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FOIA Guidance

OIP Guidance for Further Improvement

This Guidance was issued along with the 2012 Chief FOIA Officer Report Assessment

Agencies continue to make concrete progress in implementing the President's FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General's FOIA Guidelines.  The 2012 assessment shows that agencies are applying the presumption of openness, are taking steps to ensure that they have effective systems in place for responding to requests, are increasing both the content on their websites and its usability, and are offering requesters the opportunity to submit requests electronically.

While more than half the agencies are utilizing advanced technology to help with core processing tasks like improved document searches, streamlined consultation processes, and more efficient document review, there are many that have not yet explored those options.  In this era of lean resources, as agencies face competing priorities, they understandably may also face challenges in acquiring new technology.  At the same time, agencies are encouraged to assess the cost effectiveness as well as the benefits of more advanced technological tools that could be used to achieve greater efficiency in the core elements of FOIA processing, particularly improved document searches and review.

As to improving timeliness, agencies that do not currently offer multi-track processing, and which take longer than twenty working days on average to respond to requests, should consider establishing a multi-track system.  A multi-track system will provide a mechanism for the agency to process "simple" requests in a different queue from "complex" requests, which in turn can allow for improved timeliness for the "simple" track requests.  Additionally, by establishing multiple processing tracks, agencies can more readily offer requesters the option of tailoring their request so that it fits within the "simple" track and can be processed more quickly.

Lastly, all agencies should make it a priority to close their ten oldest pending requests and appeals each year.  By doing so systematically, year after year, the government overall will be able to reduce the age of its backlog and eliminate those lingering requests that have remained pending for many years.

 

Updated: August 2012