Reports to Congress
Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995
III. Government Information and Services: Information Dissemination Activities
his recent report Access America: Reengineering Through Information
Technology, Vice President Gore restated the Administration's
goal of using information technology to "make it easier for users
of information, including citizens, scientists, resource managers,
and private industry" to find the specific Government information
they need (http://www.gits.fed.gov).
The goal is to utilize information technology to create a Government
that works better and costs less.
the report contained in the 1996, Information Resources Management
Plan was published, significant progress has been made in providing
thematically based, crosscutting information of particular interest
available through a single World Wide Web (WWW) site that is internally
searchable. This combination of information linkages and robust
internal search capabilities provides a form of "one stop shopping"
that is further enhancing the ability of the Internet to support
userfriendly and increasingly useful access to Government
information. Web browsers and the popular search services can easily
identify sources of information on particular topics. However, all
too often the search provides a long string of relevant web sites
that need to be accessed and evaluated separately. Federal agencies
are learning that, by combining wideranging but related collections
of information on a single web site having its own internal search
engine, a "one stop shopping" environment can be created.
following are some examples of the steps now being taken to improve
the Government's dissemination of information and to use information
technology to improve service delivery to the public:
-- One Stop Shopping for Federal Statistics. Over 70 agencies
of the Federal government provide statistics of interest to the
public. Until recently it was difficult for the general public,
and even frequent data users such as social science researchers,
to know about and to access the extensive amount of statistical
information produced by the decentralized U.S. Federal statistical
system. The purpose of FedStats
is to provide data users with easy access via an initial point of
entry to the wide array of Federal statistics of interest to the
public without their having to know in advance which agencies produce
the data they are seeking or how the Federal statistical system
is organized. FedStats builds on the excellent WWW sites that individual
agencies have developed for disseminating Federal statistics and
advances many of the statistical agencies' goals for improved customer
service and efficiency in the statistical arena. In addition to
a robust search engine, FedStats provides multiple avenues to access
data and information including: Subjects A to Z, fast facts, a site
map, listings by agency and by program, regional statistics, subject
matter experts, press releases, policy developments, and links to
nonFederal data sources. As FedStats matures, the benefits
to the public and to the agencies themselves from the reduced time
and effort needed to locate data will be incalculable.
access to environmental information. There are already
Federal programs and activities aimed at making environmental information
more broadly accessible for different applications and audiences.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency's home page
was recently reorganized to make environmental information more
accessible to a variety of users. Since September 1996, there has
been an explosion in its use, increasing from three to five million
hits per day. Also, EPA's online Envirofacts database allows users
to obtain and combine data from up to six different databases. The
Department of Housing and Urban Development's homepage
has extensive information on lead hazard controls. Not only can
parents find basic information on lead paint hazards, but State
and local governments and community development groups are downloading
the information and redisseminating it to their constituents. Recognizing
the need to bring together different sources of environmental information,
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, under the sponsorship
of the Administration's Interagency Committee on Environment and
Natural Resources, is developing a prototype National Environmental
Data Index (http://www.nedi.gov)
that will provide a sort of "yellow pages" to environmental data
and the search tools to link the information available on a designated
subject to the databases that contain the information. The coverage
of the prototype will be expanded over time.
practical assistance to the business community. With over
60 Federal agencies with a mission to assist or regulate business,
finding what is needed can be a daunting and time consuming task.
Additionally, without userfriendly interfaces to integrate
the information into a context that can be easily understood, the
sheer volume of raw information available to the business community
on the Internet leaves many users feeling overwhelmed. The Administration
has taken the first step in addressing this problem by developing
the U.S. Business Advisor, a onestop electronic link to Government
for business (http://www.business.gov).
The Advisor provides an easy way for business people to get answers
to frequently asked questions; find "how to" information; search
through Federal information; browse Government documents; and view
businessrelated news items from Federal agencies. All are
searchable with an internal search engine.
Integrating a body of regulatory information. The Air
Force is sponsoring a prototype one stop shopping web site for people
who need procurement, regulatory and related information both inside
and outside the Government
The Farsite combines the Federal Acquisition Regulations with the
regulatory supplements of other major agencies, including the Department
of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
as well as the procurement guidance of the various military services.
The Farsite's advanced search engine allows users to search the
entire FAR and related documents from just one web page. The page
also allows oneclick searches of manuals, administrator guides
and policy letters, and allows searches to be crafted to cover the
entire range of data or to be limited to particular databases. This
provides users, including legal practitioners, with easy entry into
a growing body of regulatory information, saving time and money
by replacing time consuming and expensive paperbased searches.
public access to intelligence community information. The
Central Intelligence Agency's web site
was designed for both the academic user and the general public.
It contains the CIA's primary publications, The World Factbook,
The Factbook on Intelligence, and The Handbook of International
Economic Statistics. The site enhances and keeps up to date
its print publications with a number of features. For example, the
list of Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of foreign countries
is updated monthly and indexed by country. The site also includes
audio and video clips and photographs to discuss the history of
the CIA, to tour CIA headquarters, and to view an Exhibit Center
which includes images and text about such items as the Enigma encoding
machine. The site includes an internal search engine for publication
and public affairs information. It allows users to control the search
query by selecting features and provides assistance by giving helpful
tips on formulating searches.
and other examples of using recent advances in web and related search
technology to make increasing amounts of electronic information
more manageable and reflects an unprecedented level of attention
to the development of information dissemination practices that both
integrate the vast information holdings of the Government and at
the same time make them more accessible and useful to the public.
Compliance with the Information Policy Provisions of OMB Circular
9(a)(10) of OMB Circular No. A130, Management of Government
Information Resources (61 F.R. 6428, February 20, 1996), provides
that the head of each agency shall:
Direct the senior official appointed pursuant to 44 U.S.C. 3506(b)
to monitor agency compliance with the policies, procedures, and
guidance in this Circular. Acting as an ombudsman, the senior official
shall consider alleged instances of agency failure to comply with
this Circular and recommend or take corrective action as appropriate.
The senior official shall report annually, not later than February
1st of each year, to the Director those instances of alleged failure
to comply with this Circular and their resolution.
were asked to report on (1) each instance in which a failure to
comply was alleged, (2) the nature of the alleged violation, and
(3) the disposition of the complaint. Agencies that received no
complaints were asked to so state.
one exception, the reporting agencies reported no allegations of
violations of the information policy provisions of Circular A130
had been received.
single exception was reported by the Department of Defense (DoD).
A coalition of law librarians and public interest groups requested
access to electronic versions of historical Supreme Court opinions
dating from 19371974, maintained in DoD's Federal Legal Information
Through Electronics (FLITE) database. DoD denied access to the database
under the Freedom of Information Act. OMB resolved this issue by
obtaining this material for its use and subsequently providing them
for electronic public dissemination through the National Technical
Information Service, the GPO Access system, and Villanova University's
legal information service.