The recommendations in the Blueprint for Accountability fall under broad categories that reflect the foundation of an open, ethical, and responsive government, specifically:
Recommendation: Direct the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel to release all final legal opinions to the public.
Opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel set forth the authoritative legal interpretations of the executive branch, but many of its decisions remain hidden from public view. The public and government should be on equal footing in their understanding of the law. The president should direct the Office of Legal Counsel to publish all formal written legal opinions that are prepared pursuant to the procedures in Office of Legal Counsel’s Best Practices Memorandum on an ongoing basis–and establish a process for doing so. The Office of Legal Counsel should immediately publish an index of all existing Office of Legal Counsel opinions, to be updated every time a new opinion is issued
Recommendation: Direct the attorney general to issue a Memorandum on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Implementation.
A Freedom of Information Act memo from Attorney General Garland is critical to addressing obstacles to public records requests, including hindrances agencies impose on FOIA requesters that have contributed to an increasing volume of FOIA litigation. The attorney general should issue a memorandum to all agencies updating its guidance on implementing the Freedom of Information Act to, for example, limit discretionary redactions and withholdings.
Recommendation: Support FOIA reform in Congress.
The president should publicly voice his support for amending FOIA to increase access to information by establishing a public interest balancing test, limiting exemption abuses, and mandating proactive disclosure, among other improvements.
Recommendation: Establish an Executive Branch inspector general under the Office of Government Ethics who has jurisdiction over the White House.
The president should ask the leadership of the House and Senate to take legislative action to create the inspector general position, and should instruct the White House director of legislative affairs to make the position’s creation a top priority.
Recommendation: Improve communications around ethics issues by appointing a public-facing ethics official.
This senior administration official, housed in the White House, would elevate transparency and ethics measures by regularly and effectively leading public communications targeted to general audiences to shine a light on ethics-related issues in the Executive Branch.
Recommendation: Call on Congress to codify ethics norms established by the ethics executive order.
The president should ask the leadership of the House and Senate to codify the ethics norms outlined in the Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel, issued on January 20, 2021. New legislation should include a revolving door ban, a golden parachute ban, a lobbyist gift ban and enforcement mechanisms.
Recommendation: Call on Congress to pass the Protecting Our Democracy Act to rein in executive branch overreach.
The Protecting Our Democracy Act (PODA) is an historic package of pro-democracy reforms to create or strengthen guardrails to prevent the abuse of executive power, restore Congress as a meaningful check on executive authority, and reinvigorate Congress’s exercise of its own constitutional power. PODA would address and prevent future abuses of power by presidents in both parties by limiting the president’s pardon power, boost enforcement of congressional subpoenas, and reassert Congress’ power of the purse, among other reforms.
Recommendation: Initiate a review of all Office of Legal Counsel opinions regarding the power of the presidency and institute a transparent and timely process for withdrawal or revision where warranted, in addition to opinion publication.
The president should commission an independent review of significant Office of Legal Counsel opinions on presidential power. Recommendations should be made public and should guide Office of Legal Counsel revisions, rescissions or reaffirmations. The president should also direct the Office of Legal Counsel to develop a new publication procedure for its unclassified opinions such that draft opinions are subject to public comment and review.
Recommendation: Pledge nonpolitical inspectors general appointments and firings only for good cause.
Beyond adhering to existing statutory requirements, the president should prioritize nominating qualified individuals to fill vacant inspector general positions, including pledging to not nominate as an inspector general anyone who has held a political position in his White House or Cabinet. The president should commit to removing an inspector general only for cause, and shall not do so until he communicates to Congress the detailed and specific reasons why the inspector general is no longer able to fulfill their important mission
Recommendation: Declare support for whistleblowers.
The administration must demonstrate its support for whistleblowers communicating to all federal employees that they will be protected against retaliation and that they are expected to speak up when they witness wrongdoing. Federal employees must be made aware that one of the 14 General Principles from the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Executive Branch employees provides: “employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities”
Recommendation: Advance qualified individuals to lead the Merit Systems Protection Board who are dedicated to upholding the federal merit system.
The Merit System Protection Board (MSPB), a quasi-judicial administrative board that adjudicates federal workers’ claims (e.g., whistleblowing retaliation cases), has not had a quorum for over four years. As a result, there is a backlog of over 3,400 cases as of December of 2021. While three nominees (Cathy Harris, Tristan Leavitt, and Ray Limon) were all approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in October of 2021, it is imperative for the full Senate to vote swiftly to advance these nominees so the MSPB can dig out from under the backlog, alleviating a hardship thousands of federal workers currently face.
Recommendation: Support cornerstone improvements to the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989.
The administration supported House passage of H.R. 5314, the Protecting Our Democracy Act, which passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote in December of 2021. This legislation includes the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act, which establishes, among other reforms, jury trials for federal whistleblowers, designation of retaliatory investigations as prohibited personnel practices, and realistic standards to obtain temporary relief in cases that drag on for years. The bill now awaits a vote in the Senate.
Recommendation: Call for the passage of the Scientific Integrity Act and fully and aggressively support its implementation.
The Scientific Integrity Act would ensure scientists can carry out their research—and communicate it with the public—without fear of political pressure or retaliation. It would protect the ability of scientists to share their expertise with reporters, in scientific journals, and at scientific conferences. The president should help ensure scientists can conduct research regardless of whether their findings align with political preferences and publicly communicate their findings and expert opinions.
Recommendation: Improve communication from the administration’s COVID-19 taskforce, and call for similar improvements to be made at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There is an immediate need for the public to hear experts’ advice on how to deal as individuals, businesses and communities with the ongoing pandemic challenges to health and safety. This includes better, clearly communicated, regularly updated public guidance on testing, vaccines and other prophylactics, and treatments for individuals and communities most in need. Further, the administration’s taskforce needs to ensure that production and distribution of these tools and communication materials are efficient and equitable. All communication should be tailored to the needs of the diverse populations affected, including those that prefer to receive information in a language other than English. Finally, consistent, regularly updated information on availability of tests, vaccines, PPE, treatments and other responses to the pandemic need to be clearly based in science, communicated by experts with a diversity of voices and carefully crafted to be understandable to the broader public
Recommendation: Launch a commission to understand and learn from the United States’ pandemic response.
The commission should be in the style of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, and should review the chain of command when dealing with a public health emergency; the fastest ways to leverage resources and scale up response; the capacity of the nation’s health system; and the spread of disinformation. The commission should put forward recommendations to improve the country’s ability to respond to the next pandemic.