DOJ FOIA 2000 ANNUAL REPORT - COMPARISONS WITH PREVIOUS YEARS


VIII. COMPARISONS WITH PREVIOUS

YEAR(S).

A. Comparison of numbers of requests

received:

235,042 in FY00 vs. 230,492

in FY99, a 2% increase

B. Comparison of number of requests

processed:

235,090 in FY00 vs. 223,644

in FY99, a 5% increase

C. Comparison of median numbers

of days requests were pending as of end of fiscal year:

Varies by component.

D. Other statistics significant

to component:

BOP (processed over 78,000

requests for records from inmates through informal on-site access procedures

whereby inmates can obtain copies of documents pertaining to themselves);

INS (granted 3567 more requests in FY00, a 5.3% increase in full grants).

E. Other narrative statements describing

component efforts to improve timeliness of FOIA performance and to make records

available to the public (e.g., backlog-reduction efforts; specification of

average number of hours per processed request; training activities; public

availability of new categories of records):

For the Department of Justice

overall:

The Department has improved customer

service, reduced backlogs within most component offices, and promoted greater

use of automation. Although the Department continues to devote its resources

to FOIA administration and backlog-reduction initiatives, there was a modest

increase in the Department's overall backlog in FY00, but not in the number

of requests (which decreased). Most individual components of the Department

have eliminated or reduced existing backlogs. To facilitate greater access

to electronic records, the Department continues to post records on its FOIA

Web sites, and productivity overall has improved through use of automation

technology.


For individual components:

BOP

The Bureau of Prisons implemented

the capability to allow individuals to make FOIA requests via the Internet

this year. This has allowed a more timely response to individuals making

simple FOIA requests, by eliminating the mailing time in receiving the request

and, in many instances, allowing for an electronic response. BOP implemented

a new database, which will allow it to track requests more efficiently.


Civil Rights Division

The Civil Rights Division has

experienced a reduction in its backlog and a reduction in the number of

incoming FOIA requests. The Division has posted extensive information on

its Web site, particularly records regarding Division activity in the area

of disability rights. The Division has been able to reduce the number of

contractors it hires to process FOIA requests. The backlog has continued

to decline, as well as the median processing time in most tracks. Categories

that have not improved in turn-around time have remained steady. Also, in

FY00, the FOIA/PA Branch focused its resources on closing all requests involving

voluminous amounts of records. This effort succeeded in closing the largest

matters. The FOIA/PA Branch has conducted training sessions with program

sections to improve responsiveness.


DEA

DEA is currently in the process

of implementing an electronic redaction program.


INS

In the last 2 years, INS has

allocated funding for overtime. Also, INS has continued to "remote" cases

to FOIA/PA field offices that have no backlogs. In March, INS opened a FOIA/PA

office at its National Records Center in Lee's Summit, Missouri. This office

has been helpful in assisting other field offices with scanning and processing

of FOIA requests.

Despite INS's efforts, its backlog

has continued to increase. INS has been meeting with the staff of the Executive

Associate Commissioner, Field Operations in order to develop a 5-year strategic

plan for centralizing the program in an effort to reduce the backlog. Eliminating

the backlog is a high priority for INS.


OPR

OPR continues to emphasize 2

main areas to reduce its backlog. First, FOIA personnel focus on the processing

of large, complex requests to remove those requests from the FOIA/PA backlog.

Second, there is a continued emphasis placed on the processing of requests

that require minimal work. These requests include full releases, no records,

referrals, and Glomar responses. By placing an emphasis on these requests

concurrently with complex requests, OPR attempts to prevent these requests

from becoming part of the FOIA/PA backlog.

OPR's FOIA/PA backlog was fairly

constant through much of FY00. The backlog rose slightly during the last

couple of months of the fiscal year due to resources being diverted for

litigation purposes, competing priorities, an increase in the number of

new requests, and the physical move of OPR to new office space. During FY00,

OPR also experienced the departures of its FOIA Officer and a FOIA paralegal.

Even with these distractions, OPR has managed to keep the median number

of days to process requests under 20 business days and has decreased the

median number of days for requests that remain pending from 45 to 34 days.


Tax Division

The Tax Division's FOIA Unit's

FY00 efforts resulted in a zero-backlog performance against a 50% increase

in the number of requests from FY99. This performance was made possible

by using a semi-automated FOIA case processing system; adopting record-retention

practices to better serve frequent requesters; assessing incoming requests

more closely; drafting tailored responses for especially complex requests;

and, most importantly, giving FOIA personnel the freedom to create and experiment

with new processing techniques that improve response time, while also enhancing

the quality of responses for all customers.


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