This afternoon, the Department of Justice kicked off Sunshine Week with a celebration in the Great Hall at Main Justice. Attended by members of the public and agency personnel from around the government, the event marked not only the start of Sunshine Week, but also the third anniversary of the release of Attorney General Holder’s FOIA Guidelines.
Attorney General Holder provided the keynote speech, where he highlighted a number of accomplishments of the Department of Justice over the last year, including:
- Processing more FOIA requests than were received, despite the third straight year of receiving over 61,000 FOIA requests and the fourth highest number of requests received by any agency
- Releasing records in full or in part in 94.5% of cases where records were processed for disclosure
- Releasing records in full, with no information withheld, for 79% of such requests
- Reducing the backlogs of pending requests by 26% and pending administrative appeals by 41%
In his remarks , the Attorney General recognized that Sunshine Week presents the government with the opportunity to realize the promise of the Freedom of Information Act, fulfilling what President Obama has called “a profound national commitment to ensuring an open government.” The Attorney General continued with:
"This commitment, and the unprecedented efforts that we’ve launched to fulfill it, underscores the sacred bond of trust that must always exist between the government and all those we are privileged to serve. This is what drove the President, on his first full day in office to call upon the Department of Justice to guide other agencies in the faithful implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, and to ensure compliance with both the letter, and the spirit, of this law."
Joining the Attorney General onstage were Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West and Office of Information Policy (OIP) Director Melanie Ann Pustay. In her remarks at the event, Director Pustay commented that:
“Sunshine Week is an opportunity to reflect upon our accomplishments and to share lessons learned over the last three years as we refocus on our shared mission of strengthening our democracy through a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative government."
Additionally, at the invitation of the Department, representatives from four federal agencies also spoke at this commemoration, highlighting their own agency successes over the last year. Sharing the stage with the Attorney General were representatives from the Social Security Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Department of the Interior. Further information about the activities of these, and all federal agencies, is available in agency Annual FOIA Reports and Chief FOIA Officer Reports, available on the OIP website and FOIA.gov.
These agencies, as well as the assembled FOIA and government professionals from around the government who gathered for the event, were further recognized by Director Pustay, who noted that the government has “the dedication of thousands of agency FOIA professionals who work every day to bring improvements to the FOIA process. Through their systematic procedural improvements, their greater use of technology and the Web, their innovation and outreach, we are institutionalizing change and achieving long-lasting, sustainable results.”
As the Department continues to celebrate Sunshine Week, be sure to continue reading FOIA Post and The Justice Blog for more information on the Department’s continued efforts and recent accomplishments over the last year in promoting open government, transparency, and the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines.
You can read the full text of the Attorney General’s remarks here.