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Open Government Plan - Chapter 4

Progress Towards Previous Initiatives and Continued Compliance with Information Dissemination Requirements

DOT made significant commitments to be more transparent, participatory and collaborative in its first two Open Government Plans. This chapter provides updates on specific initiatives identified in the previous Plans, 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.

Index


Section 4.1: Progress on Key Open Government Plan Initiatives

Section 4.1.1: 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. While DOT has not had the opportunity to use Regulation Room to support any recent rulemaking efforts, the tool has been used by other Federal agencies to support their efforts.
 

Screenshot of the DOT Regulation Room homepage

Figure 6: Regulation Room

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau leveraged Regulation Room to solicit public comment on an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) covering Consumer Debt Collection Practices. Cornell also adapted the platform to develop Planning Room, which was used to support the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in their effort to gather public input for an update to the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan.


Section 4.1.2: Progress Towards DOT’s 2012 Flagship Initiative

DOT launched the Safety Data Initiative during National Transportation Week in May 2012, meeting a key commitment in the President’s first National Action Plan for Open Government.

Safety.data.gov is an Open Government initiative that seeks to build a safety community on the data.gov Web site. While DOT and other Federal agencies collect important safety-related data, DOT recognizes that releasing data alone does not fully leverage the potential of those datasets for discovering new information, inventing new products, or identifying complex patterns to improve decision-making.

The Safety Data Initiative enables the public to make better safety-related decisions using both current statistical descriptions and explanations of the environment that will affect our future. The Safety Data Initiative taps into the innovation of application developers, the immediacy of the internet, and information that the Federal Government collects to enable informed decisions that will enhance public safety and improve public health in the United States.

The Safety Data Initiative held its first datapalooza in September 2012, with nearly 200 attendees from the government, safety advocates, and the private sector. The second annual safety datapalooza was held in January 2014, attended by over 300 people. The safety.data.gov catalog continues to grow, with over 800 datasets cataloged from around the Federal government, and DOT has contributed to the growth with new application programming interfaces (APIs) for railroad safety and vehicle safety data.

Safety.data.gov will continue to evolve over time. As the community grows, new data and stakeholders will be added to the community.


Section 4.1.3: 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 1,600 datasets on data.gov. 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 4.1.4: 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. We have implemented IdeaHub as our internal ideation platform, and we have deployed GoToMeeting agency-wide, to support secure video teleconferencing and Web conferencing.

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Section 4.2: Update on Core Open Government Activities

Section 4.2.1: 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 the 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 Chief Information Officer, who has overall responsibility for providing leadership, planning, policy, procedures, and guidance for managing information.  DOT’s RM directive further delineates the principles, responsibilities, and requirements for managing DOT records and establishes the framework for DOT Operating Administrations for complying with Federal laws, regulations and best practices. 

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 provide the public with the opportunity to comment on the usefulness of our RM internet site and recommend types of information they are interested in accessing. Increasing transparency 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 decision-making;
  • Preserve public trust;
  • Maintain continuity of DOT operations in the event of a disaster; and
  • Maintain protection of records from inappropriate and unauthorized destruction and access.

Since FY 2010 DOT has made substantive progress in its efforts to implement an enterprise-wide approach to records management.  Key to its RM modernization efforts has been the Records Management Working Group which includes representation across the Operating Administration and secretarial offices, bringing RM, Information Technology, legal, and programmatic expertise together to develop approaches and solutions reflective of the unique operational environments found at DOT. Following the FY 2012 submission of its modernization plan to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) the DOT initiated a records management inventory. The inventory not only supports specific aspects of the Presidential Directive on Records Management, but also presents an opportunity for DOT to document and compare interrelated but separate disciplines such as: privacy, open data, information collection, and discovery—all of which depend upon mature records management practices.  The inventory will support efforts to rationalize and, where possible, harmonize records schedules across DOT enabling more responsive and timely responses to public requests for DOT information. 

DOT’s RM 101 training, required of all employees and contractors since FY 2013, is a model among Federal agencies and helps facilitate employee compliance with the principles of the Open Government Directive by increasing awareness of RM requirements.

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Section 4.2.2: Update on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Program

DOT continues to make improvements in the performance of its FOIA program by reducing backlogs, 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 2013, DOT reduced its backlog of initial requests by nearly 27 percent and its backlog of appeals by 50 percent.  DOT has consistently maintained a very low percentage of appeals on initial requests processed, which is indicative of the high quality of DOT’s initial responses to requesters.  In FY 2009, only 1.87 percent of requests were appealed.  By FY 2013, that percentage had improved even further to 1.27 percent. 

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.

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Section 4.2.3: 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 http://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
  • 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.

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Section 4.2.4: 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.

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Section 4.3: Compliance with Other Transparency Initiatives

Section 4.3.1: 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 to 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 4.3.2: USAspending.gov

USASpending.gov was launched in December 2007 to implement the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006 by providing the public with free centralized access to information on Federal spending.   This site is designed to provide citizens insight into how the government spends taxpayer dollars. The Department of Transportation information in USASpending.gov is populated with data from two sources:  the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), which contains information about Federal contracts, and the Department’s Grants Information System (GIS) which serves as a centralized financial assistance data store for the Operating Administrations. In May 2013, DOT initiated a Data Quality Improvement Pilot for Grants Management to identify opportunities for reporting improvement; lead collaboration among all stakeholders associated with grants programs, systems, and supporting services; and improve traceability of financial assistance awards between Operating Administration grant systems, USASpending.gov and Delphi, the department’s financial system.  Milestones for this effort include:

  • Develop and implement procedures to validate USAspending.gov prime Federal award financial data with data maintained in Delphi. (October 1, 2013)
  • Report to OMB the accuracy rate of USAspending.gov prime Federal award financial data based on its validation process if discrepancies exist between USAspending.gov and financial systems.  (quarterly report beginning February 28, 2014)
  • Implement reporting improvements Phase 1 - Operating Administrations report directly to USAspending.gov.  (Notionally planned for October 1, 2014)

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Section 4.3.3: FSRS.gov

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 sub‐award 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.

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Section 4.3.4: e-Rulemaking

The Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) and Regulations.gov are major components of the e-Rulemaking Presidential Initiative.   Regulations.gov provides a one-stop internet site for access to Federal regulatory, adjudicatory, and other information, allowing the public to search, view, download, and upload comments/submissions.  The FDMS offers a standard online procedure for Federal departments and agencies to handle and process rules.

Currently, DOT documents are posted to Regulations.gov by the DOT Docket Operations Center, who reviews submissions for objectionable content and annotates them with submitter information.  DOT then uses an internal process for distribution and review of comments received from the public.

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Section 4.3.5: IT Dashboard

For fiscal year 2012, OMB, in coordination with many of the executive agencies including DOT, revamped reporting requirements for major IT investments and subsequently the online IT Dashboard. Over the past 18 months, OMB has issued various memoranda to enhance fiscal management and reporting that provides citizens with simpler, more straightforward investment performance information via user-friendly data feeds and displays. This information allows the public to become knowledgeable and further empowered to examine taxpayer resources for major IT investments and provides a mechanism to address concerns regarding costs and benefits.

The 2012 reporting requirements, paired with additional program management data required under the DOT’s improved IT Governance process further enhances the relevance and accuracy of investment data provided to the public, and has yielded positive impacts on the investment management and oversight practices within the Department. The data has increased accountability for investment management teams and executive decision making committees/personnel. Further, DOT has embarked on an effort to further enhance visibility of major IT investments.  Enhanced investment management guidance will leverage visualization dashboards to improve data quality and promote well-bounded activity scope, strategic planning, and defensible cost and schedule projections.  This process will allow for more realistic baseline reporting. As a result, 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.

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Section 4.3.6: 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 and information about how to access the datasets. The data catalogs will continue to grow as datasets are added as agencies, including DOT, complete their data inventories under the Open Data Policy.

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 open 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. For more information about how DOT intends to complete its data inventory under the auspices of the Open Data Policy, read the inventory approach.

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 http://www.dot.gov/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 safety, research, law and energy. As of March 2014, DOT has published over 1,500 datasets to data.gov.

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Updated: Monday, June 2, 2014