Kyle R. Brady: Profile | Blog | Reads

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Recommended Reading: June 2015, Part II

Note: this is part of a series, "Recommended Reading," published monthly as a collection of longform, academic, or journalistic works well worth the time to read them. These are drawn through my own readings related to the field, as well as the more interesting/applicable readings from my coursework at PSU. I receive no benefit -- financial or otherwise -- through the recommendations and/or links provided.  The format used is simple title-link, due to the volume and effort required to properly format them in more scholarly forms.  Links are not endorsements; they also don't always open in new windows:  be sure to click carefully.  (Full disclaimer.)

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Recommended Reading: June 2015, Part I

Note: this is part of a series, "Recommended Reading," published monthly as a collection of longform, academic, or journalistic works well worth the time to read them. These are drawn through my own readings related to the field, as well as the more interesting/applicable readings from my coursework at PSU. I receive no benefit -- financial or otherwise -- through the recommendations and/or links provided.  The format used is simple title-link, due to the volume and effort required to properly format them in more scholarly forms.  Links are not endorsements; they also don't always open in new windows:  be sure to click carefully.  (Full disclaimer.)

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Advancing the United States' Open Government Initiative

Note:  this nine-item list is in response to the request for suggestions on strengthening the Open Government Initiative.  It has also been submitted via email.

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Despite the advances of the U.S. Government in pursuing its Open Government Initiative, many more improvements can and should be made.  The list of these advances is quite long; therefore, more unique and targeted suggestions will, here, be made.  It should be noted this is, in no fashion, a comprehensive list.

1.  Establishing Universal Digital Citizenship
The United States should begin to address the role of government and citizenship in the digital era, first through the creation of a universal, single sign-on account for all citizens.  By creating accounts for all American citizens -- such as brady.kyle.robert@citizen.usa.gov -- supportive of the OAuth protocol, citizens can begin to establish a digital citizenship identity that simultaneously acts as a point-of-reference for accessing resources both public and private.  In essence, creating a single sign-on establishes digital verification of a citizen's identity, while also permitting access to a variety of other online functions, including with the .gov domain.  This could later be expanded to encompass a fully digital profile of all relevant governmental services and information, including the IRS (tax filings), the State Department (passports, passport cards, etc.), OPM (federal job applications, federal employee records, etc.), and much more.

2.  Establishing a Comprehensive FOIA Request System
Presently, FOIA.gov FOIAonline.regulations.gov does not include all departments and agencies subject to FOIA requests:  many have their own systems, which often requires paper filings.  As such, requests often are lost, ignored, or disregarded, which is contrary to the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act.  FOIA.gov, therefore, should be expanded to include all departments and agencies and permit enhanced tracking of requests, as well as follow-up.

3.  Mandating Enhanced FOIA Compliance
FOIA requests, at present, regularly take an extraordinary amount of time and effort to fully receive results, with the results occasionally being nearly useless due to the discretion allowed in providing records to the public.  As such, FOIA compliance must be extended to mandate faster response times and better specify the ways in which information may be withheld.  Reasonable requests should be fully completed within a matter of weeks, not months or years.

4.  Increasing Hiring Transparency
The notorious hiring process of the federal government requires increased transparency in a number of ways, particularly in terms of rejection.  Currently, USAJOBS provides notification of qualification, referral, and selection, but there is often very little in terms of explanation.  Departments and agencies should be required to notify, with more granular detail, the reasons why a candidate is not considered for the next step, beyond basic qualifications.  If a candidate is fully qualified but not referred, they should be notified why they were not selected for referral.  If a candidate is selected for referral but not pursued further, they should be notified on what grounds they never received an interview or further consideration.  If a candidate for a sensitive and/or privileged position is denied employment as part of a pre-employment background investigation, they should be provided detailed information on the reasons.

5.  Establishing Cross-Government Networks
Federal employees often have no comprehensive understanding of their role within the government.  As such, a cross-government network should be established for all federal employees with detailed information on points-of-contact, chain of command/hierarchy, document repositories (including Standard Operating Procedures), and all relevant information pertaining to their duties.  This should not be left to individual departments or agencies to create (or not) on an ad hoc basis.  Such a system should also know and account for each employee's clearance level.  Perhaps the system could even include functions for intra-government social networking in a secure, non-public environment.

6.  Unifying Access to Services
Citizens should be able to access a single online resource -- ideally through their digital citizenship account, as previously noted -- and view the options they have for access to services, benefits, and information, all tailored to the particular details of their lives.  For federal programs administered by other levels of government, direct links should be provided to these resources.  This will expand the efficacy of all programs, while making the process of discovery far simpler.

7.  Open Access Tax Filing
Citizens and legal residents of the United States should not have to pay private sector entities in order to effectively and accurately file their taxes.  Since amending the tax code seems unlikely, the federal government should immediately move to create a free, digital filing system comparable to that of private sector offerings.  Providing open access to accurate and simple tax filing will not only decrease associated costs, it would likely decrease errors and mistakes that require federal resources to investigate and adjudicate.

8.  Whistleblower Legal Services
The federal government should provide free legal representation to all federal employee whistleblowers upon notification that a whistleblower report has been filed.  If the government wishes to be more transparent, accountable, and trustworthy -- and is relying upon whistleblowers to report illegal, wrongful, or undesirable actions -- then the whistleblowers must not be forced to defend themselves against retaliation, termination, or threatened legal action.  Comprehensive legal services should be provided to all legitimate and verified whistleblowers, as their report progresses through the process.

9.  Enhanced Use of the e-QIP System
The comprehensive e-QIP system -- used for the filing of an e-86, the digital analogue of an SF-86, in order to initiate a background investigation for clearance authorization -- should be universally used.  Various departments and agencies, including the military, use their own systems or require non-standard paper versions to be submitted.  This is an unnecessary, duplicative effort that should be replaced by universal usage of e-QIP, particularly since an individual's e-QIP information is saved and available for updating/reuse as necessary.  In doing this, the resources required to investigate and adjudicate an individual can be greatly decreased, while creating less difficulty for the individual in voluntarily submitting for a background investigation.