On the first day of his presidency, President Barack Obama
made transparency a priority, committing his Administration to an “unprecedented
level of openness in Government.” Since January of 2009, the Administration has
worked to improve Freedom of Information Act processes to get information to
the public more quickly, made voluminous information available on government
websites, and used technology in innovative ways that harness government information
to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
Today, in conjunction with the the U.N.
General Assembly meeting in New York City, President Obama will sign the
Open Government Partnership declaration, which is a new, multilateral
initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote
transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies
to strengthen governance.
Since President Obama launched the Open Government
Initiative over two years ago, the Treasury Department has been working to
answer his call to create a more efficient and effective government through
greater transparency, participation, and collaboration. A number of these
actions not only contribute to our Open Government goals but also have the
added benefit of supporting our “Paperless Treasury” initiative, which has
helped our agency both save taxpayer dollars and cut down on environmental
waste. In 2011 alone, the Treasury Department has taken a number of
steps to increase its openness, transparency and interaction with the public:
launched a new “e-FOIA” initiative where you can now
submit and track FOIA requests online by visiting www.onlinefoia.treasury.gov.
While you can still submit FOIA requests by paper, those who choose to take
advantage of our new online option will find that it improves the efficiency
and transparency of the FOIA process.
- In a move that met both an open
government goal and President Obamas plan to foster a 21st-century
regulatory system, Treasury
identified a broad range of possible rule modifications
that have the potential to achieve substantial savings both in staff time by
eliminating reporting burdens as well as actual dollars by reducing regulatory
costs. Treasury’s goal is to create an open, ongoing culture of regulatory
- Treasury also proactively publishes
hundreds of pages of reports and other documents on our website about the
Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP),
including a new
TARP Tracker; our borrowing
plans; the performance of our foreclosure
prevention program Making
Home Affordable; the speeches
of top agency officials; our holdings
of international currency; foreign holdings of Treasury
debt; the Specially
Designated Nationals List; Secretary Geithner's calendar;
reports and funding announcements from the Small
Business Lending Fund and State
Small Business Credit Initiative; and many other
issues. Additionally, Treasury voluntarily
discloses the meetings that our senior officials
hold with outside groups on the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street
Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Treasury has submitted 12 datasets to data.gov, successfully meeting
the transparency goal of submitting 3 datasets per quarter.
Secretary Tim Geithner and other senior officials have traveled across the
Arkansas; Detroit, MI; Minneapolis-St.
OH (twice recently); New
IL; and more) to meet with
and hear from local business leaders about how to continue to strengthen
economic growth and job creation. Treasury’s
also held a number of conferences and symposia at our headquarters on Women
in Finance, counter-terrorist
to capital and community
development financial institutions.
Stability Oversight Council, established under
the Dodd-Frank Act, has repeatedly held meetings webcast to the public and has
called for public comment on a number of Advanced Notices of Proposed
Rulemaking, Notices of Proposed Rulemaking and Requests for Information, and
recently released its first annual report.
bureaus are making strides as well.
The Financial Management Service announced
that beginning May 1, anyone newly applying for Social Security, Veterans
Affairs or other federal benefits will need to choose an electronic payment
method, including direct deposit or a pre-paid debit card. People currently
receiving federal benefits by paper check must switch to an electronic payment
method by March 1, 2013. This will save the taxpayers $1 billion over the next
10 years. In addition to the taxpayer savings, electronic payments are safer
and more convenient than paper checks for benefit recipients.
its Regulatory Efficiency and Effectiveness Initiative , FinCEN's Bank Secrecy Act E-Filing System (BSA
E-Filing) now includes two additional forms that can be E-Filed, improving data
quality, saving taxpayer money and improving customer service. And FinCEN
recently proposed that nearly all FinCEN reports be
electronically filed as from June 30, 2012.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
has published eight audit reports that make recommendations for better
government collaboration and sharing of data to help combat waste, fraud and
abuse in the Federal system of tax administration, and enhance compliance with
the tax laws.
Bureau of the Public Debt’s (BPD) ended the issuance of paper savings bonds
issued through employer-sponsored payroll savings plans on September 30th
for federal employees and December 31st for all others. Additionally, BPD announced that as of 2012, paper savings bonds
will no longer be sold at financial institutions and will conduct additional outreach
to make investors aware of TreasuryDirect for purchasing electronic Treasury
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the
Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) have recently released two mobile phone
applications, leveraging technology to providing you the information you
need—whenever you need it, wherever you are. The BEP's EyeNote allows the blind or visually
impaired to scan paper currency to discover the bank note's value. With
the IRS’ IRS2Go application,
users can check on their refund status, receive tax tips and updates, and
connect with the IRS Twitter news feed.
These are some of the highlights of Treasury’s Open Government work over the past year. We also know we are not done. As the the United States commits itself to Open Government in an international forum, the Department of the Treasury is recommitting itself to the principles that the President announced on his first day in office and exemplified in our work since then: transparency, participation and collaboration. For
more about Treasury’s open government initiative, please visit www.treasury.gov/open.
Dan Tangherlini is Assistant Secretary
for Management, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Performance Officer
at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.