DOJ FOIA 2002 ANNUAL REPORT - COMPARISONS WITH PREVIOUS YEARS


VIII. COMPARISONS WITH PREVIOUS

YEAR(S).

A. Comparison of numbers of requests

received:

182,079 in FY02 vs. 196,917 in FY01, a 7.5% decrease

B. Comparison of number of requests

processed:

184,928 in FY02 vs. 194,612 in FY01, a 5% decrease

C. Comparison of median numbers

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

Varies by component.

D. Other statistics significant

to components:

2677 requests for expedited processing received;

120 requests for expedited processing granted

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):

Bureau of Prisons

The Bureau of Prisons made inmate location information, which was

previously available through a written request, available on the

BOP Web site. This resulted in a significant reduction in the

number of simple requests received and processed.

Civil Rights Division

During FY02, the Civil Rights Division's FOIA/PA Branch

experienced an increase in the median number of days to process

requests and in the median number of days that requests were

pending. This occurred due to complicating circumstances in

conjunction with the 2001 bio-terrorist attack on federal mail.

An estimated 150-200 FOIA/PA requests did not arrive for 3-5

months during the shutdown of the Division's mail service. The

FOIA/PA Branch experienced nearly a complete shutdown from October

2001 until February 2002. After October 1, 2002, FOIA/PA requests

that had been mailed during the anthrax shutdown began to arrive

in significant numbers.

As a result, the FOIA/PA backlog increased by 34% in spite of a

33% reduction in the number of incoming requests. Consequently,

the median time period for completion of complex requests

increased from 208 days in FY01 to 273 days in this reporting

period. The median number of days for pending requests increased

from 33 to 119 days.


DEA

DEA is currently in the process

of implementing an electronic redaction program.


Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA)

One of the challenges of the past year

was to reduce the backlog

while at the same time continuing to fulfill the Office's demand

for litigation support and to respond to current FOIA requests.

EOUSA targeted the oldest backlog requests for 1997 to 1999 for

closing and devoted extraordinary resources to closing these old

requests. By the end of the fiscal year, EOUSA had closed all of

the 1997 request files and has made significant progress in

reducing the 1998 request files. Our goal is to close all of the

1998 and 1999 files by the end of the calendar year.

In addition to this major initiative, we adopted several changes

which should result in more efficient processing and backlog

reduction:

(1) EOUSA increased the training of the its FOIA staff and FOIA

contacts at the United States Attorneys Offices by holding

frequent training sessions in the Districts, at the National

Advocacy Center and by use of the JTN System.

(2) EOUSA holds regular meetings of attorneys, managers, and staff,

in which important issues and questions about processing FOIA/PA

requests are discussed.

(3) EOUSA developed a language bank so that requests can be answered

by using standard language that can be copied into response

letters and thereby have reduced the time spent drafting

correspondence.

(4) EOUSA changed the language concerning fee procedures in our form

letters to give the requesters notice about possible fees,

identifying when we will charge fees, and meeting with the Budget

staff to set up an account for processing checks received.


INS

INS continued its

efforts to reduce its backlog of requests by:

(1) continuing to coordinate

a proposal to centralize the

workload;

(2) upgrading software and hardware for the automated system for

processing requests;

(3) working to establish a fee-for-service Genealogy Unit that

would process requests for genealogical information; and

(4) developing and implementing the first phase of a Web-based

FOIA and Privacy Act training course. (This course would provide

users with on-line training and support to enable them to process

more efficiently.)


COPS

COPS has improved its median response time from 19 days in FY01

to 13 days in FY02. This decrease is attributed to its ability

to respond to FOIA requests by searching the COPS database and

sending the sometimes voluminous data listings to requesters via

e-mail. This has been a very effective and timely way to respond

to requesters seeking a "customized" computer listing of COPS

grant awards. COPS requesters have been grateful to receive

responses in this fashion.


OPR

With the adoption of a multi-track processing system, OPR

formalized its two-prong strategy to emphasize two main areas of

backlog reduction. First, FOIA personnel focus on the processing

of large, complex requests to remove those requests from the

FOIA/PA backlog. Second, the simple processing track places

emphasis on the processing of requests which need minimal

processing. FOIA/PA requesters seeking voluminous documents have

the option of narrowing the scope of their request to take

advantage of the faster processing track. The simple and complex

processing tracks operate concurrently and OPR hopes to maximize

the multi-track processing system to better manage its FOIA/PA

backlog.

OPR's FOIA/PA backlog dcreased six requests, or 18.8%, in FY02.

The median number of days for processing increased from 31 to 36 in FY02.

The median number of days that

pending requests remained open increased dramatically because of

most of those requests involve a voluminous number of documents.

It is important to identify several factors that have adversely

impacted FOIA processing during FY02. Part-time FOIA staff

experienced increased demands of other OPR mission-related

activities. While the overall number of requests received

dropped from 114 in FY01 to 84 in FY02, the requests were more

complex and involved large numbers of documents. Finally, the

amount of time expended on FOIA litigation in FY02 diverted

resources away from FOIA processing.


USPC

The following efforts were made to improve timeliness of FOIA performance:

hiring of part-time and temporary staff; reorganization of FOIA staff responsibilities; and

additional training programs.


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