Addressing Transparency in the Federal Bureaucracy: Moving Toward A More Open Government

Witness and Testimony Documents
Director of Public Policy
Project on Government Oversight
Director of Information Policy Studies
Cato Institute
Policy Counsel
The Sunlight Foundation
Senior Washington Representative, Center for Science and Democracy
Union of Concerned Scientists
March 13, 2013, 10:00 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

We all remember the standard for transparency that President Obama established when he took office four years ago: He promised to create the most transparent Administration ever.

Four years later however, the hard truth is that the potential of the President’s transparency goals have not been realized.

The role of this Committee and of many of the groups represented here today is to work to ensure that by the end of the President’s second term, President Obama will be able to say that he, in fact, did have the most transparent administration ever.

The only way that can happen, is if the President’s rhetoric is supported by meaningful action.

As one of our witness’s notes in her testimony today, there seems to be two Obama Administrations – one that talks about its commitment to transparency, but another that acts to keep information hidden from the American people.

The Sunlight Foundation has also done extensive work on the accuracy of data posted by the Administration finding that federal data is not reliable. Our witness today notes in his testimony that the consistency, completeness, and timeliness of publicly available spending information is “sorely wanting.”

Many agencies are still struggling to comply with posting frequently requested records online, 17 years after the legal requirement to do so was passed and signed into law.

The system is still broken and immediate reform is needed. This Committee has worked on a bipartisan basis to improve transparency by providing greater access to information.  Today, we will discuss some of those initiatives, such as the DATA Act, the GRANT Act and FOIA reform.

All of us up here subscribe to the belief that the American people have a fundamental right to know how their tax-dollars are spent.

We all believe that transparency is the key to fulfilling that basic obligation and to shine a light on where waste, fraud and abuse exists in government.

In this effort, we are all partners and collectively and with an engaged President, we can ensure that transparency and disclosure of information is done timely, accurately and routinely.