I’m the Executive Secretary of the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC). FACA is a fabulous idea, with the goal of keeping the public aware of what’s going on in their governemnt, but the rules are antiquated and mired in bureaucratic. The bottom line is that it’s not nimble enough to deal with the rapid pace at which the general public communicates and learns. Let me break down the issues:
The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) ensures public influence on policy decisions. Current regulations facilitate this by requiring all meetings be open to the public (accept when the meetings are deemed by the sponsoring Agency that they should be closed to the public), notification of the meeting be posted in the Federal Register at least 15 days prior, and reporting and record keeping requirements on those meetings (meeting minutes, etc…)
With the explosion of social networking, and the advent of the Web 2.0 paradigm of information collaboration, it’s clear that the minimum FACA requirements have become outdated and overly bureaucratic to adequately facilitate public participation.
By leveraging Web 2.0 tools and processes, a broader net can conceivably be cast to incorporate a wider range of public engagement. This would result in the sponsoring agencies being more fully informed of issues and concerns during policy or regulatory development.
The concept of using the Web 2.0 paradigm to facilitate public participation in the spirit of FACA, involves exploiting the social software tools in an environment that fosters collaboration through blogs (NMSAC has a blog at http://uscg-nmsac.blogspot.com), forums, wikis,and social networking sites.
Current advisory committee collaboration would be greatly enhanced by using these tools. Rather than deliberation and discussion of issues within the fixed timeframe of a public meeting, Web 2.0 tools can be used to facilitate a discussion that takes place before during and after on official meeting. Extrapolation lends itself to eliminating a formal meeting all together, however this may be an extreme. In addition, Web 2.0 could allow for deliberations to be conducted with a minimum of logistics and costs.
So, as you see, we have big plans for this Committee and Social Media. And if you’re one of the minority that think this kind of thing is a fad, I encourage you to check out ADM Allen’s new blog , his first post pretty much sums up the Coast Guard’s marching orders.