Regulator Affairs (OIRA) has provided information related to regulatory review on RegInfo.gov  and on OIRA’s website.   In February 2010, the “OIRA Dashboard” was added to RegInfo.gov.  Among other things, the Dashboard graphically displays regulatory actions under review by agency, length of review, economic significance, and stage of rulemaking. The Dashboard provides an easy-to-use website that will allow people to track the progress of Federal regulations that have been submitted for interagency review and find other relevant information about the OIRA.  Putting this information online and in an accessible format is one of the ways that OMB is applying the principles of the Open Government Directive to rulemaking and regulatory policy.

Office of National Drug Control Policy

Central Resource for Drug-Related Data and Statistics

The ONDCP flagship initiative is a large-scale collaboration and data-publishing project that will provide transparency about Agency data, allow for participation by internal ONDCP programs, Federal partners, and public stakeholders, and facilitate increased collaborations across the government.   Focused on the centralization on drug-related data and statistics, this initiative will establish mechanisms for Federal agencies to send date to a single web interface, allowing partners and the public easy access to machine-readable data.

Office of Personnel Management

Implement Collaboration and Knowledge Management (KM) Technologies*

The Office of the Chief Information Officer will introduce innovative technologies to enable employees, the public and other agencies to access centralized documentation (including information regarding functional processes, policies, and procedures) and to collaborate with one another. These technologies will empower Federal employees to learn from each other, share information, and generate creative thinking to help make a better OPM by increasing morale, improving customer service and internal processes, and enhancing the image of the agency. Examples of these technologies include e-libraries, document management tools, collaboration tools, Web 2.0 technologies, and virtual worlds.

Office of Science and Technology Policy

R&D Dashboard

The E-Government Act of 2002 requires tracking data and maintenance of a repository of information on how the government invests in research and development (R&D). Building upon the successful experience with tracking government contracts under USASpending.gov and IT.USASpending.gov and in a manner harmonized with the Administration’s efforts to improve the transparency and usability of Federal spending data, OSTP is designing an “R&D Dashboard” to enable us to track, visualize and analyze R&D spending data. This is not a simple process. Unlike IT.USASpending.gov, which can draw upon the Form 300 that Federal CIOs regularly file with OMB in connection with outlays of money for technology, there is no single form, no index or classification system that tracks this data, no harmonized reporting mechanisms in place, and no consensus on what data to track. Developing an accurate and comprehensive tracking system will be challenging but we are committed to making the right data available to the public so that we can understand better the impact of our R&D investments.

Small Business Administration

Web Redesign Project

The agency is taking aggressive steps in 2010 to create an exceptional Internet destination for its users.

Social Security Administration

Web-Based Tools: Spanish-Language Retirement Estimator and Service-Channeling Tool

SSA currently offers an online Retirement Estimator, which provides users with quick and accurate estimates of their future retirement benefits.  This popular application, which was used almost 3 million times in FY 2009, consistently ranks as one of the top four online government applications in public satisfaction surveys. SSA plans to offer the same service to our Spanish-speaking clientele. SSA will also unveil a new “service-channeling” tool that will help people more easily find the information and services.  In the event someone is unable to use online services, a key feature will be the opportunity to schedule an in-office appointment online.

United States Agency for International Development

Global Pulse 2010

On March 29 – 31, 2010, the U.S. Government hosted Global Pulse 2010, a 72-hour, online collaboration event to discuss ten hot-button issues facing the global community across the fields of science and technology, entrepreneurship and human development. The ongoing goal of the Global Pulse 2010 event is to connect individuals to resources, and to inform U.S. foreign assistance and diplomatic strategy in an effort to bring sustainable innovation to communities around the world.

United States Trade Representative

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement Negotiations*

The initiative is focused on expanding trade with this fast-growing region and is intended to expand American exports and retain and create good jobs in the United States.  This new initiative presents an excellent opportunity to engage more robustly and in new ways with the American public to gain input as the Administration crafts trade policy.

Trade Agreements in Plain English and Tariff Schedules

As Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are written as legal documents, they do not readily lend themselves to use by the general public, especially businesses seeking information as to how particular agreements affects the products and services they would like to sell to the partner countries.  That’s why USTR is working on a pilot project to post “plain English” summaries of the agreements along with the associated country tariff schedules as datasets.  The latter are especially high value as USTR receives numerous calls for information that would now be readily available and downloadable.











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