November Issue of the Washington E-Bulletin

November 30, 2010

The November issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET. Here is the Table of Contents:

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • GRC Seeks Nominations for 2011 Public Access to Government Information and Oakley Advocacy Awards

UPDATES FROM THE HILL AND THE GOVERNMENT RELATIONS OFFICE

  • “Lame-Duck” Session Continues with Unclear Agenda
  • White House Releases Executive Order on Controlled Unclassified Information
  • November State Working Groups Spotlight: FL, MI, VA and WA Make Great Strides

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: CHAPTER NEWS

  • NJLLA Program Highlights Importance of Chapter Advocacy
  • SNELLA Members Testify Against Proposal to Eliminate Hearing Transcripts

FREE TIME WELL SPENT: Further Reading for the Information Policy Junkie

  • New GAO Report Finds EPA Has Not Yet Produced Strategic Plan for Library Network
  • Chicago-Kent Now Home to Oyez Project
  • World Bank Launches New Online Collection of All World Development Reports

GAO Report Finds EPA Lacks Strategic Plan for its Library Network

November 12, 2010

AALL strongly opposed the closure of five of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) libraries as soon as we learned of the agency’s troubling plans to reorganize its library network in spring 2006. We immediately met with EPA’s Chief Information Officer and other agency staff to  get more information on why this short-sighted decision was made. We also expressed our concerns about the loss of public access to EPA resources to members of Congress.

In February 2007, American Library Association (ALA) President Leslie Burger testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on behalf of ALA, AALL and the Association of Research Libraries to emphasize the importance of EPA’s libraries to our members and the public. In March 2008, ALA President Jim Rettig testified before the House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight on behalf of ALA and AALL to express concerns about EPA’s digitization plans and ask that Congress urge EPA to base its actions on user needs.

After many calls and letters to Capitol Hill from AALL members, our chapters, and others concerned about the closures, we were very pleased when Congress provided EPA with a $1 million order, included in the FY 2008 appropriations omnibus bill (P.L.110-161), to reopen the libraries. Three regional libraries in Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City and a combined EPA Headquarters and Chemical Libraries reopened their doors to the public in September 2008.

Members of Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a series of reports to monitor  the status of EPA’s library reorganization plans. The latest recently released report identifies three major failings and offers a number of important recommendations.

GAO found that EPA:

  • Has not yet completed the strategic plan for its library network, despite having consulted with AALL and other library organizations more than two years ago to get our feedback on a draft outline of the plan.
  • Has not taken a complete inventory of its library holdings and thus has been unable to determine which documents need to be digitized, and the costs and time involved.
  • Has used a flawed survey design to assess the information needs of its staff, producing unreliable results.

As a result of these shortcomings, GAO recommends that EPA:

  • Complete its strategic plan, including implementation goals and a timeline.
  • Conduct an inventory of the library network’s holdings to identify what items need to be digitized.
  • Ensure that future surveys of library staff and user needs are methodologically sound.

We are disappointed that EPA has not taken proper steps during the last two years to complete an overall strategy for its library network, or to develop a blueprint for digitizing its collections. We are also troubled that EPA has failed to continue a dialog with the library community since we were engaged in those first discussions with agency officials.

In response to the report, EPA has agreed to finish its strategic plan and complete cataloging its library holdings by the end of this fiscal year, September 30, 2011. AALL will continue to closely monitor EPA’s progress in responding to GAO’s important recommendations.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


President Obama Releases Important New Executive Order on Controlled Unclassified Information

November 8, 2010

On November 4, President Obama released a new Executive Order to establish a uniform framework for the use of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) – a confusing system of control markings agencies have developed that includes hundreds of designations that do not formally classify information but keep it out of the hands of the public (such as “For Official Use Only” (FOUO), “Official Use Only” (OUO), and “Limited Official Use” (LOU)).

According to AALL’s Government Relations Policy, security classification should be construed to promote open government while acknowledging the need for Freedom of Information Act exemptions. In 2007 and 2008, AALL worked closely with OMB Watch to develop the Moving Toward a 21st Century Right-to-Know Agenda: Recommendations to President-elect Obama and Congress. This report included recommendations, incorporated into the new Executive Order, that the White House issue a directive to agencies to reduce the use of information control markings unless there is a statute, regulation or policy directive already protecting it.

The new Executive Order creates a uniform system for managing CUI, and establishes the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as the Executive Agent to implement the order and ensure compliance.

The Executive Order requires that:

  • Within 180 days, each agency must review all markings used by the agency designation CUI and submit to NARA a catalogue of proposed categories and subcategories of CUI.
  • NARA shall approve all categories of CUI to be applied uniformly throughout the Executive Branch.
  • Within 1 year, NARA must establish a public CUI registry that includes all authorized CUI categories.
  • For the next five years, NARA must complete an annual report on the status of agency implementation of the order. After that, NARA must complete biannual reports.

The Executive Order also states that if there is doubt about whether to mark information as CUI, the agency shall err on the side of openness. AALL commends the Obama Administration for taking this significant step toward reforming policies governing control markings, thereby ensuring greater public access to Controlled Unclassified Information.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


For the First Time, White House Reveals Total Intelligence Budget

November 2, 2010

In a remarkable step toward greater government transparency, the Administration last week disclosed for the first time the total intelligence budget. For 2010, the figure is $80.1 billion.

The intelligence budget was revealed in 1997 and 1998 in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists. However, the “national” and “military” components of the budget were not disclosed as part of that lawsuit, so the release painted only a partial picture of intelligence spending.

Since 2007, the White House has disclosed the National Intelligence Program (NIP) budget, as required by Congress in response to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. However, at his July 20, 2010 confirmation hearing, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper admitted that revealing only the NIP budget was “disingenuous.”

This exciting step toward greater government openness would not have been possible without the tireless advocacy efforts of 2006 AALL Public Access to Government Information (PAGI) Award winner Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. Congratulations to Steve on this significant victory!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


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