ARCHIVED: Request for a Meeting by the Public Access Working Group

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May 1, 1998

The Honorable Jacob Lew
Deputy Director
Office of Management and Budget
Executive Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20503

Dear Mr. Lew:

I am writing on behalf of members of the Public Access Working Group (PAWG) to request a meeting with you and your staff to discuss opportunities for enhancing the Administration's engagement in the information policy activities and information practices of the executive branch.

The PAWG was established in 1993 to bring together public interest organizations, including the non-profit watchdog and advocacy groups, libraries, and unions, concerned about federal government information dissemination and access issues. PAWG currently includes over 30 such organizations. The primary goal of the Public Access Working Group is to promote public access to and use of federal information. The Working Group exists to;

  • provide a forum to react to proposed policy initiatives;
  • build consensus on public access policy initiatives where possible;
  • begin a dialogue on a proactive public access agenda; and develop and execute a plan for building greater public awareness on the need for greater government openness and for opportunities to get involved.

In particular, we would like to discuss with you the opening that has been created by Sally Katzen's departure as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

There are pressing federal information policy issues regarding the move to electronic information under review by Congress and the Administration. These include encryption and digital signatures, electronic records management, and access to electronic information (e.g., E-FOIA, the Federal Depository Library Program). The management of information and of related technology is critical to effective government management. We believe that the new administrator of OIRA should come to this important position already well-versed and knowledgeable in these areas. The luxury of time to train someone on these critical concerns simply does not exist for this Administration. In the absence of an Administrator with this knowledge, OMB may miss crucial opportunities for influencing and for improving government management.

Ms. Katzen, like her predecessors, became OIRA administrator with little information policy interest or expertise and, while OIRA accomplished a good deal in the area of information policy during her tenure, we believe that the current vacancy creates an opportunity to evaluate the relative emphasis that is placed on the two areas of OIRA responsibility.

The use of new technologies also presents a real opportunity to strengthen democratic participation in our government and to enhance the public's access to information created by federal agencies. This exciting possibility will not be made real, however, unless government develops and implements several key policies that will build the information architecture for the 21st century.

The responsibility for ensuring this development and overseeing its implementation presently falls squarely within the jurisdiction of OMB and, specifically, OIRA. We believe that it is critical that Ms. Katzen's replacement be able quickly to develop a vision and a plan for ongoing public access across the executive branch.

We would welcome the opportunity to talk with you about improving public access, information and information technology policy, and the role of the new OIRA Administrator. We would also like to discuss with you our thoughts on how to strengthen the "I" in OIRA and to share with you our ideas toward working collaboratively to develop and information policy plan.

We expect this to be a relatively small meeting. We look forward to an opportunity to discuss these important matters with you. I will be in touch with your office shortly to identify available times and to secure an appointment.

Thank you.


Patrice McDermott, Chair
Public Access Working Group


Attachment: List of PAWG members



Members of the Public Access Working Group

American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
Bauman Family Foundation
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for National Security Studies
Center for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
Communications Catalyst
Computing Research Association
Congressional Accountability Project
Consumer Project on Technology
Data Center
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Environmental Research Foundation
Federation of American Scientists
Fund for Constitutional Government
Government Accountability Project
Information Trust
National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History
National Resources Defense Council
National Security Archives
National Writers Union
NYU Libraries
OMB Watch
Public Citizen
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Unison Institute