As the Space Act articulates, there is a strong linkage between transparency, dissemination of information, and the commercial uses of space (or economic development). For more than a half-century, we have created policies and processes to carry out our legislated mission. Examples include:
Examples are given in more detail in the sections about specific initiatives.
Openness is fostered from the organizational level to the level of individual employees. Our employees have incentives and sometimes even requirements to be open and collaborative. NASA's civil service performance management system specifically measures employees' collaboration and teamwork. Tracking employees' performance in this regard demonstrates our commitment to innovation, accountability, and collaboration at all levels throughout the Agency. Our leadership development training promotes a culture of openness and collaboration as well. Each leadership level requires competencies in communication and advocacy, knowledge management, and customer, stakeholder, and partner relationships. For NASA's science community, publishing research is often required for career advancement within the Agency.
Finally, we continue to employ many approaches to operations that already embody transparency, participation, and collaboration, such as:
NASA is a community of scientists, engineers, and other professionals who explore the Earth and space for the benefit of humankind. As we uncover increasing knowledge about the universe and solve difficult engineering challenges, we are continuously experimenting in labs, workshops, and offices. We gather and analyze information about our universe, requiring perseverance and creativity to solve unique challenges. Unlocking the complex systems of the cosmos does not come with an operating manual. Instead, we create hypotheses, conduct experiments, and refine our mental models and conceptual frameworks based on evidence and experience.
Open Government presents similar challenges as we work to improve our performance and responsiveness to the Open Government Directive, thus the NASA Open Government Plan is not a manual. By recognizing current initiatives that exemplify the values of Open Government, this plan can be used as a model for change throughout the Agency. Applauding these successes creates a social incentive for our workforce to innovate, to keep looking for ways to be more efficient, to further enhance our relationships existing stakeholders, and to create new partnerships. The guidance contained in the Open Government Directive creates cultural and procedural opportunities for new initiatives, such as those contained in the subsequent fact sheets. We believe that this is a continuous learning process, and thus have chosen to couch our Open Government efforts as a framework in which to experiment and learn over time.
The Open Government framework strives to be multi-dimensional in its approach, addressing technology, policy, and culture. When all three of these tenants are targeted for improvement, greater possibilities present themselves and momentum builds. While some of the initiatives outlined in the subsequent fact sheets focus on one of these areas more than the others, most strive to touch on all three.
The Open Government Initiative is a movement within government to adapt to the changing external environment, embrace new technologies, engage with our citizens, and encourage collaborations and partnerships. This is the result of the government recognizing that we can be more relevant for our stakeholders and intentionally create a culture of openness as we evolve into a twenty-first century democracy. For NASA, we are in the midst of a massive change ourselves. The external environment of the aeronautics and space sector is undergoing a shift in how business is conducted, which results in changing roles of the major players. Today, there is no "space race." Instead we recognize that new innovations have occurred, new countries have aspirations for the cosmos, and new entrepreneurs have plans to change the world. Announced in the FY11 budget, NASA is embarking on a bold, new strategy for extending humanity into the solar system. The core of the strategy recognizes American ingenuity as a rich resource to develop more capable and innovative technologies and to create a thriving commercial space sector.
At the publishing of the first version of this Plan, the NASA budget has been known for two months. Needless to say, we've been busy responding to the requests, forming study teams, and charting a strategy to execute on our new direction. The Open Government Initiative is extremely timely for us, as it provides a perspective to ensure that we are open in our processes, we generate data products of utility for the space sector, and we enter into partnerships across the US government, with industry, other nations, and the public.
Achieving a more open government will require the various professional disciplines within the Government-such as policy, legal, procurement, finance, and technology operations-to work together to define and to develop open government solutions.
When the Open Government Initiative was announced, NASA acted swiftly. In March 2009 we established the Data.gov Working Group, comprised of many data experts throughout NASA. Through the efforts of recovery.gov and USAspending.gov many financial and procurement professionals gathered to meet their presidential directives. With the issuance of the Open Government Directive NASA identified two accountable officials: the NASA CFO as the senior accountable official (SAO) for financial data quality and the CIO as the accountable official for Open Government at NASA. A short-term Open Government Working Group was established at NASA Headquarters. Upon the release of version 1.0 of the NASA Open Government Plan, this working group will evolve into the Standing Open Government Working Group.
Standing Open Government Working Group
The two accountable officials for Open Government at NASA sit as members of the NASA governance councils that set Agency priorities, share information, and make decisions. They will oversee the Working Group, and update NASA leadership as appropriate, on the opportunities and challenges to be more transparent, participatory and collaborative. The Working Group will meet on a regular basis and will be responsible for seeking and prioritizing program opportunities, process improvements, and other initiatives. To ensure integration, the Working Group will be co-chaired by a member of the Data.gov working group via the CIO's office and the Data Quality working group via the CFO's office.
Policy and Strategic Planning
In 2010, our three key governance documents will be rewritten and updated:
These NASA policy directives provide the framework for Agency performance, including the expected goals, strategies, and means for achieving them (all NASA Policy Directives are online at the NASA Online Directives Information Service: nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov). Open Government Working Group members will be involved in drafting and reviewing the new policy documents to incorporate Open Government principles that will lead to a more open, collaborative, and participatory Agency.
NASA has developed the following five principles to guide its efforts to integrate Open Government into the Agency:
These are directly aligned with the plan components articulated in the Open Government Directive. Using these principles we have developed a set of cross-cutting objectives and performance goals (Table 1 below), that will be incorporated into NASA's performance management system. They will appear in NASA's Annual Performance Plan for the upcoming fiscal year, with a required progress report, the Performance and Accountability Report, or PAR, at the end of the fiscal year. We believe that integrating Open Government principles into existing systems provides the best framework for success, as evidenced by the links we are establishing to our governance councils and performance management system. As such, the accountability for the Open Government objectives and performance goals will be through the PAR, and there will not be an approach to report on the specific Open Government initiatives within the fact sheets as their progress are considered indicators for the performance goals.
As stated earlier, there is no prescribed way to be an Open Government agency. We believe it is the responsibility of each office, program, and employee to make this vision become a reality. By distributing the majority of the plan into separate fact sheets and allows each office and program to set their own performance initiatives in the "NASA's Mission Directorates and Open Government" section, we're providing an opportunity to lean forward, experiment, modify, and succeed. Via the GSA-provided Citizen Engagement Tool, we moderated an open dialogue with the public and NASA employees to gather ideas to incorporate in the NASA Open Government Plan. A summary of the online consultation is the appendix of this Plan. By taking a continuous learning approach, what we set out to do today, may not be what we implement in the future. As such, the Open Government initiatives highlighted in the fact sheet are just that: a continuous learning approach.
Table 1: Cross-cutting Objectives and Performance Goals
Open Government principles are already evident in many activities underway throughout NASA. Through the Open Government Initiative, we have begun the dialogue across the Agency on how to infuse Open Government principles into more of our daily operations. These conversations allowed us to see new opportunities to strive for greater transparency, participation, and collaboration as our strategic directions focus on the opportunities for the twenty-first century.
The underlying motivation behind the Open Government Initiative marks a shift in the way we interact with the public and conduct information resource management. As such, we will face inevitable challenges as we transition from current-state operations to the Agency-wide adoption of policies and tools designed to increase transparency and enhance collaboration both internally and externally. We recognize the need to understand and plan for such challenges in order to sustain Open Government practices throughout NASA.
Our approach has been to find the projects and anecdotal successes that embody values of openness, participation, and collaboration so that we can celebrate and build upon them. NASA's flagship projects demonstrate our adoption of, and commitment to Open Government principles. NASA has set up a standing Open Government Working Group to assist leadership in policy reviews, representing the strategic benefits of openness within the Agency, developing a roadmap for integration into all elements of NASA's activities, and implementing specific initiatives.
No one is an expert in Open Government. We are taking an experimental and scientific approach to Open Government. We recognize the long-term nature of this movement. Finally, we believe that the three flagship projects we have chosen are catalysts for change. They will transform NASA into a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative Agency and ease our transition into a twenty-first-century space program.