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 three 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.
- Section 4.1: Progress on Key Open Government Plan Initiatives
- Section 4.1.1: Progress Towards DOT's 2010 Flagship Initiative
- Section 4.1.2: Progress Towards DOT's 2012 Flagship Initiative
- Section 4.1.3: Progress Towards DOT's 2014 Flagship Initiative
- Section 4.1.4: Tracking Progress on Other Open Government Initiatives
- Section 4.2: Update on Core Open Government Activities
- Section 4.2.1: Update on Records Management Program
- Section 4.2.2: Update on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Program
- Section 4.2.3: Update on Congressional Requests for Information
- Section 4.2.4: Update on Declassification Program
- Section 4.3: Compliance with Government-Wide Transparency Initiatives
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.
Figure 3: 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
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, and the third safety datapalooza was held in October 2015, attending by over 150 people.
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 DOT’s 2014 Flagship Initiative
The DOT continues to enhance its online collaboration tool, eNEPA. eNEPA is designed to expedite the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) project development process by:
- Allowing for quick, clear and transparent issue resolution;
- Promoting trust and consensus among all project partners;
- Accommodating resource agencies’ permitting processes;
- Promoting efficient environmental reviews; and
- Reducing project development time and cost.
eNEPA directly supports the Open Government principle of collaboration and DOT’s Open Government goal of institutionalizing an open DOT culture. It continues to be used by State DOTs to improve project delivery and enhance the environmental review process. Other DOT components, including the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Railroad Administration, are already participating in eNEPA. Several federal resource agencies (US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), US Coast Guard, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) also continue to have users registered in the system.
Currently, seven State DOTs are using the tool for 11 total projects, with 20 State DOTs considering its use. Outreach efforts for eNEPA have consisted of two introductory webinars, six demonstrations, and six technical assistance/training opportunities. To scale this initiative and ensure its sustainability, DOT will take the following actions:
- Add in capabilities to facilitate permit application for Coast Guard bridge permits and USACE 404 permits.
- Offer eNEPA Technical Workgroup user testing (October 2016)
- Update and offer a national rollout and marketing of eNEPA which increases ease of use and sustainability (January 2017)
- Conduct individual demonstration meetings and trainings for State DOTs and DOT Operating Administrations upon request (Ongoing)
- Collaborate with DOT OAs to determine what additional system updates/changes are needed (Ongoing)
Over the long-term, FHWA leadership envisions eNEPA as a readily implementable solution that can bring these same benefits to other agencies across the federal government. This will encourage broader use by project sponsors and build a collaborative network that can be expanded across OAs resulting in reduced costs and faster project delivery.
Section 4.1.4: Tracking Progress on Other Open Government Initiatives
For updates on all DOT open government initiatives, including those mentioned in previous open government plans, please visit www.transportation.gov/open/progresstracking to view our progress reports.
Section 4.2: Update on Core Open Government Activities
Section 4.2.1: Update on Records Management Program
The Department is encouraged by the continued evolution and maturation of its Records Management program. The efforts undertaken thus far to implement the Managing Government Records Directive have renewed interest and appreciation for the value of a strong and sustainable records management program. The Department continues to improve its automated records management capabilities providing greater assurance that records are known, scheduling requirements understood, and disposition operationalized, thereby improving both compliance and reducing the Department’s compliance risk. The Departmental Records Management Office (DRMO) has updated the Departmental Records Management Policy and established new processes to ensure that the records retention statements in Privacy Act notices are consistent with approved NARA schedules. The resulting improved communications between the Records and Privacy Risk Management programs promotes consistency among data and information management programs and ensures that privacy interests are taken into consideration during the development of records schedules and retention periods.
DOT makes information about its Records Management (RM) program publicly available through the DOT Records Management Web site, https://www.transportation.gov/records, linked to DOT’s Open Government Web site. By delegation from the Secretary, the DOT Chief Information Officer has overall responsibility for providing leadership, planning, policy, procedures, and guidance for managing information. DOT’s Records Management Policy 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.
Since FY 2014 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 OfficesSO, bringing RM, Information Technology, legal, and programmatic expertise together to develop approaches and solutions reflective of the unique operational environments found at DOT.
The Department fully anticipates that all of its email systems will meet the goal of managing both permanent and temporary email records in an accessible electronic format by December 31, 2016. This includes implementation of the Capstone approach for agency email and requiring federal employees to copy or forward electronic messages (including email, texts, chats, and instant messaging) in their non-official accounts that are federal records to official accounts. The DOT is also on track to manage all permanent electronic records electronically by December 31, 2019, and is submitting records schedules to NARA for all existing paper and other non-electronic records to ensure a complete and thorough inventory.
Section 4.2.2: Update on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Program
DOT continues to improve its FOIA program, with an emphasis on (1) ensuring that effective systems are in place to respond to FOIA requests; (2) making proactive disclosures; (3) using technology to increase the timeliness of responses; (4) applying the presumption of openness; and (5) working to reduce backlogs. Over the past several years, DOT has consistently maintained a very low percentage of appeals of initial requested processed, indicating a high quality in initial responses. In FY 2015, only 1.29 percent of responses to initial requests were appealed.
DOT has continued to reduce its backlog of administrative appeals over the years, and at the end of FY 2015, had only 22 backlogged administrative appeals. DOT’s backlog of initial requests, however, had grown to 1,865 by the end of FY 2015 and is on track to grow again by the end of FY 2016. Two of DOT’s components, in particular, have received an increase in the number of requests, and have experienced some challenges in filling vacancies. The majority of these challenges have now been resolved. In FY 2017, DOT will make backlog reduction a top priority, particularly in the FOIA programs with the largest backlogs, in an effort to reverse this trend.
The portion of DOT’s FOIA website 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 in use of technology and other reforms designed 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.
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 https://www.transportation.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 coordinating 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 http://www.transportation.gov/open.
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.
Section 4.3: Compliance with Government-Wide Transparency Initiatives
Section 4.3.1: USAspending.gov and DATA Act Implementation
The Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act of 2014 seeks to improve the effectiveness of the federal government's resources through increased transparency and use of federal spending data. By making federal spending data more accessible, searchable, and reliable, and joining this information with other third party data sources, federal agencies and taxpayers have an opportunity to better understand the impact of federal funds and improve the lives of the American public.
Because Congress and the public demand more transparent and reliable information on federal spending, the DATA Act aims to improve public reporting and comply with the requirements outlined in Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum M-15-12 – Increasing Transparency of Federal Spending by Making Federal Spending Data Accessible, Searchable, and Reliable.
With the onset of these new reporting requirements, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has the opportunity to expand data-driven decision-making to further inform federal spending efforts. The DOT is committed to making federal spending data more accessible, searchable, and reliable by implementing Government-wide data standards, and providing a solid link between data recorded in the Department’s financial system with financial assistance and procurement data by using a unique award identifier.
Effective management reporting provides a greater depth of information to empower executives to make pertinent business decisions and increase operating efficiency. The DOT’s long-term focus is to improve its internal systems and processes to provide the Department with improved management through improved data quality and timely information on both program and financial data.
Section 4.3.2: 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. The DOT then uses an internal process for distribution and review of comments received from the public.
Section 4.3.3: IT Dashboard
DOT has taken a number of steps to improve its participation in transparency and Open Government. In December 2014, Congress passed the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA). The FITARA represents a major overhaul in the way the Federal Government acquires, implements and manages its information technology investments, by providing agency Chief Information Officers (CIOs) more visibility/authority over budget, governance, and personnel processes for agency Information Technology investments, and by improving transparency and review processes of agency IT investments. The Department has taken the opportunity to further improve transparency and openness by crafting and strategically enacting a number of integrated business processes for investment management and oversight to meet FITARA’s intent. The Department has developed a comprehensive implementation plan that details how and when these business processes will be put into place. In accordance with OMB quarterly update metrics, the Department has made the details of how it plans to comply with FITARA by posting the DOT FITARA Implementation plan on the Department’s public website, https://www.transportation.gov. The DOT’s robust and highly accountable practices help us demonstrate its fiscal management commitment through sound tracking and reporting that provides citizens confidence tax payer resources are managed in an efficient manner. The DOT has also streamlined data analysis through easy to understand and more straightforward investment performance information via user-friendly data feeds and displays available for public view on the Federal IT Dashboard. The openness of the Federal IT Dashboard enables citizens to keep abreast of Agency initiatives and assess their progress through data analysis and data trends reported to OMB and Congress. In addition to individual investments, the data is used in aggregate to populate the FITARA Scorecard, which displays the results of oversight by Congress. This information provides the public insight into the Departments major IT investments and provides a mechanism to address concerns regarding IT costs and benefit to the public.
Section 4.3.4: 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. The DOT continues to operate a data.gov working group that plans and implements DOT’s open data 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 manages 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 https://www.transportation.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 August 2016, DOT has published over 4,000 datasets to data.gov.