OIP Releases Guidelines for 2014 Chief FOIA Officer Reports

September 19, 2013

Update: Due to the government shutdown at the beginning of the fiscal year and various weather related closures affecting Washington based government offices over the last several months, OIP is extending the deadline for agencies to post the final version of their 2014 Chief FOIA Officer Reports to March 17, 2014, the first day of Sunshine Week.

As a part of his FOIA Guidelines, Attorney General Holder directed agency Chief FOIA Officers to review “all aspects of their agencies’ FOIA administration” and to report each year to the Department of Justice on the steps taken “to improve FOIA operations and facilitate information disclosure at their agencies.”  The Attorney General directed OIP to provide specific guidance on the content and timing of these reports, which OIP has done every year.  Today, our office issues the guidelines for agencies' 2014 Chief FOIA Officer Reports

Each year, the guidelines issued by OIP have required agencies to examine five key areas of FOIA administration addressed in the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines.  These areas include:  applying the presumption of openness, ensuring that there are effective systems in place for responding to requests, increasing proactive disclosures, increasing the utilization of technology, and improving timeliness and reducing backlogs.  The 2014 Guidelines build off of the efforts and initiatives reported in previous years to address the more advanced steps taken by agencies in their administration of the FOIA and to also focus on certain areas where further improvements are needed.  Some new additions to the Guidelines include:

  • Having agencies provide plans for addressing certain goals – Where agencies note in their reports that certain goals or objectives were not fully realized during the reporting year, this year’s Guidelines ask that Chief FOIA Officers provide details about how their agency will work towards achieving those goals moving forward.
  • Reporting on the process of converting agency FOIA professionals to Government Information Specialists – Nearly two years ago the Office of Personnel Management announced a new job series to address the important work performed by FOIA and Privacy Act professionals.  Agencies will report on their efforts to convert such staff to the new Government Information Specialist job series.
  • Describing the process for identifying proactive disclosures and making this material more useful to the public – Expanded from previous years, the 2014 Guidelines ask agencies for detailed information on how they identify records that can be proactively disclosed, how they are making such records more useful to the public (such as by releasing material in an open format), and how they are informing the public of the availability of this information.

The 2014 Guidelines also require agencies to report on their efforts in posting their quarterly FOIA reports for Fiscal Year 2013, their ability to adjudicate requests for expedition within ten calendar days or less, and more detailed questions about their efforts to both hold FOIA training and send their FOIA professionals to training opportunities offered around the government.  As with prior years, agencies are again asked to highlight at least one success story from the reporting year that is emblematic of their efforts to improve their FOIA administration and implement the Attorney General's Guidelines.

OIP will once again use the information in these reports to prepare an assessment of agency progress in implementing the Attorney General’s Guidelines.  For the 2014 assessment, OIP will be expanding its stoplight scoring system to provide greater detail on the level of success achieved by agencies during the reporting year.

Federal Departments must submit their 2014 Chief FOIA Officer Reports to OIP for review no later than January 17, 2014, with all other agency reports due by February 3, 2014.  Once cleared by OIP, all agencies must post the final version of their reports to their websites by March 17, 2014.  Additional details on this review and submission process are available in the Guidelines.

OIP will host a refresher training seminar on the preparation of both the 2014 Chief FOIA Officer Report and the Fiscal Year 2013 Annual FOIA Report on October 7, 2013.  The details for that training are:

Refresher Training for FY 2013 Annual FOIA Reports and 2014 Chief FOIA Officer Reports
Department of Justice, Robert F. Kennedy Building
10th and Constitution Ave., NW – Great Hall
October 24, 2013, 10:00am – 12:30pm

Training is open to agency Chief FOIA Officers, Principal FOIA Contacts, and any other agency personnel who prepare Annual FOIA Reports and/or Chief FOIA Officer Reports (including appropriate IT staff)

If you are interested in attending this refresher training seminar, please e-mail your name and phone number to OIP’s Training Officer at DOJ.OIP.FOIA@usdoj.gov with the subject line “Annual Report and Chief FOIA Officer Report Refresher Training.”  Please note that registration is required to attend and that you will need a picture ID to enter the building.  If you have any questions regarding this event, please contact OIP’s Training Officer at (202) 514-3642.

Topic(s): 
FOIA Post
Open Government