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Open Government Plan - Chapter 4

Progress Towards 2010 Initiatives and Continued Compliance with Information Dissemination Requirements

DOT made significant commitments to be more transparent, participatory and collaborative in its 2010 Open Government Plan. Two years later, the high level commitments made in 2010, as represented in Figure 15 below, have been completed. This chapter provides updates on specific initiatives identified in the 2010 Plan, as well as updates on the information dissemination requirements DOT is complying with, related to FOIA, records management, data.gov, recovery.gov and USAspending.gov among others.

Image identifies high level commitments made in 2010 related to transparency, participation, collaboration, and culture change and how these were carried out over the course of two years.

Index


Section 4.1: Progress Towards DOT’s 2010 Flagship Initiative

Regulation Room, DOT’s 2010 flagship initiative, makes Federal rulemaking more accessible to people not familiar with the legal or technical aspects of the rulemaking process, by providing detailed summaries of key provisions in a plain language format with references to the actual rulemaking language. The referenced summaries, created by Cornell University law students and researchers, allow meaningful open discussion at multiple levels–from the general public to subject matter experts. Since the launch of Regulation Room in February 2010, the site has attracted more than 1,200 registered users and 30,000 unique site visits.
 

Screenshot of the DOT Regulation Room homepage

Four DOT Rules or Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs) were discussed on this site over the last two years. Table 4 provides details on traffic, comments received and major referral sources for those discussions.

 

FMCSA NPRM Banning Texting

OST NPRM Aviation Consumer Protection

FMCSA Electronic On-Board Recorder Rule

Air Travel Accessibility Rule

Dates Open

March 31, 2010 – May 3, 2010

June 1, 2010 – August 9, 2010

March 10, 2011 – May 23, 2011

September 19, 2011 – January 9, 2012

Traffic

2,024 unique visitors from 38 countries

19,320 unique visitors from >100 countries

2,758 unique visitors from >63 countries (95% US)

7,949 unique visitors from >118 countries (85% US)

Referrals

6% of traffic referred by Facebook,3% by fastlane.gov, 1% other DOT sites

25% of traffic from CNN, 5% from Facebook, 3% from dot.gov, 1% from other DOT sites

5.3% of traffic referred by Facebook, 2.6% from Twitter

9% of traffic referred by social media, 3% from dot.gov

Total Comments

32 total comments from 18 users

931 total comments from 348 users

102 comments from 48 users

103 comments from 31 users

Notes

Traffic was light, believed to be largely due to press coverage

Better press coordination, global effects, and consumer interest; 49% of comments on peanut ban

At least 33 representatives from trucking, about half had EOBRs

64% of registrants to regulationroom.org had never participated in a Federal rulemaking before

The Regulation Room flagship has been well received by the affected stakeholder community, the public at large, and the DOT organizations managing the rulemakings. This pilot program has exposed many benefits to leveraging online collaborative tools in the rulemaking process, including:

  • Diversifying the participants in the dialogue
  • Encouraging wider geographic representation
  • Identifying experts or issues that may not have otherwise been identified

The program has also identified some lessons learned in eRulemaking, including:

  • Cycling is common: Moderators have noticed that after a few weeks, visitors begin to repeat the same arguments and information.
  • Expect the unexpected:  For an aviation consumer protection rule, which concerned costs for extra baggage and the treatment of bumped passengers, the discussion veered into a passionate debate about a proposed provision involving peanuts on airplanes, mostly by people whose children are allergic to peanuts.
  • Outreach is critical:  Outreach efforts using social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs, are crucial to attracting individuals to the Regulation Room Web site. Cornell researchers comb through social media sites to see who is talking about a regulation and then post links to the Regulation Room discussion on those sites to attract participants.
  • 24/7 monitoring is difficult:  Monitoring discussions can be challenging at times, especially during evening and weekend hours. Because it is tricky to predict how and when a spike in traffic might occur, the researchers are experimenting with different approaches to minimize the hours they must spend monitoring the site.
  • Voting can enable gaming:  One important aspect of the project can bewilder many first-time users. Users have noted that there is no way to vote on or rank comments or ideas. Voting on comments is not allowed because it could create pressure and encourages gaming the system.

(Source: Government Computer News Article: “Will eRulemaking Catch On?)

The Regulation Room project has also spurred several academic publications and other coverage, including:


Section 4.2: Progress Towards DOT’s Unified Open Government Policy Framework

DOT committed to developing a unified Open Government policy framework in its first Open Government Plan, and has made progress. Specifically, DOT addressed the following policies:

  • Updated its Web Policy
  • Issued its first Social Media Policy
  • Issued a new Data Release Policy

DOT also committed to evaluating the need for more novel policies, addressing such topics as business culture, unstructured information transparency, and non-digital methods/forums. Over the last two years, the DOT Open Government team has determined that such policies are not necessary at this time.


Section 4.3: Progress Towards New Feedback Mechanisms Identified in 2010

DOT committed to pursuing new feedback mechanisms in its first Open Government Plan. As noted in Section 1.1.4 of this Plan, DOT leveraged the IdeaScale platform on a wide variety of issues to elicit targeted citizen feedback, including on its strategic plan. DOT currently has over 700 datasets on data.gov, and reviews the use of the 5-star rating system to evaluate the utility of its data. Due to resource limitations, DOT was unable to implement the use of online video to provide consumers and the flying public with “how to” videos on consumer protection.


Section 4.4: Progress Towards New Collaboration Platforms Identified in 2010

DOT committed to expanding its use of online collaboration platforms and has fully met the commitments in this section of the Plan. We are fully leveraging the capabilities of our internal SharePoint platform, and we have created TransportationResearch.gov as an external collaborative capability. We have implemented IdeaHub as our internal ideation platform, and we have deployed GoToMeeting agency-wide, to support secure video teleconferencing and Web conferencing.


Section 4.5: Progress Towards Other Open Government Related Initiatives Identified in 2010

DOT successfully implemented visualDOT in the cloud, meeting the vision for scalability and richness of capability outlined in the first Open Government Plan. Over the last two years, DOT has studied its data inventory, working to understand the types of visualizations that can be created using its data. This effort has informed DOT’s plan for the future of visualDOT. Refer to Section 3.3 for more information about the next steps DOT will be taking on this initiative.

To enable the expansion of Web 2.0 tools across the Department, DOT committed to building a Business Service Catalog. DOT has successfully built a prototype of this internal capability, which provides information and guidance on selecting the best tool for the type of engagement being sought, as well as “tips and tricks” to help new users maximize benefits and engagement. DOT is currently working on a beta version of the catalog, and will continue developing this capability over the next two years.

One of the other major commitments in the first Open Government Plan was the redesign of the DOT Web site. DOT has a wide range of stakeholders. The diversity of these stakeholders drives the need for a “best in class” Web site that is both dynamic and easily managed. Our public-facing Web presence must provide relevant information to other government agencies, private sector organizations, and individual citizens. At the same time, our intranet must supply vital information to employees and communicate across the Department.

We have worked to update our Web presence in two areas. The first area was to redesign the DOT intranet site.  We launched a project in the spring of 2010 to analyze the site and determine how to best use the Web for improved employee communication. We conducted usability testing to engage employees during the process and ensure access to the most useful content. We recruited an editor to help gather employee-related content and post such content on a regular basis. We deployed the new site to all of the nearly 60,000 employees in 2011.

We plan to launch the external-facing DOT.gov site in summer 2012. The new DOT Web presence will align with and promote achievement of the Department’s strategic goals. In keeping with the principles of Open Government, our updated Web presence will strategically use a variety of crowdsourcing tools, smartphone applications, Facebook, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 mediums through multimedia pages.

An important step in enabling Web 2.0 tools to provide strategic utility to the Department is to ensure that users see www.dot.gov as a valuable source of authoritative information. Users must have confidence in the quality, timeliness, and utility of the material on the DOT’s Web site. The content must be current, the design must be intuitive, and the site as a whole must reflect the public interest.

DOT understands that a Web site stimulates loyalty by providing clear benefits. Users must feel inspired to critical thought through an informative and engaging experience on www.dot.gov. We can achieve this through the visual uniformity of Web pages and applications, clearly communicating the significance of specific data and tools, and tying them back to DOT’s vision and mission. Implementing an intuitive Web solution that reflects the impact and significance of user feedback on our mission will help achieve stakeholder buy-in and foster the site loyalty and openness that we seek to achieve. In return, DOT will benefit from the insights gained through the public’s repeated interaction with our externally-facing tools, applications, data, and other Web 2.0 mediums. We must use this advantage to effectively harness innovative thinking through our Web presence.


Section 4.6: Update on Records Management Program

DOT makes information about its Records Management (RM) program publicly available through the DOT Records Management Web site, www.dot.gov/records, linked to DOT’s Open Government Web site. In addition, DOT has elevated the priority of its RM program as a near-term goal. The inclusion of RM as an area in the Open Government Directive emphasizes the importance of RM in the transparency of government. Under the Federal Records Act, the Secretary of Transportation is responsible for the Department’s RM program. This responsibility is delegated to the DOT OCIO, who has overall responsibility for providing leadership, planning, policy, procedures, and guidance for managing information.
DOT was evaluating its RM program prior to issuance of the Open Government Directive. As a direct result of the Open Government Directive, we will be providing the public the opportunity to comment on the usefulness of our RM internet site and recommend types of information they are interested in accessing. Increasing the transparency of our RM program and modernizing the program will provide these benefits to the public:

  • Improve public knowledge of our RM program
  • Improve DOT’s ability to publish timely and accurate agency information
  • Assist in agency accountability and responsiveness in decisionmaking
  • Preserve public trust
  • Maintain continuity of DOT operations in the event of a disaster
  • Maintain protection of records from inappropriate and unauthorized destruction and access

DOT began its FY 2010 RM modernization activities by collaborating among stakeholder organizations, including the DOT OCIO, representative operating administration program offices, the Office of the General Counsel, and IT Services. We are actively addressing RM planning efforts from an integrated, Department-wide perspective.  DOT continues to assess its RM program in FY 2012 and, like other agencies, has submitted a plan to modernize its electronic RM program to the National Archives and Records Administration, in response to a Presidential directive. DOT will collaborate with other agencies and study their RM internet sites to leverage best practices and lessons learned from those agencies.

DOT has issued an RM directive, in accordance with 36 Code of Federal Regulations, Subchapter B – Records Management, and the E-Government Act of 2002, that identifies the principles, responsibilities, and requirements for managing DOT records. DOT’s RM directive provides the framework for DOT operating administrations to follow in complying with Federal laws, regulations and best practices for managing their records.

DOT plans to help facilitate employee compliance with the principles of the Open Government Directive by increasing awareness of RM requirements, modernizing DOT’s RM program, and providing additional supporting policy and governance to address any new RM issues that arise. We will also continue to identify opportunities for integrating RM into the planning processes for new business needs, projects, and programs.


Section 4.7: Update on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Program

DOT has made substantial improvements in the performance of its FOIA program by reducing backlogs, increasing timeliness, making proactive disclosures, ensuring that effective systems are in place to respond to FOIA requests, and exploring technology to increase the timeliness of disclosures. Between the end of FY 2009 and the end of FY 2011, DOT reduced its backlog of initial requests by over 43 percent and its backlog of appeals by over 32 percent. In FY 2009, DOT processed 59.2 percent of initial requests within 20 working days. By the end of FY 2011, that number had improved to 63.6 percent of initial requests processed within 20 working days. The portion of DOT’s FOIA Web site created in response to the Open Government Directive includes the following updated information:

  1. A description of DOT’s staffing, organizational structure, and process for analyzing and responding to FOIA requests;
  2. An assessment of DOT’s capacity to analyze, coordinate, and respond to FOIA requests in a timely manner, together with proposed changes, technological resources, or reforms that DOT determines are needed to strengthen FOIA processes; and
  3. Milestones that detail how DOT will reduce its pending backlog of outstanding FOIA requests by at least 10 percent each year. DOT intends to further reduce its backlogs and increase timeliness by making additional improvements to its FOIA program over the coming years.

Section 4.8: Update on Congressional Requests for Information

For more information about the process DOT uses when Congress requests information from DOT, please see DOT’s Governmental Affairs Web page at www.dot.gov/government-affairs. This Web page was updated to include the following requirements of the Open Government Directive:  descriptions of staffing, organizational structure, and the process for analyzing and responding to Congressional requests for information. The page also includes links to Web pages with information on Congressional testimony and reports submitted to Congress. You can also access this page through www.dot.gov/open.


Section 4.9: Update on Declassification Program

For more information about DOT’s declassification program, please see DOT’s updated declassification Web page at http://www.dot.gov/security/declassification. This Web page contains the following information, as required by the Open Government Directive:  information about the agency’s declassification programs; information about how to access declassified materials; and information about how to provide input about what types of information should be prioritized for declassification, as appropriate. You can also access this page through www.dot.gov/open.


Section 4.10: Compliance with Other Transparency Initiatives

Section 4.10.1: Recovery.gov

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. It was an unprecedented effort to jumpstart our economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges, so our country can thrive in the 21st century. The Act was an extraordinary response to a crisis unlike any since the Great Depression, and included measures to modernize our nation’s infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need.

To provide the public with greater transparency and create greater accountability, the Administration created the recovery.gov Web site. DOT provides this Web site with weekly updates on financial data and grant information. DOT also posts much of this information on its own www.dot.gov Web site. DOT has established a number of working groups to review and develop policies to ensure that the information being released is accurate. In addition to providing information to Web sites, DOT also provides weekly updates to the Secretary, the Vice President's Office and the Recovery Office at the White House on the progress of Recovery Act projects and the number of jobs created as a result of the Recovery Act.

In DOT, the IT working group continues to update the National Transportation Library’s (NTL) Reference Service on the Recovery Act effort. The NTL has developed a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Web site solution to address the most common concerns, and telephone and e-mail inquiries are routed to the NTL’s Reference Service for response. This reference service is offered between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. DOT responds to all inquiries within 24 hours. Performance metrics for the NTL’s Reference Service are also being captured, reported, and used to identify additional candidates for FAQs.


Section 4.10.2: USAspending.gov

This site is designed to provide citizens insight into how the government spends taxpayer dollars. The data in this site are largely from two sources:  the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), which contains information about Federal contracts, and the Federal Assistance Award Data System (FAADS), which contains information about Federal Financial Assistance such as grants, loans, insurance, and direct subsidies like Social Security. USASpending.gov furthers Open Government initiatives by ensuring that the financial information provided to the public is correct. DOT has a Grants Information System (GIS) that provides the recipient’s name, address, zip code, and identifying information to verify that data is correct.

DOT is currently working with its operating administrations (OAs) in the development of Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) to ensure that OAs meet quality assurance reporting guidelines. Also, the MOU addresses internal and external electronic and manual reporting systems procedures that feed into the GIS.   This information will provide a baseline for integrating future systems when funding becomes available. DOT has also begun the modernization and integration effort to deploy a single, integrated Departmental acquisition platform throughout the Department to link all financial procurement and award functionality to the Department’s Financial Management Business Transformation effort.


Section 4.10.3: FSRS.gov

This site is a system that allows prime grant award and prime contract recipients to report sub‐award activity and executive compensation. The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) Sub‐award Reporting System – FSRS.gov – is the system that allows grant award and contract award recipients to electronically report their sub-award activity. On July 2010, FSRS.gov launched as the resource for prime awardees to report on FFATA‐required contract sub‐award activity and executive compensation. On October 2010, FSRS.gov expanded to incorporate FFATA‐required grant subaward and executive compensation reporting. This site is pre-populated through USAspending.gov. Eligible financial assistance information is originally provided by DOT’s GIS into USAspending. Then USAspending pre-populates eligible information into FSRS.gov.


Section 4.10.4: e-Rulemaking

The Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) is an enhanced Federal electronic docket management system. This system provides public access to Federal regulatory, adjudicatory, and other information by providing a one-stop internet site for the public to search, view, download, and submit comments/submissions. The FDMS is a major component of the e-Rulemaking Presidential Initiative. The FDMS offers a standard online procedure for Federal departments and agencies to handle and process rules. Regulations.gov allows the public to obtain information and provide comments/submissions on proposed rulemakings and non-rulemakings that are open for comment or other public participation.

Coordinated by the EPA, Regulations.gov is designed so that the public has a single point of access to regulatory and other information across the Federal Government. The initiative should also reduce the cost generated by duplicate information systems and technical infrastructures.

Currently, DOT documents are posted to Regulations.gov through the DOT Docket Operations Center. DOT then uses an internal process for distribution and review. Employees in the DOT Dockets Office review the documents and approve them for permanent storage onto Regulations.gov.


Section 4.10.5: IT Dashboard

In June 2009, the OMB launched the online IT Dashboard, which allows the American people to monitor IT investments across the Federal Government. The dashboard tracks performance of “major” IT investments as reported by Federal agencies and departments. Major IT investment means a system or an acquisition requiring special management attention because it:  has significant importance to the mission or function of the agency, a component of the agency or another organization; has significant program or policy implications; has high executive visibility; has high development, operating, or maintenance costs; is funded through other than direct appropriations; or is defined as major by the agency's capital planning and investment control process. This site is administered by OMB, and DOT provides information on a monthly basis as required.

For fiscal year 2012, OMB, in coordination with many of the executive agencies including DOT, revamped the major IT investment reporting requirements and subsequently the online IT Dashboard. This upgrade provides citizens with simpler, more straightforward investment performance information and more user-friendly data feeds and displays. The public becomes further empowered to examine major IT investments and provide input concerning their benefits and costs. The new reporting requirements, paired with the investment data provided to the public, have had a positive impact on the investment management and oversight practices at DOT, increasing the accountability of both investment teams and executive decisionmaking committees/personnel. Further, DOT has been making a strong effort to improve our investments’ data quality, promoting clear, well-bounded activity scope, cost, and duration, as well as the reporting of honest actual performance against these baselines. Our investments have shown improvement in their future planning and management with minimal need to re-baseline throughout the current fiscal year. Additionally, investment contract data on the IT Dashboard now have stronger links to the authoritative source for contracts, USASpending. DOT fully supports the new IT Dashboard and will continue to refine its data reporting and analysis processes to ensure that citizens are provided the most current, accurate information possible.


Section 4.10.6: Data.gov

A priority Open Government initiative for the Administration, data.gov allows the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government. Data.gov provides a storefront for raw datasets, tools that leverage Federal datasets, and geo data. The site provides descriptions of the data, information about how to access the datasets, and an opportunity to rate their utility. The data catalogs will continue to grow as datasets are added. Federal Executive Branch data are included in the first version of data.gov.

DOT met the Open Government Directive requirement to publish datasets by January 21, 2010. DOT continues to operate a data.gov working group that plans and implements DOT’s data.gov program. This working group also coordinates closely with other working groups on information declassification, data privacy and confidentiality, and information security to identify and propose solutions to hurdles to Open Government and data transparency in their respective areas.

To meet the Open Government Directive’s requirements for identifying, prioritizing, and releasing high value datasets through data.gov, the DOT data.gov working group developed guidelines and regularly posts updates to its public data inventory at www.dot.gov/open/data. In addition, DOT has committed to ensuring that its regulatory enforcement and compliance data are posted to data.gov, through its plan. DOT datasets are included in many communities on data.gov, including law and energy. They will also be a central part of the safety community on data.gov, as noted earlier in this Plan. As of March 2012, DOT has published over 700 datasets to data.gov and plans for over 1,500 more. The datasets DOT has released have received over 46,000 views through the data.gov system.

Updated: Monday, April 1, 2013