April 28, 2010
Thinking Ahead to LAW.GOV: On the Current Status of FDsys
James Jacobs, Government Documents Librarian, Stanford has posted his letter to US Deputy Chief Technology Office for Open Government Beth Simone Noveck on Free Government Information. The letter explains the need for and outlines a distributed system for the storage of digital content, or publications.gov, that would incorporate collaborative cataloging/metadata creation and a P2P technical infrastructure. Jacob writes
The ecosystem requires participation from all government agencies -- specially GPO and NARA -- FDLP libraries and the public. If this is achieved, this ecosystem will provide widespread access -- including to those on the other side of the digital divide -- long-term preservation, redundancy, information assurance and a robust mash-up environment to facilitate ongoing open government initiative.
For context, see the Inspector General's report on the status of FDsys at FDsys Status Report: Over Budget, Behind Schedule, Scope of Migration Reduced and GPO Focused on Fixing Deployed System. The GPO's own recently released FDsys Program Review offers "a much more sanguine view of the state of FDsys than the Inspector General report gives," writes James Jacobs in his Free Government Information blog post.. "Nevertheless, it does a good job of pointing out what GPO has accomplished, which is significant." The GPO report as noted by Jacobs, also identifies one critical risk to FDsys:
[T]here is risk associated with a delayed completion of the core system. Mitigation steps include maintaining sufficient investment to complete the core system and preventing loss of key resources resulting in more cost and time.
Thinking Ahead to LAW.GOV. With the latest Inspector General FDsys status report calling attention to the current status of GPO's FDsys deployment, Jacob's proposal has merit and deserves serious consideration. See his The State of FDsys and the Future of the FDLP blog post. Opponents of the LAW.GOV project could use the current status of the FDsys roll-out to illustrate in Congressional hearings why the federal government ought to stay get out of the digital document creation business and leave the electronic distribution of primary legal materials to the private sector unless advances are made in a timely and financially responsible manner. Being mindful that some major legal publishers may not want the federal government to become a better wholesale distributor of digital government information, let's remember the fundament purpose of FDsys and the far-reaching scope of the task at hand.
The purpose of FDsys is not to serve as a portal, but instead to provide access to official and authentic content from all three branches of the U.S. government on our site, and through links to official agency and partnering web sites. Our main system functions encompass publishing information, enabling searching for information, preserving the information, and providing version control.
Quoting from the GPO's FDsys Program Review. [JH]