U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT IMPROVEMENT PLAN
UNDER EXECUTIVE ORDER 13,392
JUNE 14, 2006

INTRODUCTION

On December 14, 2005, the President issued Executive Order 13,392, entitled "Improving Agency Disclosure of Information" (published at 70 Fed. Reg. 75,373). The Department of Justice has taken many steps to guide the implementation of this Executive Order throughout the Executive Branch in its governmentwide guidance capacity. See FOIA Post, "Executive Order 13,392 Implementation Guidance" (posted 4/27/06); accord Exec. Order No. 13,392, Sec. 4(b); see also id. at Sec. 3(b)(i). For its own part, the Department of Justice promptly conducted a Departmentwide meeting on the new Executive Order on December 15, 2005, it designated its third-ranking official as its Chief FOIA Officer,1 and it established thirty-four FOIA Requester Service Centers (with corresponding FOIA Public Liaisons designated for each one) in compliance with Section 2 of Executive Order 13,392.2

Pursuant to Section 3(a) of the Executive Order, the Department of Justice conducted a comprehensive review of its operations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (2000 & Supp. III 2003) -- which largely are handled on a decentralized, component-by-component basis -- and the results of this review are set forth below.3 Further, pursuant to Section 3(b) of the Executive Order, and in accordance with the standard reporting and planning format that the Department has prescribed for use by all agencies, see FOIA Post, "Executive Order 13,392 Implementation Guidance" (posted 4/27/06), the following plan for the improvement of FOIA administration throughout the Department of Justice is hereby established, effective as of this date.

OFFICE OF INFORMATION AND PRIVACY (OIP)

(One improvement area, "Use of Information Technology, modified in part, on October 30, 2007, as indicated below.)

A. NATURE OF OIP'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Office of Information and Privacy processes Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act (FOIA/PA) requests for records maintained by eight senior leadership offices in the Department of Justice including OIP.4 In Fiscal Year 2005, OIP received 972 requests and completed the processing of 1045 requests. These requests are processed by OIP's Initial Request Staff (IR Staff), which consists of ten FOIA specialists,5 the Chief, Deputy Chief, and Senior Counsel. The Deputy Director of OIP is the official denial authority and oversees the IR Staff.6 Many of the FOIA requests processed by OIP are for classified or highly sensitive records that require multiple consultations and especially careful handling.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

OIP reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Records search process
-- Use of multi-track processing
-- Consultation process
-- Customer relations/Communications
-- Recruitment
-- Use of information technology
-- FOIA Web pages/Reading room records Backlog reduction

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

After an extensive review of the areas identified in Part B, above, OIP determined that although the processing of FOIA requests is working exceptionally well, there nevertheless is room for improvement. One of the first areas we carefully reviewed was the amount of time taken to search for responsive records. Responsive records often are located off-site at the Federal Records Center (FRC), requiring the analyst to go through the Department's archival staff to obtain the records, which can be a very time-consuming process. We determined that we could decrease the length of time it takes to retrieve records from the FRC if our analysts could work directly with the FRC. Furthermore, it has been our experience that some FOIA requests can be satisfied by providing a press release or related fact sheet from the Department's Web site; however, it currently is not possible to search the press releases using key words. We determined that adding a search feature to the Office of Public Affairs Web site would make such searches readily possible and may, in fact, even reduce the number of requests we receive. Finally, we found that retrieving records from our seven covered offices can at times be a lengthy process. We determined that obtaining record indices from these offices and scanning them into our electronic system would allow us to search them much more efficiently. Furthermore, when we are unable to search for responsive records ourselves, we will continue to provide reports to the FOIA contacts in our seven covered offices, advising them of any outstanding searches and encouraging them to complete the searches as quickly as possible.

We also examined our multi-track processing system to see if it could be improved. OIP currently uses a three-track system in processing its FOIA requests. Requests that meet the standards for expedition are placed in the expedited track; requests with few or no records and no consultations are placed in the simple track; and requests with many records and/or consultations are placed in the complex track. Within each track, requests are processed on a first in/first out basis. We considered adding more tracks to our system but decided that would make our process more cumbersome and would not speed up the processing of our requests.

Our review showed that consultations with other components and agencies often add considerably to the processing time for requests. In most cases in which consultations with multiple components and/or agencies are required, OIP consults with them concurrently rather than sequentially. The task facing OIP then is to develop procedures designed to encourage timely attention to these requests on the part of the agencies and components with which we consult. We decided to initiate the use of a form that will be sent with each consultation asking that the receiving agency provide us with the name and phone number of a contact person who will be handling our consultation. We will thereafter follow up with calls to the contact person if the consultation takes an excessive amount of time.

In the area of customer relations/communications with requesters, we believe that OIP does an excellent job. We regularly acknowledge our requests within twenty working days, and these letters always include the name and phone number of a contact person that the requester can call with questions. Furthermore, OIP frequently receives letters that are not proper FOIA requests. We respond to these letters nonetheless and explain to the requester why his request is not proper and, if appropriate, refer the requester to the correct state or local governmental entity. Additionally, if a FOIA request is sent to OIP but seeks records that OIP does not maintain, we explain the type of records OIP maintains and direct the requester to the appropriate office, if known. We very often provide the requester with a copy of the Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act Reference Guide, which provides guidance on making FOIA/PA requests to the Department and includes a list of Department components, the records they maintain, and all FOIA contacts. Additionally, we typically enclose with our letter a copy of Your Right to Federal Records, which provides information about the FOIA and the Privacy Act. In many situations, when the request is misdirected, we call the requester to let him know promptly where his request should be sent, and if he asks us to do so we will forward the request for him. Further, we call requesters whenever possible if their requests are not clear. Once again, while we believe that we do an excellent job with our customer relations, we are aware that there is always room for improvement in this area. Therefore, we decided to have a training session with our new analysts to further emphasize the importance of treating FOIA requesters with courtesy and respect. We will also be training the individuals who answer the FOIA Requester Service Center telephone calls on customer relations matters, and we will create a tracking system so that we can review the types of calls we are receiving and evaluate the results of those calls.

OIP is very much aware that the quality of its staff has a direct bearing on the efficient and accurate processing of requests and that in the past we have had difficulty filling our staff positions with highly qualified individuals through use of the traditional hiring process. Accordingly, in the last two years we have used the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) to hire students who can be converted to permanent employees upon graduation and the completion of a required number of work hours. Through this program, we have been able to attract bright individuals, who often are pursuing post-graduate degrees, who may join the Initial Request Staff on a permanent basis upon graduation, thus in some instances providing the Office with permanent FOIA professionals who can produce high-quality work product and bring continuity to our staff. As a side benefit, this program includes law students who may very well join OIP or another component of the Department upon graduation, thus providing the Department with attorneys who are knowledgeable about the FOIA. We will also be pursuing other programs such as the Federal Career Intern Program, which is similar to the SCEP but not limited to students, to help us hire quality staff. Finally, we will pursue the use of student loan relief as a recruitment and retention tool and will explore with OPM and other agencies the creation of a professional series for FOIA Specialists with appropriate grade structure to represent more fully the important work performed by FOIA professionals.

Next we evaluated OIP's information technology capabilities and readily determined that our system is out of date. Our current system does not provide us with the tools we need to process FOIA requests most quickly, to index and track the documents reviewed, or to accurately report on our progress. We have decided that we need an updated system that will allow us to receive and process requests electronically, including indexing and organizing documents electronically. Such a system will provide us with the tools we need to most efficiently track the status of our requests and compile our annual report. This area in particular holds great promise for improving FOIA processing overall.

OIP also reviewed its FOIA Web page and those of its seven covered offices. OIP's Web page provides a wealth of information about the FOIA, including links to the Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act Reference Guide, which explains how to make FOIA and Privacy Act requests to the Department and lists the addresses to be used in making such requests; Your Right to Federal Records, which provides general information about the FOIA and the Privacy Act; the Freedom of Information Act Guide & Privacy Act Overview, which is prepared biennially by OIP and provides a wealth of information about the two Acts; FOIA Post, an on-line publication on various issues relating to access to information; and other useful materials. It also provides a link to the Department's FOIA Web page, which in turn, provides links to the FOIA pages of every other federal agency. The seven other offices' Web pages include links to the Department's FOIA page and all have electronic reading rooms. The FOIA's affirmative disclosure provisions create an ongoing obligation to make certain records available to the public. We decided to update our process for locating and posting reading room records to ensure that we are consistently meeting this obligation and to review these Web sites on a quarterly basis.

Finally, we reviewed the number of cases that have been pending for more than the twenty days provided by statute. Although all of these cases have been assigned to analysts who are actively working on them, we decided to work to decrease our backlog of pending initial requests by focusing, on a quarterly basis, on that backlog and determining how to complete the processing of these pending requests more expeditiously. We also will implement a "ten oldest cases" initiative under which we will make a special effort to ensure that the ten oldest cases are closed each year. If the ten oldest cases are closed prior to the end of the year, we will focus in turn on closing the next ten oldest cases. But in any event, our goal in this regard is to close, at a minimum, the ten oldest cases each year. This initiative, of course, is in addition to our regular processing and closing of cases, as well as our overall goal, as specified below, of reducing existing backlogs by substantial percentages each year.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Records search process
-- Consultation process
-- Customer relations/Communications
-- Recruitment
-- Use of information technology
-- FOIA Web pages/Reading room records
-- Backlog reduction

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS7

1. Records search process

Goal: To decrease the amount of time required for the retrieval of records from the Federal Records Center (FRC). Target completion: 8-1-06.

Steps

• Consult with Department archival staff and Department Records Manager about process required to have member of the IR Staff designated as point of contact for FRC searches. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Using process outlined by archival staff and/or Records Manager, designate IR Staff as point of contact for FRC searches and begin retrieving records from FRC ourselves. To be completed by 8-1-06.

Goal: To create "search" button on Office of Public Affairs' Web site so that analysts can conduct a search of press releases for responsive records, dramatically decreasing amount of time needed to search for a press release that is responsive to a request. Target completion: 12-1-06.

Steps

• Explore with appropriate Justice Management Division computer staff the steps necessary to provide a "search button" to allow search of Office of Public Affairs press releases. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Implement searching of Office of Public Affairs press releases electronically. To be completed by 12-1-06.

Goal: To decrease the amount of time it takes to retrieve records from covered offices. Target completion: 1-1-07.

Steps

• Obtain records indices for covered offices which are maintained by the Departmental Executive Secretariat and scan them into the OIP directory in a form that will allow analysts to search the indices electronically, which is much quicker and more accurate than manually reviewing paper indices. To be completed by 1-1-07.

• Provide periodic reports to FOIA contacts in covered offices detailing the number of pending searches to encourage them to monitor their progress toward reducing outstanding searches. The report will include the name of each requester, the subject of each request, and the length of time the request has been pending. To be completed by 8-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).8

2. Consultation process

Goal: To encourage timely attention to consultations on the part of the entities with whom we are consulting. Target completion: 10-1-06

Steps

• Initiate use of form to be sent with all consultations to be completed and returned (in self-addressed stamped envelope) by the receiving entity. The form will ask for the entity's case number and contact person for that specific consultation. This will facilitate follow-up on the status of a consult by OIP analysts. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Initiate follow-up calls by analyst to the agency-specified contact for long-pending consultations. If agency still does not respond to consultations, the Deputy Chief will send a list of pending consultations to the head of that FOIA office for response. To be completed by 10-1-06.

3. Customer relations/Communications

Goal: To ensure that requesters who call the FOIA Requester Service Center receive the information they seek in a timely and efficient manner. Target completion: 12-1-06.

Steps

• Train individual(s) who answer FOIA Requester Service Center calls on how to determine status of a request, when to send a requester to the analyst for more detailed information, and when the FOIA Public Liaison is to handle the call. To be completed by 12-1-06.

• Create a log to be used by FOIA Requester Service Center personnel; each time such personnel speak with a requester, a note is made in the log which will include the date, the name of the requester, the information requested, and the result of the conversation. This log will be reviewed by the FOIA Public Liaison to determine whether improvements in handling telephone calls can be made and to determine whether there are trends that may show other changes in the FOIA process that need to be made. To be completed by 12-1-06.

Goal: To improve communications with requesters as emphasized in Executive Order 13,392. Target completion: 10-1-06.

Steps

• Initiate training for new analysts regarding the importance of treating FOIA requesters with courtesy and respect. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Institute use of acknowledgment letter to requesters upon receipt of a referral from another agency or component to let requester know that the documents have been received by OIP and are being processed. To be completed by 10-1-06.

4. Recruitment

Goal: To hire and maintain a highly qualified staff of analysts so that requests will be processed accurately in the shortest time possible. Target completion: 7-1-07.

Steps

• Explore with Department Personnel Office use of Federal Career Intern Program and, if option is available to OIP, institute it. To be completed by 12-1-06.

• Explore option of providing student loan relief to candidates as a recruitment and retention tool and, if option is available to OIP, institute it. To be completed by 12-1-06.

• Explore with OPM (along with other agencies) the possibility of creating a professional series for FOIA Specialists with an appropriate grade structure to represent more fully the work performed by FOIA professionals. To be completed by 7-1-07.

5. Use of information technology9

Goal:To purchase electronic FOIA processing system to include updated tracking and redacting functions as well as the ability to receive requests electronically. Target completion: 12-31-07.

Steps

• Draft directions for staff on using scanner and Adobe Acrobat software for redacting. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Train staff and implement use of scanner and Adobe Acrobat software for redacting documents. To be completed by 10-1-06.

Goal: To purchase electronic FOIA processing system to include updated tracking and redacting functions as well as the ability to receive requests electronically. Target completion: 12-31-07.

Steps

• Continue to discuss needs with appropriate IT personnel in Department. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• Draft formal requirements for new system. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Contact vendor concerning possible pilot test program and to request proposal for pilot test program. To be completed by 9-15-06.

• Discuss budgetary requirements with appropriate officials. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Obtain formal proposal for pilot program from vendor. To be completed by 11-1-06.

• Install pilot program. To be completed by 1-1-07.

Complete evaluation of feasibility study/market assessment. To be completed by 6-1-07.

Begin development of statement of work according to appropriate acquisition rules and regulations. To be completed by 7-1-07.

Meet with representatives of other components and Enterprise Solutions Staff to develop joint business requirements. To be completed by 9-1-07.

Consolidate partnering components' business requirements with Enterprise Solutions Staff as part of compilation of Statement of Work. To be completed by 10-1-07.

Complete review of Statement of Work, in preparation for release to vendors for vendors response, submission of vendor proposals and ultimate award of contract. To be completed by 12-31-07.

(The milestones in italics are modified and reflect the greatly expanded nature of this goal.)

Goal: To increase efficiency in handling FOIA litigation support and coordination with other FOIA offices through integration of scanning copier into office computer network. Target completion: 12-31-07.

Steps

• Meet with vendor representative to discuss software solution. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Seek approval from appropriate IT officials for software purchase. To be completed by 12-1-06.

• Install dataport in order to connect copier to network. To be completed by 2-1-07.

Coordinate with Justice Management Division (JMD) on security requirements for approval of software solution. To be completed by 4-1-07.

Security testing by JMD of both hardware and software. To be completed by 8-16-07.

On-site security evaluation of existing hardware and dataport. To be completed by 9-1-07.

Purchase software. To be completed by 10-1-07.

Begin software and hardware installation, on-site security check, and product testing. To be completed by 10-15-07.

Request training from vendor with goal of full integration of scanning copier into office computer network. To be completed by 12-31-07.

(The milestones in italics are modified to reflect the unforseen security requirements of this goal.)

6. FOIA Web pages/Reading room records

Goal: To improve OIP's and covered offices' FOIA Web pages in order to provide more information to the public. Target completion: 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Refine and update process for locating and posting subsection (a)(2) reading room documents. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Review OIP's and covered offices' FOIA Web pages quarterly to ensure that information is current and relevant documents are posted. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 9-30-07, 12-31-07, 3-31-08, 6-30-08, 9-30-08, 12-31-08.

• Examine ways to improve OIP's and covered offices' FOIA Web pages to make them more user-friendly. To be completed by 9-30-06.

7. Backlog reduction

Goal: To reduce the existing backlog of pending initial FOIA requests by a substantial percentage each year (i.e., 10% by 1-15-07, 15% by 1-15-08, and 20% by 12-31-08, as measured by number of requests pending), by periodically and consistently focusing on the existing backlog. Target completion: 1-15-07, 1-15-08, 12-31-08.

Steps

• On a quarterly basis, IR Staff Chief will review existing backlog together with other staff members in order to determine the number of cases pending for more than the twenty days provided by statute. To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06, 1-15-07, 4-15-07, 7-15-07, 10-15-07, 1-15-08, 4-15-08, 7-15-08, 10-15-08.

• On a quarterly basis, IR Staff Chief along with the Deputy Chief will review the workload of each analyst to determine whether cases need to be redistributed and to consider, together with the Deputy Director, the possible reallocation of resources where needed. To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06, 1-15-07, 4-15-07, 7-15-07, 10-15-07, 1-15-08, 4-15-08, 7-15-08, 10-15-08.

• On a quarterly basis, entire Initial Request Staff will meet to address further means of backlog reduction. To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06, 1-15-07, 4-15-07, 7-15-07, 10-15-07, 1-15-08, 4-15-08, 7-15-08, 10-15-08.

Goal: To close the ten oldest FOIA requests pending each year. Target completion: 12-31-06, 12-31-07, 12-31-08, 12-31-09.

Steps

• Review the ten oldest FOIA requests and determine what steps need to be taken to complete the processing of these requests. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Implement the steps we have determined need to be taken to complete the processing of these requests. To be completed by 7-15-06.

• Close these requests. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Review the ten oldest FOIA requests that are pending as of January 1, 2007 and determine what steps need to be taken to complete the processing of these requests. To be completed by 2-1-07.

• Implement the steps we have determined need to be taken to complete the processing of these requests. To be completed by 2-15-07.

• Close these requests. To be completed by 12-31-07.

• During calendar years 2008 and 2009, continue the process described in the preceding steps. To be completed by 12-31-08, 12-31-09.10

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Consultation process

-- Customer relations/Communications

-- FOIA Web pages/Reading room records

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Records search process

-- Recruitment

-- Use of information technology

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

-- Backlog reduction

ANTITRUST DIVISION

A. NATURE OF THE ANTITRUST DIVISION'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Antitrust Division (Division) enforces the nation's civil and criminal competition laws. Its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Unit processes requests for information about enforcement matters and matters relating to the internal workings of the Division. The FOIA staff consists of four paralegal specialists (one of whom serves as the Unit's Assistant Chief), a legal assistant, one student and the chief of the Unit. FOIA requests are processed by the paralegals and reviewed by the Chief and Assistant Chief. Many of the requests seek a limited amount of information, but others ask for all information about long-term, complex investigations consisting of a substantial volume of records, some of which are highly sensitive.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

The Antitrust Division reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Electronic FOIA/Clarity of FOIA requests and responses
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Backlog reduction
-- Politeness/courtesy

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

Our review of the Unit's service to those seeking information under the FOIA demonstrates that our processing procedures and treatment of requesters is excellent in most areas. Indeed, the Unit has received letters expressing appreciation of our work on requesters' behalves. The Division's Web site contains information the FOIA requires be published, but, in addition, a large amount of the posted information published by the Division is at its discretion and it is regularly monitored to ensure timeliness. The Unit's correspondence is carefully reviewed to provide information responsive to the information sought and the questions posed by requesters. Our review revealed four areas, several overlapping, that could be improved by revising our current practices.

It became apparent that a better understanding of the information FOIA requesters are seeking could substantially reduce the amount of time needed to search for responsive information. Though it has always been our practice to contact requesters if the information they provide does not lead us to the records requested, we concluded that providing additional information and the kinds of information the requester could provide, if available to them, could reduce search and overall processing time, probably reducing processing fees. While there is a great deal of information about the FOIA on the Internet, many FOIA requesters are unaware of its existence and the assistance it can provide. Accordingly, we determined that providing hyper-links to some of these sources could be of substantial assistance to those seeking information from the Division.

It has been our experience that requesters who submit FOIA requests by mail often provide information that is more specific and clear than do requesters who submit requests by e-mail, perhaps because e-mail messages are perceived to be a less formal means of communication. For this reason, we have not formally permitted the e-mail submission of FOIA requests. On the other hand, when processing the few requests we receive by e-mail, it is apparent that corresponding with requesters electronically can be a faster, more efficient and customer-friendly method of processing some, if not all, FOIA requests. Accordingly, if sufficient information is provided to requesters, as addressed above, encouraging the use of e-mails may substantially help improve the responses to requests.

Our review of acknowledgment letters sent to requesters revealed that not all letters provided the information necessary to correct deficiencies in requests and seek additional information from the requester as needed. It has become clear that carefully crafted acknowledgment letters can avoid problems such as the scope-of-request and/or fee misunderstandings that may arise during processing.

Because antitrust investigations and cases of crimes can be lengthy and involve many parties, the number of documents responsive to any particular request can be voluminous, requiring a substantial amount of time to search for and review the information sought. Processing requests seeking a limited amount of information can also be time consuming if locating the records is difficult or requires numerous inquiries of Division staff. As a result of these difficulties, the Division's FOIA backlog is a matter of concern.

Finally, all FOIA staff have been trained to treat FOIA callers, and others seeking information, with the respect and courtesy to which they are entitled. The Unit's legal assistant and student answer calls to the Division's FOIA Requester Service Center and forward them to a paralegal or the Chief. Although courtesy and politeness have been discussed at staff meetings and individuals have been counseled as necessary, developing more detailed instructions about providing courteous, customer-friendly service can improve our service to the customers. To that end, additional training will be provided to the staff at special training sessions and in staff meetings, as necessary.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Electronic FOIA/Clarity of FOIA requests and responses
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Backlog reduction
-- Politeness/courtesy

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Electronic FOIA/Clarity of FOIA requests and responses

Goal: To permit the use of e-mails to submit FOIA requests and to provide to FOIA requesters information that will foster clarity of e-mailed and written requests and the Unit's questions about and responses to FOIA requests. Target completion: 10-31-07.

Steps

• Create an e-mail box for FOIA requests submitted electronically and post it on the Division's FOIA Web site. To be completed by 10-31-06.

• While making it clear that the FOIA does not require that specific information is required to submit a FOIA request, advise requesters that submission of the information set forth below as well as information the requesters considers useful, is likely to shorten the length of time to search for and process responsive information. To be completed by 6-30-07.

-- Current home or office address(es), telephone and fax number(s);
-- Specific types of documents sought, e.g., internal memoranda, information submitted by third parties, the nature of documents sought or that the request is for all documents concerning a particular investigation or case;
-- The name of the company or companies about whom information is sought and, if available, the case number and/or Division file number and NACIS or SIC code;
-- If seeking information about an individual, the requester must include a waiver of privacy signed by the party and/or the party's attorney granting permission to release the records sought;
-- If the requester is seeking expedited treatment of the request, he or she should include the reasons why such treatment is necessary and/or appropriate; and
-- Remind the requester that submitting a request is considered an agreement to pay all fees up to $25.

• Create hyper-links to section (b) of the FOIA, OIP's Freedom of Information Act Guide & Privacy Act Overview, and Your Right to Federal Records to assist requesters in understanding the FOIA. To be completed by 3-31-07.

• Begin to receive requests electronically. To be completed by 10-31-07.

2. Acknowledgment letters

Goal: To ensure that timely and complete acknowledgment letters are provided to requesters. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Re-review current acknowledgment exemplars to determine what changes, if any, are needed. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Include paralegal specialist name, telephone number, and e-mail address. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Assign one paralegal specialist to track timeliness of acknowledgment letters. To be completed by 6-30-06.

3. Backlog reduction

Goal: To reduce the existing backlog of pending initial FOIA requests by a substantial percentage each year (i.e., a minimum of 10% for Fiscal Year 2006, and 20% per fiscal year thereafter, as measured by number of requests pending) by periodically and consistently focusing on the existing backlog. Target completion: 9-30-06, 9-30-07, 9-30-08 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review backlog of pending requests to ensure that each has been placed in the appropriate track of the multi-track system already in use: Track One for expedited requests, Track Two for ordinary requests and Track Three for voluminous requests. To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Implement policy requiring each paralegal specialist to alternate processing Tracks Two and Three. To be completed by 10-31-06.

• Review conformity with already existing policy requiring each paralegal specialist to contact requesters before processing the request to determine (a) whether the requester is interested in pursuing the request and (b) whether the requester is willing to narrow the scope of the request. To be completed by 10-31-06.

• Assign tasks related to final review of processed records to the Assistant Chief. The complement of tasks will be developed as their usefulness becomes apparent. This step should substantially reduce the time required for final review by the Unit Chief. To be completed by 6-30-06.

4. Politeness/courtesy

Goal: To ensure that all callers are treated politely. Target completion: 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Ensure that all staff, including new staff, attend a special staff discussion on the need to treat requesters and other callers politely, discussing particular ways of improving customer-friendly behavior and how to resolve difficult situations. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Counsel staff on an individual basis, as needed. To be completed by 7-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Assign the staff of the FOIA Requester Service Center to log the name and telephone number(s) of each person calling for information about FOIA requests, the name of the person responsible for responding to the call, and the date on which the call was answered. To be completed by 6-30-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Politeness/courtesy

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Electronic FOIA/Clarity of FOIA requests and responses

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

-- Backlog reduction

BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS & EXPLOSIVES (ATF)

A. NATURE OF ATF'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' Disclosure Division is responsible for processing all Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act requests submitted to the ATF. In Fiscal Year 2005, ATF received 1650 requests and processed 1719 requests, reviewing over 44,000 documents. ATF completes over ninety percent of all requests within twenty working days. The Disclosure Division is comprised of a Division Chief, Team Leader, a Senior Disclosure Specialist, and five Disclosure Specialists. The majority of the FOIA requests seek records of ATF's criminal or regulatory enforcement investigations. The remainder of requests are generally for firearms and explosives statistics, contracts, and lists of Federal Firearms and Explosive Licensees.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

ATF reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Records search process
-- Customer relations
-- FOIA Web site
-- Information technology

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

A review of the operations of all aspects of ATF's FOIA processing procedure identified a few areas for improvement. Though ATF is able to respond to requests within the twenty day time limit, conducting a search and receiving the responsive records in a more timely fashion could make our on-time percentage even greater. For the majority of the requests, searches are conducted outside of ATF Headquarters, where the Disclosure Division is located. Responsive records can be located at any of the twenty-three ATF Field Divisions, over 300 Field Offices, four ATF Laboratories or several other ATF facilities. Determining whether an ATF investigation is closed, the amount and type of documents responsive to a request in order to determine fees has always been one of the most time-consuming aspects in the process of satisfying a request. In recent years, the Disclosure Division has been able to streamline this process, by giving Disclosure Specialists read-only access to the database where all criminal and regulatory reports are maintained. By having access to this system, the Specialist can not only determine if an investigation is closed, but can also look at the records to make a determination if any fees will be required to process the request. In many instances, a request can be completed simply by querying the database, where previously a search would have been required of a Field Division or Field Office, delaying a response time by a week or more. The one instance where Disclosure Specialists do not have read-only access, is when a case contains grand jury material. In such cases, the Disclosure Specialist's eventual access to the relevant records is delayed somewhat. We will be working with our Information Services Division to determine if there is a way to provide our Disclosure Specialists more timely read-only access to such records.

Another area that was reviewed and improvements can be made is in how ATF releases information in response to FOIA requests. Currently, responsive documents will only be sent by mail to a requester. With advances in technology, however, many requests, such as for listings of Federal Firearms and Explosives Licensees are now being downloaded onto a CD-Rom and mailed. We are looking into the possibility of responding to requests for this kind of data, as well as other requests that are "granted in full," by e-mail. This would not only streamline ATF's process of responding to requests even further, it would provide a cost savings to the government as well. We have just begun scanning of photographs responsive to requests, and providing the pictures on a CD-Rom. This has greatly reduced the response time where photographs are responsive to a request, as photo reproduction can be a time-intensive effort.

ATF's FOIA Web site is one area where much improvement can be made. We are looking at ways to provide the entire Federal Firearms and Explosive Licensee listings, as mentioned above, available for download directly from our Web site. Recent changes in the law have prohibited the release of certain data and information that was once available through FOIA. The ATF FOIA Web site will be adding a "Frequently Asked Questions" link, which will provide answers to questions without the need of having to call the Disclosure Division or submit a request. Links will also be added to direct a person to another part of ATF's Web site, where additional publications, press releases, etc., can be located.

By virtue of the fact that ATF responds to the overwhelming majority of its requests within twenty working days, we believe ATF does an excellent job in the area of customer relations and communications. Each Disclosure Specialist has been trained and is able to process any request that is received. Communicating with requesters is a priority in the Disclosure Division, and requesters are sent acknowledgment letters within five working days of the receipt of the request, and a phone number and reference number, as well as the ATF Web site is provided. There are two areas which are being looked into that will further improve our relationships with our customers. The first area is when an e-mail address is provided by a requester, ATF will respond with an acknowledgment via e-mail by the following business day. A phone number and name of the Specialist handling the request will also be provided, and an acknowledgment letter will also follow in the mail. The second area we are looking into is to, if possible, answer a request by sending the information electronically to the requester.

We reviewed the information technology utilized in the Disclosure Division to determine if additional resources or technology would increase our response time or improve customer relations. Over the years, ATF has experimented with scanning records and making redactions electronically. This was found to increase the amount of time taken to process a request rather than making redactions to paper documents. We also realized that documents would have to be sent in paper for prisoners making requests for their criminal investigations, and a paper copy would needed to be kept in the file in the event of possible litigation. Thus, we have determined that the IT capabilities that we currently use, to include providing information on CD-Rom, is sufficient to support the Disclosure Division's ability to effectively process requests under the FOIA.

We considered ways by which to reduce the backlog of requests not completed within the twenty-day time-frame was also reviewed. The backlog of requests does not represent a significant burden to ATF's FOIA operations, and ATF has reduced the number of pending requests over the last two years. In an effort to reduce the backlog even further, the Disclosure Chief will, on a quarterly basis, review all requests in the backlog and determine, based on case load of each Specialist, if reassigning requests would increase response time. It is hoped that such a review will result in the backlog of requests being reduced to only those instances where the voluminous nature of the documents being reviewed for release makes the twenty-day time-frame impracticable.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Records search process
-- Acknowledging requests and release of information
-- FOIA Web site

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Records search process

Goal: To further streamline the amount of time needed to make an initial determination of the status for a request for criminal investigations. Target completion: 10-31-06.

Steps

• Meet with ATF Intelligence and Information Division to determine ability for Disclosure Specialists to view all investigations electronically, regardless of the status of the investigation. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Contact ATF Information Services Division and make the appropriate requests for increases electronic access levels for Disclosure Specialists. To be completed by 10-31-06.

2. Acknowledging requests and release of information

Goal: Release information electronically, when possible. Target completion: 10-31-06.

Steps

• When a requester provides an e-mail address, the Disclosure Division will respond via e-mail notifying that ATF has received the request. Acknowledgment letters will continue to be sent out in addition to the e-mail. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Complete an internal study to determine the types of information that are able to be released electronically, and determine the "size limit" of attachments that can be transmitted electronically. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Respond responding electronically to requests that are "granted in full," when able to do so. To be completed by 10-31-06.

3. ATF's FOIA Web site

Goal: Improve the design and information disseminated on the ATF FOIA Web site. Target completion: 9-30-06 (and reviewed quarterly thereafter).

Steps

• Conduct a comprehensive review of the ATF Web site and determine what pages should be linked from our FOIA Web site to have one area where all publicly available information can be accessed. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Prepare a "Frequently Asked Questions" section on ATF's FOIA Web site. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Meet with ATF's Information Services Division and Firearms Services Division to determine the feasibility of making the entire Federal Firearms and Explosives listings available for download from the ATF Web site. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• If it is determined that ATF has the capacity to make these files available for download from our Web site, provide information on how to access the files on the FOIA site. To be completed by 9-30-06.

4. Backlog reduction

Goal: Reduce the existing backlog of pending FOIA requests by 10% each year, by focusing on the backlog of requests assigned to each Disclosure Specialist. Target completion: 1-15-07, 1-15-08, 12-31-08.

Steps

• On a quarterly basis, the Disclosure Chief will review the current caseload of each Disclosure Specialist and determine the number of cases pending for more than the twenty days provided by statute. To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06, 1-15-07, 4-15-07, 7-15-07, 10-15-07, 1-15-08, 4-15-08, 7-15-08, 10-15-08.

• On a quarterly basis, the Disclosure Division Chief will review each case pending over twenty days and determine if reassigning the requests would facilitate a reduction in the backlog of requests. To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06, 1-15-07, 4-15-07, 7-15-07, 10-15-07, 1-15-08, 4-15-08, 7-15-08, 10-15-08.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Records search process
-- Acknowledging requests and release of information
-- ATF's FOIA Web site

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

-- Backlog reduction

CIVIL DIVISION

A. NATURE OF CIVIL DIVISION'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Civil Division maintains a centralized FOIA Unit, which consists of an Attorney-in-Charge, a Paralegal Specialist, and an administrative support person. The office is well developed and operates with experienced staff that processed 467 requests during Fiscal Year 2005 with the median number of days taken to process a request of ten days. We generally do not operate with a significant backlog.

In addition to administrative request processing, the office processes delegations of FOIA litigation cases to the United States Attorneys' Offices, supports litigation when the Civil Division is sued, as well as providing advice to Departmental attorneys and agency counsel. The office also prepares an annual report of FOIA litigation activity for inclusion in the Department of Justice annual report on the FOIA. In response to Executive Order 13,392 the operations of the FOIA Unit were reviewed and the following areas were selected for review.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

The Civil Division reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- FOIA Web site function and content
-- Electronic receipt/response for FOIA requests
-- Acknowledgment letter responses
-- Communications with requesters
-- Customer service
-- Expedited processing
-- Staffing/Position descriptions
-- Cross-training
-- Docket control system
-- E-FOIA publication requirements
-- Multi-track processing
-- FOIA Requester Service Center complaints

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

After a thorough review of the items listed in Part B, above, the Civil Division determined that although FOIA processing was being accomplished in a timely and appropriate manner overall, improvements could be made. Our first area of review was the FOIA Web site. With the increased use by the public of the Internet it is necessary to ensure that the Web site is current and fully functioning. We determined that certain links on the Web site were either out dated or not fully functioning.

Another area of review was electronic processing of requests. Again in light of increasing use of the internet by the public we believe that it would be both useful and effective to utilize e-mail to receive and respond to requests. This type of processing holds significant potential for increased efficiency but also poses control concerns. While reviewing our processing we also reviewed the adequacy of acknowledgment letters provided to requesters. Our review indicated that although we generally respond to requests within the statutory time period, we did have cases in which we exceeded the time period without providing the appropriate acknowledgment.

In the area of customer communications, we determined that communications with requesters required improvement and it was suggested by our staff that efforts be made to improve requester access by providing contact information including e-mail address and phone numbers for the FOIA Requester Service Center in all written and electronic communications. We also identified a lack of knowledge of the Executive Order 13,392 and the necessity to address customer service. While we did not identify any specific deficiencies in customer service we felt that the area was important and required renewed attention.

Personnel was also an area we identified for improvement. The current position descriptions do not accurately reflect the duties and activities of the staff. Additionally, cross-training was also an area of interest that we believed should be focused on to meet the personnel needs of the FOIA in the current budget any setting.

Our analysis of our docket control system indicated that we need to improve data capture and reporting to insure that we can meet control and reporting requirements. We believe there may be opportunities to modify the system to provide more information to better manage FOIA request processing. Also, we found that our Web site did not currently include all of the records that the E-FOIA publications requirements indicate should be made available electronically. We determined that we needed to publish additional records on the Internet.

We also considered multi-track processing for complicated requests. We found that although we are a relatively small centralized office there may be some advantages to multi-track processing for certain large or complicated requests involving review by several sections within the Division. This issue was addressed in the past but should be reviewed again to determine if it would improve processing capability.

Finally, with the increased focus on customer service and the creation of the FOIA Requester Service Centers we determined that we needed to review, respond to, and resolve any and all complaints to the FOIA Requester Service Center. This aspect of our FOIA operations is one of first impression and requires thorough review to determine the level of activity and the appropriate for response.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- FOIA Web site function and content
-- Electronic receipt/response for FOIA requests
-- Acknowledgment letter responses
-- Communications with requesters
-- Customer service
-- Staffing/Position descriptions
-- Cross-training
-- Docket control system
-- E-FOIA publication requirements
-- Multi-track processing
-- FOIA Requester Service Center complaints

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. FOIA Web site function and content

Goal: Maintain fully operating FOIA Web site with current information. Target completion: 10-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review the Civil Division Web site. This involves clicking on each link to ensure that it is working properly. To be completed by 8-1-06, 12-1-06, 3-1-07, 6-1-07, 9-1-07, 12-1-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Correct any dead or out-of-date links identified during regular reviews. To be completed by 10-1-06, 1-1-07, 4-1-07, 7-1-07, 10-1-07, 1-1-08 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Review and update Web site features in light of current software. Apply new or revised software options to improve the Web site in either form or function. Milestone is for review and request for modification by the Information Technology staff. To be completed by 10-15-06, 6-15-07, 10-15-07, 6-15-08 (and continuing thereafter).

2. Electronic receipt/response for FOIA requests

Goal: Consider receiving and responding to FOIA requests electronically via the Internet. Target completion: 7-15-07.

Steps

• Review existing agency regulations regarding receipt of and responses to request to determine if regulations permit such processing and if it would be workable to receive requests by e-mail. To be completed by 9-15-06.

• If permitted by regulations, create test protocol for receipt of electronic requests and responses. To be completed by 11-15-06.

• Publish electronic protocol for trial period on FOIA Web site. To be completed by 2-15-07.

• Accept electronic FOIA requests for review. To be completed by 4-15-07.

• Review and or modify trial implementation of electronic receipt and response of FOIA requests to determine if protocol is workable to be made permanent. To be completed by 7-15-07.

3. Acknowledgment letter responses

Goal: Review adequacy and timing of request acknowledgment letters. Target completion: 12-15-06.

Steps

• Review current timing, drafting, and content of acknowledgment letters. Determine if requests requiring longer than statutory time period are being acknowledged. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Determine if changes should be implemented to processing of acknowledgment letter production. Specifically to determine how to trigger acknowledgment letter production for requests over twenty days old. To be completed by 11-15-06.

• Implement processing changes to content of acknowledgment letters. To be completed by 12-15-06.

4. Communications with requesters

Goal: Improve communication with requesters by providing phone numbers and e-mail address for contact with the FOIA Requester Service Center. Target completion: 10-15-06.

Steps

• Determine best process to improve requester access to FOIA Requester Service Center personnel including analysis of access by e-mail and telephone. To be completed by 9-15-06.

• Implement best process to improve requester access to FOIA Requester Service Center. To be completed by 10-15-06.

5. Customer service

Goal: Review the Executive Order and train personnel to improve customer service. Target completion: 9-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Read the Executive Order with all FOIA-related staff to ensure that everyone understands the Executive Order and discuss customer service. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Have FOIA staff attend OIP customer-service training. To be completed by 7-11-06.

• Review customer-service objectives with staff. This is an ongoing matter that requires regular attention. To be completed by 9-1-06, 12-1-06, 6-1-07, 12-1-07 (and continuing thereafter).

6. Staffing/Position descriptions

Goal: Update position descriptions for FOIA staff to accurately reflect job duties. Target completion: 11-15-06.

Steps

• Review current position descriptions within the FOIA Unit to determine if they are accurate. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Revise position descriptions to accurately reflect title, duties and activities of the FOIA Specialist and Attorney-in-Charge. To be completed by 10-15-06.

• Submit the revised position descriptions for review within the Civil Division. To be completed by 11-15-06.

7. Cross-training

Goal: Cross-train back-up personnel. Target completion: 3-1-06.

Steps

• Identify at least one individual within the Civil Division who can be cross-trained to handle FOIA requests. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Provide formal training for the individual by attendance at OIP training seminar for access professionals and informal on-the-job training in the FOIA Unit. To be completed by 3-1-07.

8. Docket control system

Goal: Review automated docket and control system to ensure that all necessary information is being maintained. Target completion: 11-15-06.

Steps

• Review current automated docket and control system to determine if it is adequate to maintain control and management of administrative FOIA requests. To be completed by 9-15-06.

• Review current reporting capabilities of automated control system in light of current reporting requirements. To be completed by 10-15-06.

• Request in-house information technology staff modify automated control system to meet management and reporting requirements. To be completed by 11-15-06.

9. E-FOIA publication requirements

Goal: Review E-FOIA publication requirements and post additional records on the Internet as required. Target completion: 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review E-FOIA amendments to determine if we are meeting publication requirements for frequently requested records. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Locate specific Civil Division records that meet the E-FOIA publication requirements and submit those records to be placed on the Web site. To be completed by 12-15-06.

• Test Internet access to the published records. To be completed by 12-31-06, 9-1-07, 9-1-07, 3-1-08.

10. Multi-track processing

Goal: Analyze and determine reliability of multi-track processing for complicated requests.Target completion: 12-1-06.

Steps

• Review with staff the potential applicability of multi-track processing for voluminous or complicated requests. Determine if implementation would be beneficial for request processing in the Civil Division. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Implement or decline to implement multi-track processing within the Civil Division. To be completed by 12-1-06.

11. FOIA Requester Service Center complaints

Goal: Review, respond to, and resolve complaints to the FOIA Requester Service Center. Target completion: 9-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review all complaints or inquiries received by the FOIA Requester Service Center. To be completed by 9-15-06, 12-1-06, 3-1-07, 6-1-07, 9-1-07, 12-01-07, 3-1-08 (and continuing thereafter).

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- FOIA Web site function and content
-- Acknowledgment letter responses
-- Communications with requesters
-- Customer service
-- Staffing/Position descriptions
-- Docket control system
-- E-FOIA publication requirements
-- Multi-track processing
-- FOIA Requester Service Center complaints

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Electronic receipt/response for FOIA requests
-- Cross-training

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION (CRT)

A. NATURE OF CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION'S FOIA OPERATIONS

Since the Civil Rights Division itself is centralized in the Washington, D.C. area, its Freedom of Information Branch is also located in the D.C. metropolitan area within the Division's Administrative Management Section. The FOIA Branch consists of two attorneys, six paralegals, and two legal technicians. The Branch receives FOIA requests for twelve program areas including its: Appellate, Coordination and Review, Criminal, Disability Rights, Educational Opportunities, Employment Litigation, Housing and Civil Enforcement, Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices, Special Litigation (involving the rights of institutionalized persons among other matters), and Voting Sections. Requests for records from the Criminal, Disability Rights, and Voting Sections, and the Office Special Counsel, represent the majority of the workload. Records in the Civil Rights Division files contain records of other components such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Criminal Division as well as other federal agencies such as Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Labor, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which, when processed, require consultation with the components and agencies for a consistent, coordinated response.

The Civil Rights Division's backlog of thirty FOIA/PA requests as of May 1, 2006, was the lowest it has been at any time in the last 29.5 years in spite of a continued stable average of incoming requests (602 received in Fiscal Year 2005). This achievement occurred because of CRT's increase of and upgrading/professionalizing of staff, automated tracking, greatly improved referral handling, and contracting during CRT's highest-volume processing years -- 1996 with a workload of 1388 FOIA/PA requests and the following years. In 1985, the Division had a smaller staff and a backlog of what would have been the equivalent of a year and a half of accumulated requests involving tens of thousands of pages of documents related to many of the Civil Rights Division's historic cases.11 The backlog of requests consisted of numerous very high profile matters for which there were hundreds of unprocessed requests spread over an eight-year period of delay. Requesters included prisoners, alleged victims of civil rights violations, subject police officers -- targets of investigations of civil rights violations, historians, news media, and a variety of nonprofit, public interest-type organizations. The Branch's production was nearly immobilized at that time by its staff focused almost entirely on responding to court orders in litigation because of lawsuits that had been filed primarily on the basis of delay. Besides all the structural changes listed above, the Division focused on eliminating approximately 5-6 separate bottlenecks and began a month-to-month drive to close more requests each month than it received.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

The Civil Rights Division reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Increase in staff to replace early retirees in CRT's 2005 downsizing
-- Funding to develop electronic FOIA processing/Purchase of related (new) equipment
-- Improvements in timeliness for the 15% segment of workload with a substantially higher level of processing time
-- Affirmative disclosure compliance under subsection (a)(2)/Proactive disclosure
-- Web site/Electronic reading room enhancement
-- Interactions with the public and other offices for priority on courtesy
-- Acknowledgment letter form
-- System of consultations
-- Plan for any needed training of FOIA staff and program staff
-- Multi-track processing

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

In reviewing the Executive Order and the prime areas for attention, the Civil Rights Division is pleased to be very close to obtaining the ideal of no backlog. In conducting a review, several problems areas still exist that will prove to be difficult to resolve. That is, the Civil Rights Division's upper-level management have a significant number of requests for which repeated efforts to obtain consultation have been unsuccessful. Recent staffing changes may allow improvement in this area if there is someone assigned to handle requests that involve records related to the upper-level management of the Division.

The Division itself does very well in keeping the backlog at a low pending level with 85% of its requests being processed within a median time of eight days. All requests are acknowledged within a twenty-day time period. In reviewing this area, however, it is clear that the Civil Rights Division can improve the turnaround time for its 15% of requests that are not processed until after the twenty day statutory period has expired. More resources can be placed into reducing the turnaround in the area of greatest delay, such as the gathering of records in numerous sections, and a more structured approach in processing requests involving problem issues, which requests account for the 15% of the more-delayed responses.

In reviewing the selected areas, it is clear that CRT has been doing and currently does an excellent job in the area of customer relations and communications with requesters. The Division acknowledges all of the FOIA requests within the twenty-working-day deadline and forwards a letter including an address and phone number for the requester to call with questions. This office also responds to letters that are not proper FOIA requests and explains to the requester why the request is not proper, and if appropriate, refers the requester to another federal agency or state or local entity. CRT will also call requesters if their requests are not clear to attempt to define and clarify the scope of the request. Further, CRT has developed the use of an acknowledgment letter to requesters upon receipt of referral from another agency to let the requester know that the documents have been received and are being processed. The requester is provided a case number and given the address and telephone number to contact if there are any questions.

CRT has had a long-term policy of requiring that a staff member personally answer all telephone calls. CRT resisted the Departmentwide effort to make all incoming calls go to a voice mail as a cost-saving measure. Accordingly, front-line telephone staff have always been required to cover the telephones and the work schedules are staggered so that the telephones have coverage throughout the work day. This office will give confirming instructions to the staff in order to continue this office's emphasis on the importance of customer service and treating requesters with courtesy and respect at all times by promptly responding to requester questions on Civil Rights Division subject-matter areas and status inquiries.

Furthermore, CRT began the process of selecting a new FOIA Specialist with knowledge on electronic FOIA processing. In April 2006, CRT began reviewing applications and interviewing in order to hire the best-qualified person. In order to hire the most appropriate personnel, CRT recruited applicants from agencies/components with electronic systems that are advanced beyond CRT's current technology.

This office reviewed its current electronic capacity for tracking FOIA/PA requests and views its tracking systems to be generally adequate but behind the present state of technological development of the Department's FOIA operations. CRT could benefit from an updated system that will allow for the more professional appearance of the electronic processing as well as the greater efficiency and time-savings that may be possible by a move towards a paperless process.

CRT also reviewed its FOIA Electronic Reading Room. CRT can add to the available materials by placing old CRT landmark cases on the Web as well as seeking out any subsection (a)(2) materials for which CRT is responsible for making available to the public. CRT will search out and develop means for locating applicable materials and conducting a regular review of the Web site for currency.

In reviewing the acknowledgment form letter, the office's system of consultations, and multi-track processing, CRT will not focus on these areas for future improvements other than the incorporation of the system of consultations into the effort to reduce the turnaround time on "complex" requests as explained above and below. CRT has determined there is no further need for modifications in its multi-track system, nor for any change to be made in its acknowledgment form.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Increase in staff to replace early retirees in CRT's 2005 downsizing
-- Funding to develop electronic FOIA processing/Purchase of related (new) equipment
-- Improvements in timeliness for the 15% segment of workload with a substantially higher level of processing time
-- Affirmative disclosure compliance under subsection (a)(2)/Proactive disclosure
-- Web site/Electronic reading room enhancement
-- Interactions with the public and other offices for priority on courtesy
-- Plan for any needed training of FOIA staff and program staff

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Increase in staff with strengths in areas chosen for improvement

Goal: Place a GS-13 FOIA Specialist on staff. Target completion: 6-30-06.

Steps

• Have new employee cleared by security and trained. To be completed by 6-20-06.

• Transition to full workload. To be completed by 6-30-06.

2. Funding to develop electronic FOIA processing/Purchase related (new) equipment

Goal: To bring CRT's need for electronic equipment into discussion for upcoming budget plans. Target completion: 2-1-07.

• Discuss needs with appropriate Information Technology personnel in Division and determine costs for such equipment. Contact Budget Staff to determine the budgetary limits already imposed for Fiscal Year 2006 and review the proposed budget possibilities. Submit proposal of upgrade for Fiscal Year 2007 to CRT Executive Officer. To be completed by 11-1-06.

• Determine funding available for Fiscal Year 2007, and determine office needs, and contact staff to begin procurement process according to appropriate rules and regulations for Fiscal Year 2007. Study of competing systems and recommendation of new FOIA electronic system. To be completed by 2-1-07.

3. Improvements in timeliness for the 15% segment of workload with a substantially higher level of processing time

Goal: To reduce the turnaround time for complex FOIA/PA requests. Target completion: 10-1-07.

Steps

• Develop information on the primary obstacles to a shorter turnaround by reviewing files of the requests closed in the "complex" category. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Analyze information to develop specific strategies on all "complex" requests. To be completed by 11-1-06.

• Reduce the Fiscal Year 2005 median time by thirty days for the 15% complex category. To be completed by 2-1-07.

• Reduce the Fiscal Year 2005 median time by thirty additional days and determine future target percentages for reduction and target dates for achievement at that time. To be completed by 10-1-07.

4. Affirmative disclosure compliance under subsection (a)(2)/Proactive disclosure Web site/Electronic reading room enhancement (combined)

Goal: To provide additional documents/information to the public and other CRT customers via CRT's Electronic Reading Room. Target completion: 12-1-07 (and continuing thereafter).

• Review current Web site and procedures for locating subsection (a)(2) reading room materials. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Conduct periodic review of Web site and Administrative Section contacts to ensure that information is updated with the most currently available materials. Provide notice to Division components about the requirements to place subsection (a)(2) information on the Web site. To be completed by 10-1-06, 1-1-06, 4-1-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Enhance the accessibility of the Electronic Reading Room via improved, more aesthetic design; clarify Web site and make it user-friendly, with links to other Department of Justice or applicable Web sites. To be completed by 10-1-07.

• Post records related to historical CRT cases. To be completed by 12-1-07.

5. Customer service and inter-office relations/Communications

Goal: To provide prompt and courteous service regarding general procedure, status inquiries and information about CRT's programs to the public and other components/offices. Target completion: 1-15-07.

Steps

• Confirm that all staff who answer telephones know how to determine the status of a request and when to send the requester to an analyst for more detailed information. Train all staff on the importance of treating requesters with courtesy and respect as well as specific instruction on the basics of workplace etiquette. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Ensure that present procedures are followed regarding all exchanges with the public so that there is adequate record of the information provided and the nature of the inquiry. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Additional periodic monitoring and training to underscore the emphasis in this area via the Executive Order. To be completed by 1-15-07.

6. Plan for any needed FOIA training of FOIA staff and Division staff

Goal: To plan for any needed legal training of FOIA staff and program staff. Target completion: 1-15-07.

• Survey staff determine last date on classes taken and need for FOIA and Privacy Act legal and Information Technology training. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Research Office of Legal Education and outside sources for 2007-2008 courses offered to fulfill any training needs assessed. To be completed by 1-15-07.

• Register staff for all available training for the 2007-2008 period. To be completed by 1-15-07.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Increase in staff with strengths in areas chosen for improvement

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Funding to develop electronic FOIA processing/Purchase related (new) equipment
-- Improvement in timeliness for the 15% segment of workload with a substantially higher level of processing time
-- Affirmative disclosure compliance under subsection (a)(2)/Proactive disclosure Web site/Electronic reading room enhancement
-- Customer service and inter-office relations/Communications
-- Plan for any needed FOIA training of FOIA staff and Division staff

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

COMMUNITY RELATIONS SERVICE (CRS)

A. NATURE OF CRS'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Community Relations Service is a small agency of approximately fifty-six employees nationwide. In the FY 2005 FOIA Annual Report submitted by CRS, the number of requests received during that fiscal year was two; the number of requests processed during that fiscal year was two; and the number of requests pending as of the end of preceding fiscal year was zero. Over the past several years the number of FOIA requests received by CRS has ranged from two to approximately eight. During these years, CRS has not had a backlog, the FOIA requests have been responded to within twenty days, and most of the requests received by CRS have been for personal records of the requester that are not maintained by CRS. The standard response on these type requests is "no records." CRS maintains no records of individuals except for agency employees.

Should CRS Regional Offices receive a FOIA request, the Regional Office staff has been instructed to contact CRS Headquarters immediately, fax the request to Headquarters so that the processing of the request can begin immediately. If the Regional Office has the records requested, those records are copied in full and express mailed to the FOIA Officer at CRS Headquarters for a review and response to requester within twenty calendar days. Because of the small number of FOIA requests received annually by CRS, the current response/disclosure system is working fine.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

The Community Relations Service reviewed the following improvement areas:

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
-- FOIA manual
-- Electronic FOIA (receiving/responding to requests electronically)

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

After an extensive review of the items identified in Part B, above, CRS determined that the processing of FOIA requests is working fine, in that CRS is receiving on average of only between two to eight FOIA requests per fiscal year, and responses are submitted to requesters in much less than twenty days. However, CRS is in the process of determining if any additional policy statements should be posted on the Web site; whether a FOIA manual can be developed within the next few months; and whether an electronic FOIA process by the internet for receiving and responding to FOIA requests is necessary in light of the fact, only two FOIA requests were received by CRS in FY 2005.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
-- FOIA manual
-- Electronic FOIA

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)

Goal: To make sure that CRS has posted on its Web site all policy statements, and other documents and materials that should be posted there. Target completion: 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• CRS will review its Web site and determine what additional information should be included, in order to improve in this area. To be completed by 9-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• This review process will involve the CRS Webmaster/IT Manager to make sure that CRS is in compliance with this affirmative disclosure requirement. To the extent additional documents are appropriate for inclusion on the CRS Web site, those documents will be placed on the CRS Web site. To be completed by 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

2. FOIA manual

Goal: To develop a FOIA manual that will be current and up-to-date. Target completion: 12-31-07.

Steps

• CRS will work closely with another Department component to develop a FOIA manual. To be completed by 12-31-07.

3. Electronic FOIA

Goal: To determine if CRS has a legitimate need for an Electronic FOIA system for receiving and responding to FOIA requests in light of having received only two FOIA requests during Fiscal Year 2005. Target completion: 12-31-07.

Steps

• CRS's Director/Deputy Director and the IT Manager/Webmaster will consult regarding the feasibility of doing with the CRS FOIA Officer within the next sixty days. To be completed by 8-18-06.

• CRS will explore the feasibility of the establishment of Electronic FOIA with CRS's National Director. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Once a decision is made by the Director on accepting FOIA requests through the Internet, CRS will implement such a system. To be completed by 12-31-07.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- FOIA manual
-- Electronic FOIA

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

CRIMINAL DIVISION

A. NATURE OF THE CRIMINAL DIVISION'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Criminal Division's FOIA/PA Unit currently operates with fourteen full-time personnel, one part-time employee, and one stay-in-school student. The Unit is comprised of a Chief, Deputy Chief, two Supervisory Team Leaders, seven FOIA Specialists, and four support staff. The Criminal Division receives approximately 1500 requests annually and we completed 1292 requests during FY 2005. Our backlog is currently 875, up from 673 in FY 2003, 768 in FY 2004, and 869 in FY 2005. Based on these figures, our most urgent area where improvement is needed is backlog reduction. Historically, the biggest obstacle facing the Criminal Division FOIA/PA Unit has been the lack of adequate personnel to handle the volume and complexity of requests received.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

The Criminal Division reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Backlog reduction
-- Purchase of new equipment
-- Consultation/concurrence process
-- Customer-service policy
-- Automatic tracking capabilities
-- Web site
-- Training
-- Declassification process
-- Electronic processing

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

The first area reviewed by the Criminal Division was backlog reduction. As discussed above, this is the most serious problem facing the Criminal Division. We decided that the first step we had to take was to expeditiously hire two employees, one analyst, and one attorney in order to replace two members of the staff who had recently retired. The announcements for these jobs have closed and we are redoubling our efforts most expeditiously to receive from our personnel office resumes of the most highly qualified candidates so that we can begin the interview and selection process. With our current staff, we are concerned that it might be possible only to maintain our backlog, not to reduce it. We are planing to discuss the possibility of hiring contract workers again with the Director of our parent office (Office of Enforcement Operations) and our Administrative Office. To ensure that those analysts currently working on requests are handling them as expeditiously as possible, the Deputy Chief will meet quarterly with each analyst to discuss workload and any problems that they might be encountering and to discuss possible resolutions, under the careful supervision of the Unit Chief.

The second area selected for review was the possible purchase of new equipment needed. It was decided that the Unit needed a more modern photocopy machine and a new shredder. Having a more modern and more efficient copier would significantly improve productivity. We requested purchases of each of these products and they both have been approved. We should be receiving both in the near future.

The third area selected for review was the consultation and concurrence (i.e., review within the Criminal Division) process. If we do not receive a timely response to our consultations (outside of the Criminal Division) or concurrences (within the Criminal Division) our response is significantly delayed. We decided that we needed to improve our follow-up on consultations and concurrences by contacting the sections or agencies every thirty days. We will explore the possibility with our IT professionals of adding a field to our automatic case-tracking system (CATS) to generate automatic reminder memorandums similar to those we already are using for delinquent record searches. We also discussed the fact that the Criminal Division needs to improve its responses to consultations from other agencies and components. If we can increase our staffing, we will assign one analyst to work on and hopefully eliminate our backlog of consultations. This in turn will help decrease our overall backlog.

The fourth area selected for review was our customer-service policy. The Criminal Division believes that it is doing an excellent job in this area, in many cases going beyond the call of duty to assist requesters in directing their requests to the proper entity, whether it be federal or state, often including information on state FOIA laws for their assistance. However, one can always find some room for improvement. We have maintained a customer-service center since our inception where our customers can call and check the status of their requests or ask other questions. Politeness and courtesy have always been our standard policy in dealing with even the most difficult requesters. However, in light of the Executive Order we will conduct an in-house training session with an emphasis on courtesy and helpfulness, especially for those individuals involved with the FOIA Requester Service Center.

The fifth area selected for review was our automated tracking capabilities. Our current system is capable of only reporting two tracks (expedited; and complex, which covers everything else). This does not accurately reflect our multi-track system of simple or small "short hits" and more complex projects. We will explore the possibility of adding a field to track simple requests with Management Information Systems. This would also make our annual report figures more accurate.

The sixth area selected for review was our Web site. Although basically functional, our Web site has been neglected for several years due to lack of adequate personnel staffing. We need to post subsection (a)(2) materials in a more timely manner. Out-of-date material needs to be removed, although there are still requests for some of our more popular older manuals and reports especially those of historical significance. We will explore the possibility of hiring a contractor to work on the Web site, but we will not rely on that possibility unless it comes to pass. We also note that most, if not all, subsection (a)(2) material and other records of current interest are already posted by the individual sections of the Criminal Division on their Web sites.

The seventh area selected for review was supervisory training. All personnel currently attend the biennial FOIA Guide seminar and several employees have attended additional FOIA training at the Department's South Carolina facility. Requests for some additional training were not approved due to budget/travel restrictions. We reviewed our in-house training materials and concluded that they were in need of updating. We decided to assign a senior analyst to update this material. With two new employees starting within the year and the possibility of additional hires, meeting this goal will improve and accelerate the training process.

The eighth area reviewed was our declassification process. As in the case of concurrences and consultations, if our records are not declassified in a timely manner, the entire processing time is significantly delayed. We found that records being sent over to our Declassification Officer were taking an inordinate time to be returned and in some cases had not been returned in over a year. Also, our Declassification Officer is the Chief of a section that soon is moving to the new National Security Division.12 We have requested that the Director of our parent office address these concerns directly with the Declassification Officer together with our Unit Chief, and we will request that senior officials within the Criminal Division designate a new declassification authority so that the process will not be interrupted during the transition.

The final area reviewed by the Criminal Division was electronic processing. The Criminal Division has looked at several electronic processing systems in the past but is not familiar with the more current products available. Although, electronic processing would be highly desirable for the Unit, we do not anticipate receiving either the funds or personnel to select, implement, and test a new system so we are not including it in our plan.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Backlog reduction
-- Purchase of new equipment
-- Consultation/concurrence process
-- Customer-service policy
-- Automatic tracking capabilities
-- Web site
-- Training
-- Declassification process

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Backlog reduction

Goal: To reduce our backlog from 875 pending requests to approximately 525. Target completion: 12-31-08.

Steps

• Complete the hiring process of one new specialist and one new attorney through aggressive personnel-replacement efforts aimed at achieving a stable workforce. To be completed by 10-1-06, 11-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Explore with Department Personnel Office the use of contractors. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• If the use of contractors is an option for the Criminal Division, institute it. To be completed by 12-31-07.

• Hold quarterly meetings of all supervisors with analysts to discuss workload and any problems being encountered. To be completed by 8-15-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Achieve backlog reduction in proportionate amounts over these time periods. To be completed by 1-15-07, 1-15-08, 12-31-08.

2. Purchase of new equipment

Goal: To update photocopier and shredder and thereby increase productivity. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Receive new copier and shredder from our Administrative Officer. To be completed by 8-31-06.

• Integrate into existing systems. To be completed by 9-30-06.

3. Consultation/concurrence process

Goal: Improve our follow-up on consultations and concurrences to decrease processing time, thereby reducing our backlog. Target completion: 12-31-07.

Steps

• Initiate follow-up calls by analyst to the section/component/agency after thirty days. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Explore with IT specialists the possibility of adding a field to our tracking system that will automatically generate reminder memorandums to the sections/components/agencies similar to a system we already have in effect for searches. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Assign one analyst to concentrate on reducing our backlog of consultations and referrals, thus contributing to measurable backlog-reduction results. To be completed by 12-31-07 (assuming contract workers or additional staffing are approved).

4. Customer-service policy

Goal: To ensure that all requesters contacting the Criminal Division's FOIA Requester Service Center are treated with courtesy and professionalism and that all of their questions are answered efficiently. Target completion: 7-15-06.

Steps

• Initiate in-house training for all employees, especially those involved in the operation of the service center. To be completed by 7-15-06.

5. Automatic tracking

Goal: To enable our system to be able to report all of our tracks accurately for the annual FOIA report and other reporting purposes. Target completion: 8-31-07.

Steps

• Explore with our computer professionals the possibility of adding a new field to track simple requests as well as complex ones. To be completed by 8-31-07.

6. Web site

Goal: Ensure that subsection (a)(2) materials are posted in a timely manner and the prompt removal of out-of-date material, with Unit Chief taking responsibility for full subsection (a)(2) compliance. Target completion: 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review Web page and remove outdated material. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Develop a better system to obtain subsection (a)(2) material from the sections in a timely manner so that it can be posted on our Web site. To be completed by 12-31-06 (with reviews quarterly thereafter to ensure that current materials are promptly posted).

7. Training

Goal: Update our in-house training materials. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Discuss with senior analyst areas in need of updating. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• A senior analyst will review and update all in-house training materials and guidance, with supervisory review by Chief and Deputy Chief. To be completed by 9-30-06.

8. Declassification process

Goal: To shorten the length of time it takes to receive classified material back from the Declassification Officer, in order to reduce overall processing time of requests involving classified materials. Target completion: 8-31-06.

Steps

• Have the Director of the Office of Enforcement Operations contact the Declassification Officer by e-mail or memorandum to express our concerns. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• As our Declassification Officer will be moving to the new National Security Division, request that this responsibility be delegated to a new individual in the Criminal Division. To be completed by 8-31-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Purchase of new equipment
-- Customer-service policy
-- Web site
-- Training
-- Declassification process

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Consultation/concurrence process
-- Automated tracking

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

-- Backlog reduction

DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION (DEA)

A. NATURE OF DEA'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Drug Enforcement Administration's Freedom of Information (FOI)/Records Management Section, Operations Unit (SARO) is responsible for responding to all Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act requests for records maintained by DEA. In Fiscal Year 2005, SARO received 1642 requests and completed the processing of 1569 requests. SARO has a staff of twenty-four (currently including five vacancies) government employees to gather, compile, sanitize, and review DEA records pursuant to the FOIA. SARO coordinates with the Department of Justice regarding resolution of administrative appeals from requesters of DEA information. SARO works closely with the Office of Chief Counsel (CC) in responding to litigated FOIA/PA requests

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

DEA reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Electronic FOIA
-- Multi-track processing
-- Backlog reduction/elimination
-- Customer relations/Communications
-- Systems of handling referrals/consultations
-- Troubleshooting of any existing problem
-- Politeness/courtesy

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

At the completion of a systematic review of items identified in Part B, above, DEA has determined that several areas are in need of improvement, and others which have been already been identified, will be implemented in the near future. In the area of politeness/courtesy, DEA implemented five new performance rating elements for all grade levels and job series for Calendar Year (CY) 2005. One of those elements dealt directly with the customer-service aspect, which specifically states "demonstrates understanding of and appreciation for customers needs; effectively partners with customers to identify issues and potential resolution; provides a range of recommended options; establishes effective feedback methods. Provides information, products, and/or assistance that is complete and correct; ensures that the customer understands the information provided or obtains service and/or product needs. Is professional when assisting others; deals with difficult or demanding customers politely." The FOI/Records Management Section, Operations Unit tailored this element to give it a greater importance in accordance to Executive Order 13,392 and these new criteria will become effective on July 1, 2006.

In the area of Web site improvement, DEA has been in the forefront of providing access to the public of its internal agency operations and best practices. This is shown through the specific areas which are posted on DEA's Web site, www.usdoj.gov/dea, i.e., financial information, employment opportunities, statistical information and enforcement operations. The need for improvement in this area would be the placement of additional information on the current FOIA Web site to include contracts, drug trends, ARCOS information, policy statements, and agency opinions.

In the area of troubleshooting of any problems with the existing tracking/review of FOIA request had been identified prior to Executive Order 13,392. In CY 2005, SARO reorganized existing personnel to form a new team within SARO. This team was named the Initial Review Team (IRT). Personnel allocated to this team consisted of one Supervisory FOIA Specialist, three FOIA Specialists, one FOIA Assistant and one clerical support staff. The IRT is responsible for reviewing initial FOIA/PA requests under a "Two-Tiered System." The Supervisory FOIA Specialist is the initial reviewer of incoming requests. This is considered the first-tier review. In the second tier, the Supervisory FOIA Specialist directs a group of researchers (FOIA Specialists) in conducting a follow-up review of FOIA/PA requests in addition to locating and retrieving responsive documents.

In the area of customer relations/communications, DEA acknowledges requests within twenty working days after receipt. However, it was determined that an additional letter was needed to provide a direct point of contact of an individual handling a request.

In the area of referrals/consultations, the review revealed there are many differences, with some conflicting, between various agency (including DEA) expectations, policies, and procedures when it comes to seeking or receiving referrals and consultations.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Electronic FOIA
-- Multi-track processing
-- Backlog reduction/elimination
-- Customer relations/Communications
-- Systems of handling referrals/consultations

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2); Proactive disclosure of information

Goal: To improve customer satisfaction with accessible information without the necessity of the FOIA process. (These two areas were grouped together because the steps required to reach the goal follow the same path.) Target completion: 6-7-07.

Steps

• Identify scanning resources. To be completed by 7-30-06.

• Identify relevant or pertinent documents to post on the Web site which would include contracts, drug trends, ARCOS information, policy statements, and agency opinions on DEA's Web site. To be completed by 8-30-06.

• Agency approval of identified material. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• 25% of identified material scanned/posted on the Web. To be completed by 10-30-06.

• 50% of identified material scanned/posted on the Web. To be completed by 12-30-06.

• 75% of identified material scanned/posted on the Web. To be completed by 3-7-07.

• 100% of identified material scanned/posted on the Web. To be completed by 6-7-07.

2. Automated tracking capabilities; Electronic FOIA; Multi-track processing

Goal: To increase efficiency in tracking and redacting functions as well as the ability to receive/send requests electronically. (These two areas are grouped together because the steps required to reach the goal follow the same path.) Target completion: 3-31-08.

Steps

• Define and document requirements for the E-FOIA application to include a multi-track system for several predetermined requests, i.e., expedited treatment, "no records," third parties, and referrals/consultations. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Tracking and data collection. At this juncture, the collection process will be completed manually and possibly with the assistance of DEA's current system. With this process, DEA will evaluate alternative Computer-off-the-Shelf (COTS) products versus the review of internal development/enhancements to DEA's current application and create an e-mail address and account for the receipt of FOIA/PA requests online. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Analysis of data/feedback. Review data collected to rank alternative tools; seek price quotes and funding. To be completed by 3-31-07.

• Proceed with acquisition phase. To be completed by 6-30-07.

• Proceed with spiral development and testing. To be completed by 9-30-07, 12-31-07.

• Implement new system. To be completed by 3-30-08.

3. Backlog reduction/elimination

Goal: To reduce the existing backlog of pending FOIA requests by a proportional ratio of a percentage each year to include a quarterly reduction of 2% of existing pending cases more than twenty days old. This will be completed by periodically and consistently focusing on the existing backlog. Target completion: 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Forward status letter to requesters who have requests that are over 100 days old. To be completed by 7-30-06.

• On a quarterly basis, SARO Unit Chief along with Team Leaders will review backlog together in order to determine the number of cases pending for more than twenty days. To be completed by 10-1-06, 1-1-07, 4-1-07, 7-1-07, 10-1-07, 1-1-08, 4-1-08, 7-1-08, 10-1-08, 1-1-09, 4-1-09, 7-1-09, 10-1-09.

• On a quarterly basis, SARO Unit Chief along with Team Leaders will review the workload of each analyst to determine whether cases need to be redistributed and to consider, together with the Section Chief, the possible reallocation of resources where needed. To be completed by 10-1-06, 1-1-07, 4-1-07, 7-1-07, 10-1-07, 1-1-08, 4-1-08, 7-1-08, 10-1-08, 1-1-09, 4-1-09, 7-1-09, 10-1-09.

4. Customer relations/Communications

Goal: To ensure that requesters have a direct point of contact (FOIA Specialist) with whom to discuss their FOIA requests. Target completion: 7-1-06.

Steps

• Implementation of a follow-up letter to original acknowledgment to contain a direct point of contact of individual handling that particular FOIA request. To be completed by 7-1-06.

Goal: To ensure that requesters have the capability to submit requests to DEA electronically. Target completion: 9-1-07.

Steps

• Coordinate with IT personnel for purchase of equipment/resources. To be completed by 7-01-07.

• Implementation of equipment and Internet capabilities. To be completed by 9-1-07.

5. System of handling referrals/consultations

Goal: To ensure that appropriate documents are forwarded to DEA for review/consultation purposes. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Identifying agencies/components. To be completed by 7-30-06.

• Update/reinstate current memorandum of understandings between DEA and various components. To be completed by 9-30-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Backlog reduction/elimination
-- Customer relations/Communications
-- System of handling referrals/consultations

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2); Proactive disclosure of information

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

-- Automated tracking capabilities; Electronic FOIA; Multi-track processing

ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION (ENRD)

A. NATURE OF ENRD'S FOIA OPERATIONS

All Freedom of Information Act requests submitted to the Environment and Natural Resource Division are processed by one of two FOIA paralegals in ENRD's Law and Policy Section (LPS). Both paralegals work in ENRD for two years, with the two-year terms staggered so that the pair includes a senior paralegal who has one year of experience and a rising junior paralegal. Each junior paralegal begins his or her tenure by attending both the Beginning and Advanced FOIA training sessions conducted by the Office of Information and Privacy. The junior paralegal also receives in-house guidance and training from the senior paralegal and the LPS FOIA reviewing attorneys, all of whom are well versed in FOIA law and the ENRD FOIA administrative procedures.

The ENRD FOIA paralegals devote a substantial amount of their time and resources to processing FOIA requests. Dealing effectively and efficiently with our FOIA requesters is a priority in ENRD. As of June 5, 2006, ENRD is operating with a backlog of forty-two requests. In response to each FOIA request, the paralegal sends out a personalized acknowledgment letter that includes his or her contact phone number. The paralegals are readily available to discuss FOIA requests with the requesters either by telephone or by e-mail (and both of these contact options are publicly available on the ENRD Web site). In practice, the paralegals speak with approximately 50-60% of the FOIA requesters about a wide variety of issues, including requests for clarification, fee issues, and processing status. When a FOIA matter is concluded, the ENRD response letter also contains LPS contact information that the requester can use to ask follow-up questions.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

ENRD reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Processing complex FOIA requests
-- Recordkeeping process
-- Backlog reduction
-- Personnel
-- Politeness/courtesy

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

In March 2006, the ENRD FOIA processors and FOIA managers met to discuss the Executive Order and to begin their review by brainstorming possible ENRD FOIA improvements. The two primary suggestions voiced by the Division's FOIA staff at the meeting are reflected in improvements one and two in the list below. Some of the FOIA managers wanted to make sure that all of the FOIA requests were properly routed to their sections before they began their reviews. The keepers of the case management system were interested in reminding attorneys and support staff how to correctly "bill" FOIA hours for the purposes of the annual FOIA report. The remaining three improvements were developed by the Law and Policy Section. The improvements and strategies are reflected below.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Processing complex FOIA requests
-- Recordkeeping process
-- Backlog reduction
-- Personnel
-- Politeness/courtesy

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Processing complex FOIA requests

Goal: To initiate informal Executive Office and LPS reviewing attorney consultation prior to sending out complex FOIA requests to section contacts. This should cut down on processing time by ensuring proper routing of FOIA requests. Target completion: 7-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• The Executive Office can help LPS determine the sections that are best suited to respond to the FOIA request. The Executive Office has the ability to quickly run case management reports to identify the universe of potential cases or matters responsive to the request and to determine the ENRD attorney assigned to those cases. ENRD will continue this process, and examine its effectiveness with the new paralegal, when his or her tenure begins. To be completed by 7-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• For complex FOIA requests, the reviewing attorney in LPS can help to identify ways in which the request can be clarified or narrowed. ENRD will continue to use this review process and assess its effectiveness with new staff. To be completed by 7-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• As a result of this administrative change, the LPS FOIA paralegals will generally send out the section memorandum, rather than the LPS administrative assistant. To be completed by 7-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

2. Recordkeeping process

Goal: To ensure that the ENRD's part of the Department's annual FOIA report is accurate by establishing a system by which attorneys are "billing" time they spend on FOIA matters directly to the cases that are the subject of the FOIA request, which in turn means that the true number of hours spent on FOIA matters is accurately recorded. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• LPS will draft and disseminate a memorandum to all ENRD members who deal with FOIA matters. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• LPS will draft a revised time sheet that will be included in all FOIA section e-mails. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• LPS will add a time sheet to the initial Section Response Memo so that FOIA processors from the very beginning of the FOIA process can log their FOIA time in accordance with ENRD time-reporting policies. This time sheet will include the FOIA "DJ number," definitions of search and review time, separate places to fill in search and review time logged, and a statement about how to "bill" time to the FOIA. To be completed by 7-31-06.

3. Backlog reduction

Goal: To reduce total FOIA processing by reducing the time a FOIA request is in LPS, thus enabling reduction of the ENRD FOIA backlog. This may occur: (1) between the time when LPS receives documents from the sections and when LPS considers the appropriate exemptions and redactions, (2) between the time the paralegal has reviewed the documents and the attorney reviewer looks at the documents, and (3) between the time the attorney has completed his or her review of documents and the time the LPS response is sent to the requester. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Establish the procedure by which the paralegal can review the documents when they first come in, assess how long it will take to review them, and schedule blocks of time in the same or following week to review the documents. This will help the paralegals immediately identify any problems or questions and ask for clarification from the appropriate sections. ENRD will review and reaffirm this procedure when the new paralegal joins the staff. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Establish the procedure by which the paralegal can set up an appointment with the reviewing attorney. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Establish the procedure by which paralegals and the Section Chief can meet more often to assess the status of all pending FOIAs and the paralegals can keep the Chief apprised of all pending FOIA requests. To be completed by 7-31-06.

Goal: To reduce ENRD's backlog by 10% each year by meeting on a quarterly basis to evaluate the backlog. Target completion: 8-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• On a quarterly basis, LPS FOIA paralegals will review backlog to determine the number of cases pending for more than the twenty days provided by statute. To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06, 1-15-07, 4-15-07, 7-15-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• On a quarterly basis, LPS FOIA paralegals will present the backlog to the LPS Chief to discuss further means of backlog reduction (e.g., reallocation of time or resources, setting of new goals). To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06, 1-15-07, 4-15-07, 7-15-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

4. Personnel

Goal: Convene all ENRD FOIA staff (including all section FOIA processors and FOIA managers) on an annual basis (or more often, when necessary), in order to relay any new FOIA procedures or guidance to all FOIA staff and to brainstorm about improvements that can be made to the ENRD FOIA process. Target completion: 7-31-07 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Hold annual meeting each January. To be completed by 1-15-07, 1-15-08, 1-15-09.

• Arrange an overlap between the tenure of the departing senior paralegal to ensure that the new staff member can learn from the departing paralegal's experience and expertise. To be completed by 7-31-07, 7-31-08 (and continuing thereafter).

5. Politeness/courtesy

Goal: Ensure that all new LPS paralegals recognize the importance of ENRD's customary practice of dealing courteously and appropriately with our requesters throughout the FOIA response process. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Incorporate the Executive Order into LPS new paralegal training in order to emphasize the importance of courtesy when communicating with requesters and backlog reduction through the ENRD FOIA process. To be completed by 7-31-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Processing complex FOIA requests
-- Recordkeeping process
-- Backlog reduction
-- Politeness/courtesy

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Personnel

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR IMMIGRATION REVIEW (EOIR)

The Executive Office for Immigration Review has a centralized FOIA Requester Service Center, which is housed in the Office of the General Counsel (OGC). Two Senior Associate General counsels provide legal and technical support to the Service Center. The Center handles requests from the three components of EOIR located at headquarters: The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA); the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ); and the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, and from the fifty-three Immigration Courts located throughout the United States. The primary request for records is in the nature of first-party requests of parties who have appeared before the Immigration Courts.

During the last five years the number of requests has doubled. (In Fiscal Year 2001 the Center received 4993 requests and processed 4988 requests. In contrast, in Fiscal Year 2005 the Center received 10,160 and processed 9870 requests.) A direct result of the increase has been the emergence of a backlog. (In 2001, EOIR had twenty-five pending cases, while in 2005 that number had risen to 1731.)

Currently the Center is staffed with four FOIA Specialists (three full-time and one part-time), an administrative assistant, four contractors, one detailee, and a student. This staffing figure has increased but remains substantially lower than other components with similar numbers of requests.

Prior to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was housed in the Department of Justice. During that time, EOIR and INS had a joint-use form (G-639, Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Request) for FOIA requests. We also worked cooperatively with INS to ensure that misdirected requests would be expeditiously processed by the appropriate component. With the creation of DHS, EOIR has worked to clarify which requests are properly filed with us and which must be referred to DHS. This is not always an easy task, as court proceedings and documents filed in court are often in the records of both EOIR and DHS. As a major objective in FY 2006, EOIR has reminded others that it is not part of DHS. We have discouraged the use of the G-639 form and have met with members of the nongovernmental organization community to facilitate communication to stakeholders.

EOIR has also been reviewing staffing levels in relation to workload. We are evaluating methods to obtain greater efficiency in the overall FOIA process.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

EOIR reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Electronic improvements
-- Staffing
-- Training
-- Maintenance and recovery of files from field offices
-- Accountability measures
-- Communications with requesters
-- Web site improvements
-- Backlog reduction
-- Customer satisfaction

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

In accordance with the Executive Order, EOIR engaged in a thorough review of its FOIA processes. We evaluated our Strategic Plan and the operations of our FOIA Requester Service Center. We looked at electronic improvements, but did not include them in our plan because competing priorities make it unlikely that significant changes can be made within the existing Executive Order time-frame. We looked at staffing in our FOIA Requester Service Center and a FOIA Public Liaison officer was named and front-line telephone officers were assigned. In addition, we reviewed the need for internal and external training, the maintenance of files and recovery of the files from field offices, and accountability measures that could be introduced through electronic tracking and field reviews. We also looked at our existing FOIA letters, and presence on the Intranet and Internet, to find ways to be more effective in our communication. As a result of the review, and consistent with our strategic plan, we have grouped our responses into three areas: (1) customer satisfaction; (2) efficiency and reduce backlogs; and (3) public access to recurring information. A plan of action was created and the targets which we will be working toward are described in the enclosed document.

EOIR initiated its review by analyzing the number of receipts for a five-year time period to ascertain why our backlog had grown from fifty cases to over 1700. We realized that the numbers of requests was increasing at a faster rate than the number of personnel processing those requests, which had remained relatively constant. In addition, we looked at the Strategic Plan for the component which incorporates the following goals for the FOIA.

• Process all FOIA requests with an emphasis on customer service to the requester and teamwork with other agencies' FOIA components. (Improve customer satisfaction.)

• Comply with statutory requirements and goals for timeliness and responsiveness, including a zero backlog of pending FOIA requests at the end of each fiscal year. (Increase efficiency and reduce backlogs.)

• Review FOIA requests for frequent inquiries. If certain types of requests recur frequently, EOIR can investigate ways to make such information available to the public, within federal privacy guidelines. (Monitor and expand public access to recurring information.)

Balancing the long- and short-term goals of the agency with the existing resources EOIR has committed to improve customer satisfaction by training the FOIA public liaison officer and intake personnel; creating tracking mechanisms to capture public comments; and reviewing and revising acknowledgment letters. In addition, EOIR will increase efficiency and reduce backlogs by reviewing internal tracking systems; evaluating current staffing levels and where possible increasing staffing levels; centralizing filing of FOIA records and evaluating the feasibility of expanding bar coding to manage files; increasing efficiency through additional training at headquarters and in field offices/immigration courts; improving response time for the field/immigration courts; increasing efficiency through improved relationships with DHS FOIA personnel; and reducing response times for expedited requests. Finally, EOIR will monitor and expand public access to recurring information through Web site review and maximizing affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2), through use of electronic reading rooms.

During the review process, the first issue that arose was that the FOIA Requester Service Center is unable to run independent status reports on its caseload. A database to track information does exist, but reports from that database must be run by the Information Resources Management (IRM) team. This poses an extreme impediment to understanding and monitoring the workload in the unit. The supervisor knows how many cases have been filed in the current fiscal year, but this does not provide information on pending or completed cases. The current system does not allow the FOIA Requester Service Center to run closed-case reports. As a result, we do not have a current number of open cases. This makes management of the caseload to eliminate backlog impossible. Meetings with the IRM team have occurred and efforts to resolve these issues on a short-term and long-term basis are underway.

A longstanding goal of EOIR is to maintain a zero backlog. Recent increases in the number of requests have made that goal unattainable. However, we have recognized the problem and are working to maximize efficiency and reduce backlogs through the FOIA Requester Service Center. As part of this review, EOIR expanded the number and reorganized the work of employees in the FOIA Requester Service Center. Once the tracking issues noted above are addressed, we will monitor the number of cases processed on a monthly basis. This will allow us to make adjustments to processing and seek additional help (through mechanisms such as overtime or additional contractors) to reduce the backlog earlier in each fiscal year.

Also, FOIA requests to EOIR are generated in response to a need for reviewing files of aliens in immigration proceedings. To complete requests, files must be sent from the courts to headquarters for processing. One method of addressing the overall backlog is to reduce the waiting time for receiving files from the field offices. Currently, daily reports are sent to courts to request files. Processing times can and will be improved by monitoring delays and encouraging prompt responses to requests.

Furthermore, in order to more efficiently track and manage files, the EOIR FOIA Requester Service Center has centralized the FOIA records that are received from the field. Over the past two years we have added several storage cabinets. The organization that has resulted has improved the FOIA process. However, the cabinets are currently distributed in many different locations. To better serve the organizational needs, EOIR has procured space at its headquarters, which will be available early in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2007, to consolidate all the files in one location. In addition EOIR is evaluating the possibility of bar coding all files as they come to the FOIA unit. Currently, only files that have gone to the Board of Immigration Appeals are bar coded. Files that come directly from the courts must be manually monitored. To facilitate tracking, EOIR is evaluating expanding the bar coding to all files. It is uncertain at this time if and when this expansion will occur.

During this review, it also became apparent that many field offices are insufficiently aware of the FOIA requirements and processes. To increase efficiency, EOIR will develop training for the field offices.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Improve customer satisfaction

-- Designate and train FOIA Public Liaison and intake personnel
-- Create tracking mechanism to capture public comments
-- Review and revise acknowledgment letters
-- Increase efficiency and reduce backlogs

-- Review internal tracking system
-- Evaluate current staffing levels and where possible increase staffing levels
-- Centralize filing of FOIA records and evaluate the feasibility of expanding bar coding to manage files
-- Increase efficiency through additional training at headquarters and in field offices/immigration courts
-- Improve response time for the field/immigration courts
-- Increase efficiency through improved coordination with DHS FOIA personnel
-- Reduce response times for expedited requests
-- Monitor and expand public access to recurring information

-- Web site review
-- Maximize affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2) through more efficient use of electronic reading rooms

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Improve customer satisfaction

Goal: Improve customer satisfaction by training the FOIA Public Liaison and intake personnel to answer telephone calls. Target completion: 6-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Clarify the responsibilities of the staff within the FOIA Requester Service Center. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Provide training to assigned individuals on a bi-annual basis in order to ensure that all of EOIR staff follow EOIR's customary practice. To be completed by 6-30-06, 1-15-07, 6-30-07, 1-15-08 (and continuing thereafter).

Goal: Improve customer satisfaction by creating a tracking mechanism to capture public comments. Target completion: 10-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Evaluate current system. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Meet with FOIA staff and design form. To be completed by 7-15-06, 8-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Implement tracking. To be completed by 8-15-06.

• Review on a quarterly basis, and incorporate suggestions that arise from the calls. To be completed by 10-1-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 10-1-07, 3-31-08, 6-30-08 (and quarterly thereafter).

Goal: Improve customer satisfaction by reviewing and revising acknowledgment letters to ensure that the public is aware of the new public information officers. All FOIA letters will be reviewed and wherever possible templates will be updated to include the telephone number to the FOIA Requester Service Center and proper listing of responders. Target completion: 6-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review letters. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Requests changes by IRM staff. To be completed by 8-15-06.

• Monitor IRM progress with monthly reports on progress. To be completed by 9-15-06, 10-15-06, 11-15-06, 12-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Annual review to be completed at the end of each fiscal year. To be completed by 9-30-06, 9-30-07, 9-30-08 (and continuing thereafter).

2. Increase efficiency and reduce backlogs

Goal: To reduce the existing backlog of pending initial FOIA requests by a substantial percentage each year (i.e., 25% by 1-15-07, 30% by 1-15-08, and 35% by 12-31-08, as measured by number of requests pending), by periodically and consistently focusing on the existing backlog. Target completion: 1-15-07, 1-15-08, 12-31-08.

Steps

• On a quarterly basis, review existing backlog together with other staff members in order to determine the number of cases pending for more than the twenty days provided by statute. To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06, 1-15-07, 4-15-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• On a quarterly basis, review workload of each analyst to determine whether cases need to be redistributed and to consider the possible reallocation of resources where needed. To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06, 1-15-06, 4-15-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• On a quarterly basis, address further means of backlog reduction. To be completed by 8-15-06, 10-15-06, 1-15-07, 4-15-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

Goal: Establish a list of desired status reports to be produced on a regular schedule. Target completion: 10-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Establish a list of desired status reports. To be completed by 6-15-06.

• Begin providing the list on a quarterly basis. To be completed by 6-30-06, 9-30-06, 12-31-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Begin issuing reports that will be provided quarterly each year. To be completed by 10-1-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 10-1-07, 3-31-08, 6-30-08 (and quarterly thereafter).

Goal: Work with the IRM staff to modify the tracking system to allow the FOIA staff to run reports directly. Target completion: 9-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Create list of necessary changes. To be completed by 6-15-06.

• Submit a request for changes. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Monitor progress by the IRM staff on a monthly basis until the end of 2006, then move to quarterly reports. To be completed by 9-15-06, 10-15-06, 11-15-06, 12-15-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 10-1-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

Goal: Evaluate current staffing levels and production and, where possible, increase staffing levels. Target completion: 8-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Hire additional FOIA Clerk and revise intake functions. To be completed by 8-30-06.

• Revise PWP for clerk. To be completed by 8-30-06.

Goal: Revise FOIA personnel positions to include advancement opportunities and encourage longevity due to the creation of additional grades and job series. Target completion: 10-1-06.

Steps

• Review of PWP initiated. To be completed by 6-15-06.

• Complete revisions to PWPs and initiate job search for new FOIA specialist. To be completed by 8-15-06.

• Develop new job series for the FOIA personnel. To be completed by 10-1-06.

Goal: Add contractor/additional FOIA specialist. Target completion: 11-30-06.

Steps

• Request new personnel. To be completed by 7-30-06.

• Take contract employee on board until an additional permanent FOIA Specialist can be hired. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Meet with Human Resources to develop job description. To be completed by 7-15-06.

• Post FOIA Specialist job. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• Interview for new FOIA Specialist job. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Hire new personnel. To be completed by 11-30-06.

Goal: Seek assistance of detail employees. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Request issued and detail employee transferred for ninety days to FOIA unit during second quarter of Fiscal Year 2006; we will review the status of the detail. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Obtain an extension if possible. To be completed by 8-30-06.

• Evaluate possibility of conversion to permanent staff. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• If possible add position in Fiscal Year 2007 budget. To be completed by 8-10-06.

• Review and implement alternatives if not funded. To be completed by 9-30-06.

Goal: Centralize filing of FOIA records and evaluate the feasibility of expanding bar coding to manage files. Target completion: 11-30-06.

Steps

• Consolidate FOIA files in one location. To be completed by 11-30-06.

• Evaluate bar coding potential by reviewing technical constraints with IRM staff. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Evaluate costs of bar coding and report to the General Counsel. To be completed by 7-30-06.

To be completed by 8-15-06.

• If not included, add to Fiscal Year 2007 issues. To be completed by 11-30-06.

Goal: Increase efficiency through additional training at headquarters and in field offices/immigration courts. Target completion: 6-15-07 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review current information available to field offices about FOIA requirements. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Survey field offices. To be completed by 12-30-06.

• Initiate e-mail update. To be completed by 3-31-06.

• Provide a quarterly update on FOIA facts by e-mail to field office personnel. To be completed by 6-15-07, 10-15-07, 1-15-08, 3-15-08 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Provide training to Court Administrators as part of orientations at headquarters. To be completed 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Goal: Improve response time for the field office/immigration courts. Target completion: 10-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review and monitor of immigration court response times. To be completed by 7-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Explore options at field offices which may lead to a reduction in the number of overall requests through quarterly reports. To be completed by 10-1-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 10-1-07, 3-31-08, 6-30-08 (and continuing thereafter).

Goal: Include FOIA compliance in court-evaluation reviews. Structurally, once data from the first two steps are collected, the FOIA Requester Service Center should work with the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ) to include FOIA compliance as part of the court-evaluation process. If courts understand that their compliance will be monitored they will be more likely to respond timely. Target completion: 10-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Contact OCIJ to discuss issue. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Meet with OCIJ. To be completed by 7-15-06.

• Meet with Court Evaluation Unit. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• Draft implementation plan. To be completed by 9-15-06.

• Include question in fiscal year court evaluations. To be completed by 10-1-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 10-1-07, 3-31-08, 6-30-08 (and continuing thereafter).

Goal: Increase efficiency by improving channels with DHS FOIA personnel through politeness and courtesy. Specifically, we will maximize the use of formal or informal agreements governing treatment of one another's records with DHS. This will allow EOIR to conserve scarce administrative resources. See, e.g., 28 C.F.R. § 16.4(h) (2005) (Justice Department regulation concerning such agreements). As noted above, requesters often seek information from EOIR that is in the possession of DHS or from DHS that is a record compiled by EOIR (such as a transcript). To the greatest extent practicable, EOIR will work with DHS to maximize informal agreements. Target completion: 9-30-07 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Contact FOIA personnel at DHS. To be completed by 6-15-06.

• Place all necessary issues on DHS/EOIR General Counsel liaison meeting agenda. To be completed by 8-15-06.

• Develop informal agreement or MOU as necessary. To be completed by 1-1-07.

• Review annually. To be completed by 9-30-07, 9-30-08 (and continuing thereafter).

Goal: Reduce response times for expedited requests. In the annual report of Fiscal Year 2005, the median request time for expedited requests exceeded the median number of days for a non expedited request. EOIR has evaluated this issue and intends to reduce the expedited request period. Target completion: 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• By the end of Fiscal Year 2006, the median number of days to process expedited requests reduced to be considerably less than the overall median. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Subject to available resources, additional targets to reduce the time will be set and implemented on an annual basis. To be completed by 9-30-06, 9-30-07, 9-30-08 (and continuing thereafter).

3. Monitor and expand public access to recurring information

Goal: Web site review. Consistent with the Strategic Plan adopted by EOIR, maintenance of electronic communication with the public is an essential function of the FOIA Requester Service Center. To meet these long-term goals EOIR is committed to regular review of its Web-based information. Target completion: 3-31-07 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Develop mechanism to send and receive information between headquarters and field offices. To be completed by 3-31-07.

• Provide quarterly notice to headquarters, components, and field offices about the requirements to place frequently requested information on the EOIR Web site. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Provide information to headquarters and field office personnel about a point of contact. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Send quarterly reminders to EOIR personnel. To be completed by 3-31-07, 6-30-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Link answers to the American Immigration Lawyers Association's quarterly meetings regarding FOIA issues to the FOIA Web pages. To be completed by 12-31-06, 3-31-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

Goal: Maximize affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2), through the prompt use of EOIR's electronic reading rooms. Target completion: 9-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Regularly review electronic reading rooms to enure that all possible information is listed. To be completed by 9-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Clarify and distinguish EOIR from Department of Homeland Security to reduce misdirected requests. To be completed by 9-15-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Improve customer satisfaction

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Monitor and expand public access to recurring information

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

-- Increase efficiency and reduce backlog

EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS (EOUSA)

A. NATURE OF EOUSA'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Executive Office for United States Attorneys Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Staff processes Freedom of Information Act/Privacy (FOIA/PA) requests for records maintained in ninety-three United States Attorneys' Offices (USAO) plus twelve offices within EOUSA. In Fiscal Year 2005, EOUSA received 3847 requests and completed processing 3835 requests. Approximately 80% of our requesters are prisoners requesting their case files. As a result, all of the case files are housed in the United States Attorneys' Offices around the country. Once records are received in the EOUSA FOIA/PA Office for processing, the intake staff logs the receipt of the records in the database, they are assembled and assigned to nine processors to review for possible release according to the FOIA. They are then reviewed by four attorneys for final action. Our biggest challenge is getting the records from the various offices that house the records.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

EOUSA reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Customer relations/Communications
-- FOIA Web pages/Reading room records
-- Backlog reduction
-- Annual report

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

EOUSA initiated its review by analyzing the number of requests received over a five- year period to determine if there has been any reduction in our backlog. Since 2001 there has been a reduction in our backlog each fiscal year except for Fiscal Year 2005. In 2005 the backlog increased by only twelve requests and then stood at 1709 requests as of February 2006. Since the end of Fiscal Year 2005, our backlog of pending requests continues to decline.

Upon a close review of the nature of our existing backlog, it was determined that the backlog of requests is mainly a result of the USAOs not sending in records in a timely manner. As a result, we have identified different avenues to encourage and help the USAOs to send in responsive records. In addition, considering the substantial number of requests we receive a year in proportion to the number of FOIA processors, we recognize the need to focus on procedures that will avoid a backlog within our processing unit.

In the area of customer relations/communications with requesters, we believe that EOUSA does an excellent job. Currently, we are sending an acknowledgment letter to our requesters within an average of five working days, and these letters always include a phone number that the requester can call with questions. Our staff regularly responds to inquiries in a timely manner. If there are any complaints, a supervisor on staff is contacted. We are easily accessible and are in regular contact with the requester by letter or phone. In an effort to improve communications with the requesters, we are revising our standard letters to requesters to provide more clarification and detail in an effort to reduce the amount of correspondence, appeals, and litigation. This will allow more processing time and backlog reduction.

This office also reviewed customer satisfaction in general. To provide full access to information the EOUSA FOIA/PA Staff already has a staff in place for requester comments, concerns, and complaints. A FOIA Public Liaison was named in February 2006 and front-line telephone officers are already in place. Front-line telephone officers are well trained and familiar with their responsibilities. In addition, correspondence letters are under review to ensure that they provide clear and helpful information to the FOIA requesters and FOIA contacts in the USAOs.

EOUSA has always strived to achieve a zero backlog. However, the number of requests received per year and the lack of control of the records requested has made this goal so far unattainable. We recognize this problem and are working to maximize efficiency and reduce the backlog in our FOIA office.

The EOUSA has an Evaluation and Review Staff (EARS) that annually reviews the USAOs' work productivity. Our FOIA Staff provides input to the EARS report regarding the backlog or any other concerns we have about the USAO responsiveness to FOIA requests. We try to notify the USAOs of their backlog well in advance of their scheduled review. As a result, the districts contact us and we work closely with the USAOs to reduce their backlog of outstanding requests. This is a process that has helped reduce the backlog and we will continue to do this.

The USAOs are advised to immediately determine if the records exist, how many records, and search two hours and provide an estimate of additional search time. We anticipate this will encourage the USAOs to respond quickly if they know they only have to do two hours of initial search. Often the USAOs delay searching for records if it appears to be a time consuming task. With this process in place, they are relieved of several hours of search time until the requester has agreed to pay. In addition, we are able to contact the requester with a status update in a quick turn-around time. If the requester agrees to pay, records have already been identified and labeled which makes it easier for the USAOs to continue their review. We have created forms to log this information.

EOUSA also reviewed its FOIA Web page. The EOUSA Web page provides much information and has been recently updated to provide more information. These pages will continue to be reviewed and updated. As we review requests and analyze calls from requesters, we will determine what additional information should be posted on the FOIA Web page.

We evaluated EOUSA's information technology capabilities and determined that our system works well for our office. There have been several updates to our database. We work closely with our technology staff and make recommendations for updates as needed. The technology staff discusses all changes with us and quarterly updates our database. We submitted a request for an automated annual report, which will reduce the time spent on preparing the annual report. This report should be in the next release of the quarterly update. We will propose the creation of a report/tracking system that will automatically notify the districts of their outstanding requests.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

-- Customer service
-- Backlog reduction/Efficiency
-- Public access to information
-- Annual report

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Customer service

Goal: To enhance use of automated FOIA/PA forms. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Review current FOIA/PA forms to check accuracy, improve readability, improve codes, and facilitate staff usage. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Make any needed forms upgrades to assist staff in responding to public FOIA/PA requests. The revised forms provide clear guidance and more information to both the requester and USAOs. This will reduce appeals, litigation, correspondence, and many phone calls from both the requesters and USAOs, thus allowing the staff more time to focus on processing records. To be completed by 7-30-06.

• Review and make any needed changes. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Train intake personnel by reviewing existing procedures with that personnel. Target completion: 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Training of intake staff. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Goal: Revise intake procedures to target sending an acknowledgment letter to the requester within five days of receipt of the request. Target completion: 8-30-06.

Steps

• Eliminate one step at the intake stage in an effort to reduce response time. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Review and evaluate. To be completed by 8-30-06.

2. Backlog reduction/Efficiency

Goal: Direct the USAOs to respond in a more timely manner. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Identify and address fee issues at initial stage to eliminate unnecessary processing. To be completed by 10-30-06.

• Make any necessary changes or revisions. To be completed by 12-31-06.

Goal: Set up a database that will periodically provide notices to the USAOs of all their pending requests. Target completion: 6-30-07.

Steps

• Meet with our technology staff to discuss a plan. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Implement database if feasible. To be completed by 1-31-07.

• Review and determine effectiveness. To be completed by 6-30-07.

Goal: To reduce the existing backlog of pending requests by substantial percentages, by periodically and consistently focusing on existing backlogs. Target completion: 9-1-07.

Steps

• Reduce the backlog by 33%. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• To reduce the backlog by 50%. To be completed by 2-28-07.

• To reduce the backlog by 75%. To be completed by 9-1-07.

Goal: Provide training to all new FOIA contacts in the USAOs as they arrive. Send out notices to the new contacts informing them that we can provide individual training at EOUSA or where feasible. Provide guidance by telecommunication devices, training manuals, or travel to our office. Target completion: 3-31-07 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Meet with one of the USAOs that has a large backlog and new FOIA Contacts. We will evaluate their internal case tracking system and provide advice on search procedures. In addition, we will give guidance on how to respond to our requests for records. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Continue to work closely with the FOIA Contacts, providing guidance as needed. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Review the manual and make necessary revisions. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Continue our bi-annual FOIA Contacts Seminar by working with the National Advocacy Training Center to set a date for our next seminar. To be completed by 3-31-07 (and continuing thereafter).

Goal: Ensure that in-house records are processed in a timely manner. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Run reports of outstanding in-house requests and conduct reviews with processors regularly to determine their workload status and readjust workload as necessary; concentrating on difficulties faced with processing the records received from the various offices. To be completed by 9-15-06, 10-15-06, 11-15-06, 12-15-06.

• Reassess whether the procedure is useful. To be completed by 12-31-06.

3. Public access to information

Goal: Enhance public Web access to EOUSA's procedures and resources. Maintenance of electronic communication with the public is an essential function for the FOIA Staff. In an effort to meet these goals, the EOUSA FOIA Staff will regularly review its Web-based information and make useful updates. Target completion: 8-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review www.usdoj.gov/usao/reading_room/guidefoia.html ("FOIA Guidance") to check for items in need of substantive revision, items in need of updating (such as hyperlinks and related regulations), etc. To be completed by 8-30-06, 12-30-06, 3-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Make any needed Web site corrections or revisions to assist public. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-30-06, 3-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

Goal: Ensure completeness of electronic reading room resources. Target completion: 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/reading_room/foiamanuals.html ("Electronic Reading Room") to check for additional items warranting affirmative posting pursuant to subsection (a)(2) (e.g., annual reports, policies, and manuals), and/or warranting proactive posting (e.g., database information that due to its nature would be of interest to the general public, subject to appropriate redactions). To be completed by 11-30-06.

• Make any needed Web site corrections or revisions to assist public. To be completed by 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Goal: Update Major Information Systems (MIS) per FOIA requirements. Target completion: 12-31-06, 3-31-06, 6-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

Steps

• Review http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/reading_room/indexfoia.html (MIS) for compliance with E-FOIA Amendments and coordination with related Privacy Act systems of records. To be completed by 11-30-06.

• Make any needed changes. To be completed by 12-31-06.

4. Annual report

Goal: Create a computer-generated annual report submission. Over the past several years we have been able to pull reports from our database, but all reports were run separately and information was manually pulled from these reports and then compared for accuracy. We determined that it would be less time consuming if we could create an automated program that would pull from all the individual reports and plug in all the information required in the annual report. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Review annual report data and work closely with our Case Management Staff to develop the program. (We have submitted our request to Case Management and expect to have a trial program operational in July 2006.) To be completed by 7-31-06.

• To have a final product. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Continue to update our database in order to reflect any changes or additions needed to the annual report. To be completed by 12-31-07, 12-31-08 (and continuing thereafter).

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Customer service
-- Public access to information
-- Annual report

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Backlog reduction/Efficiency

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR U.S. TRUSTEES (EOUST)

A. NATURE OF EOUST'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The United States Trustee Program ("Program") is the component of the Department of Justice responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases and trustees under title 11 of the United States Code. Also, since October 17, 2005, the Program approves credit counseling agencies and debtor education providers under title 11 of the United States Code. The Program consists of an Executive Office, twenty-one regional U.S. Trustees, and ninety-five district offices.

All FOIA and Privacy Act access requestsare centrally processed by the FOIA staff in the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) at the Executive Office. The OGC is comprised of a General Counsel, Deputy General Counsel, eight trial attorneys, one paralegal, and two administrative assistants. The FOIA staff consists of one FOIA/Privacy Act trial attorney and one paralegal in OGC, who process over seventy information requests per year. Both FOIA staff are full-time OGC employees, who have several other areas of responsibility besides the FOIA and are assigned special projects that, at times, may take priority over the FOIA work. A second paralegal from a district office was on detail in the OGC to help with FOIA processing from mid-February to May 25, 2006. The FOIA staff started using Redax software for redactions in January 2006. All other FOIA tracking and processing functions, including Bates-stamping, are performed manually.

Primarily, the majority of information requests seek records related to bankruptcy case files and associated records and bankruptcy trustee records. Many of the requests are voluminous as they seek bankruptcy case documents, pleadings, and trustee reports, as well as correspondence, internal memoranda, investigation files, and other records maintained by the Executive Office and U.S. Trustee field offices. Moreover, since October 2005, there have been several third-party requests for multiple credit counseling and debtor education providers' applications and associated records that the providers submitted to the Executive Office as part of the approval process. Such requests, seeking the release of business information of credit counseling agencies and debtor education providers, require more processing time because of the need to send "submitter notice" letters to the subject applicants under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4) and 28 C.F.R. § 16.8.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

EOUST reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
-- Proactive disclosure of information to reduce the need for FOIA requests
-- Improvement(s) to the FOIA Web site
-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Electronic FOIA -- automated processing
-- Electronic FOIA -- receiving requests electronically
-- Multi-track processing
-- Troubleshooting any existing problems (even minor ones) with existing request tracking
-- Case-by-case problem identification
-- Expedited processing procedures
-- Backlog reduction/elimination and improvements in timeliness
-- Politeness/courtesy
-- Forms of communications with requesters
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- System of handling referrals
-- System of handling consultations
-- Process by which necessary cooperation is sought/obtained from component program personnel
-- Improvement ideas from field office personnel where applicable
-- Additional training needed (formal and/or on-the-job)
-- In-house training on "safeguarding label"/exemption distinctions
-- Increased staffing
-- Changes to personnel (job series, grades, etc.) needed
-- Contracting out/hiring of contract employees
-- Purchase of new equipment needed
-- Recycling of improvement information from FOIA Requester Service Center

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

After a thorough review of EOUST's FOIA operations, including disclosures on the FOIA reading room Web site, automated systems, processing procedures and times, personnel, customer service, and staff training, it was determined that EOUST's FOIA operations were working quite well generally. Nevertheless, several areas were selected for improvement.

A review of EOUST's reading room found that the relevant information was posted on the Web site. All of the links worked properly, except the link from the Department's FOIA Web site to EOUST's FOIA reading room. All the information was up-to-date except for the address of the Office of Information and Privacy (OIP), which recently moved to a new office location. As a result, the link to the FOIA reading room was corrected and OIP's address was immediately updated to reflect the correct information. Other improvements to the FOIA Web site were made to make the FOIA reading room more prominently displayed on the Web site and to provide easier public access to information. All of these changes were made in April 2006.

A review of EOUST's automated systems indicated that tracking and processing functions, including Bates-stamping, are performed manually. The only electronic processing currently used is Redax software for redactions. A review indicated that processing requests electronically via the Web site would not be helpful. However, it was determined that a copy machine with automated scanning and Bates-stamping capabilities would be helpful. Secondarily, it was determined that automated tracking software may also be helpful
.

A review of EOUST's backlog showed that as of June 1, 2006, there is a backlog of eight complex FOIA requests. Five of the eight requests seek application and business information on numerous credit counseling and debtor education providers. These five requests require more processing time because of the need to send "submitter notice" letters to the subject applicants under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4) and 28 C.F.R. § 16.8. In addition, one of the eight requests requires more processing time because of the need to consult with another component. The remaining two requests involve time consuming searches for bankruptcy case records in various field offices and subsequent document review by FOIA staff. While EOUST cannot meet the required 20-day response time for these types of complex requests, it determined that a review of its processing procedures would be helpful to identify areas in need of improvement.

In the area of processing procedures and times, a review showed that the FOIA/Privacy Act Counsel has been delegated "interim adverse determinations under 28 CFR §16.6(c), et seq.," when the General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel are unavailable. The FOIA/Privacy Act Counsel makes all interim adverse determinations and signs all letters to the requesters, except for the final letters to the requesters, which are signed by the Acting General Counsel. Delegation to the FOIA/Privacy Counsel to sign specific final letters to requesters would improve processing time.

While the FOIA staff sends an initial response to expedited processing requests within five days, a review indicated that a form response would streamline the process. Also, a better method to track staff processing time was needed for fee calculations. It was determined that multi-track processing would not be helpful because the FOIA staff consists of only two people. Cooperation from EOUST senior staff and field office personnel is good overall.

A review of allocated FOIA personnel indicated that, because of the voluminous and complex nature of the types of FOIA requests received, more personnel resources may be needed for FOIA work. An evaluation of the quantity and complexity of FOIA requests over the past several years would be helpful to determine whether additional resources are needed. Additionally, it was determined that it would be helpful to investigate contracting out FOIA work to evaluate whether any time and cost saving measures could be achieved. The review indicated that the current FOIA paralegal was promoted to a higher grade in September 2005.

An evaluation of referrals and consultations indicated that EOUST receives numerous referrals from other components of the Department, and a few requests are referred to other components or agencies by EOUST each year. Also, EOUST has a few consultations with other components or agencies. To streamline the process and expedite the response time on consultations, it was determined that form letters for referrals and consultations and periodic follow-up on consultations would be helpful.

A review of customer service indicated that an acknowledgment letter that contained the FOIA number and contact information for the FOIA Requester Service Center would be helpful. It also was determined that a FOIA Requester Service Center phone log would help track the calls and collect comments/suggestions for improvement. Training on customer service would be helpful as well.

A review of staff training indicated that the FOIA/Privacy Counsel and FOIA Paralegal received formal Department FOIA/Privacy Act training entitled, "FOIA for Attorneys and Access Professionals" on November 30–December 2, 2004. The FOIA/Privacy Counsel also attended the Department's formal FOIA/Privacy Act training on February 15-17, 2005. The Paralegal, who was on detail to OGC, attended the Department's formal FOIA/Privacy Act training on January 24-26, 2006. All FOIA staff received in-house training in Redax software in January 2006. It was determined that annual formal training on FOIA/Privacy Act issues and/or informal staff training on FOIA exemptions, Redax software, and customer service would be helpful.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Disclosure/FOIA reading room Web site
-- Automated systems
-- Processing procedures and times
-- FOIA personnel
-- Referrals and consultations
-- Customer service
-- Recycling of improvement information from FOIA Requester Service Center
-- Staff training

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Disclosure/FOIA reading room Web site

Goal: EOUST will make affirmative disclosures through the FOIA reading room Web site, as required under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2), and will make additional improvements to the Web site as needed. Target completion: 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Conduct a quarterly review of the FOIA reading room Web site and check for accuracy. To be completed by 8-1-06, 11-1-06, 2-1-07, 5-1-07, 8-1-07, 11-1-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Ensure that FOIA reading room links are working properly. To be completed by 8-1-06, 11-1-06, 2-1-07, 5-1-07, 8-1-07, 11-1-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Review additional information to disclose/post to reduce FOIA requests. To be completed by 8-1-06, 11-1-06, 2-1-07, 5-1-07, 8-1-07, 11-1-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Determine further improvement(s) that can be made to the FOIA Web site. To be completed by 8-15-06, 11-15-06, 2-15-07, 5-15-07, 8-15-07, 11-15-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Make recommendations to senior management for any necessary changes to the FOIA Web site. To be completed by 9-1-06, 12-1-06, 3-1-07, 6-1-07, 9-30-07, 12-31-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• If approval is granted by senior management, coordinate with IT staff to make appropriate changes to the FOIA Web site. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 9-30-07, 12-31-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

2. Automated systems

Goal: EOUST will investigate the availability of a suitable copy machine with scanning and Bates-stamping capabilities for processing FOIA requests and determine the cost. Secondarily, EOUST will investigate the availability of a suitable automated FOIA tracking system and determine the cost. Target completion: 6-30-07.

Steps

• Investigate the availability of a suitable copy machine with scanning and Bates-stamping capabilities and the costs for purchase and installation. To be completed by 6-30-07.

• Based on the outcome of the investigation, consult with senior management regarding the purchase of new scanning and Bates-stamping equipment consistent with budget restraints. To be completed by 3-31-07.

• As a second priority, investigate automated FOIA tracking systems and determine the suitability and cost for purchase or internal development of an appropriate system. To be completed by 3-31-07.

• Based on the outcome of the investigation on automated FOIA tracking systems, report the findings to senior management. To be completed by 6-30-07.

3. Processing procedures and times

Goal: EOUST will make improvements in processing procedures and times. Greater efficiency will be achieved with delegation to the FOIA Privacy/Counsel to sign designated final letters to requesters. Target completion: 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Request a revised delegation to sign final letters to requesters that advise of "no responsive documents." To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Implement using a processing time form for each request to record each staff person's processing time in order to calculate FOIA fees accurately and efficiently. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Review the expedited processing procedures. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Develop a form response for expedited processing requests. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Hold quarterly staff meetings to identify case-by-case problems with processing procedures and consider possible remedies. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 9-30-07, 12-31-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

4. FOIA personnel

Goal: EOUST will evaluate the number and complexity of FOIA requests to determine if OGC needs to plan for an increased allocation of staff for FOIA work. EOUST will investigate and evaluate the option of contracting out FOIA work. Target completion: 1-31-07.

Steps

• Evaluate the number and complexity of FOIA requests over the past several fiscal years. To be completed by 11-30-06.

• Meet with the General Counsel regarding the analysis of the number and complexity of FOIA requests. To be completed by 1-31-07.

• Investigate contracting out FOIA work. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Meet with the General Counsel regarding whether time- and cost-saving measures can be achieved by contracting out FOIA work. To be completed by 1-31-07.

5. Referrals and consultations

Goal: EOUST will streamline its procedures for handling referrals and consultations. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Develop and implement a form referral letter. To be completed by 8-31-06.

• Develop a form consultation letter. To be completed by 8-31-06.

• Develop a tracking system for follow-up on consultations. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Send a letter to follow-up on consultations after thirty days, if necessary. To be completed by 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Call to follow up on consultations sixty days after the initial consultation request, if necessary. To be completed by 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

6. Customer service

Goal: EOUST will improve communications with requesters, both by phone and in letters, and will be polite and courteous in dealing with requesters. Target completion: 8-1-06.

Steps

• Review the overall adequacy and timing of acknowledgment letters. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• Develop an acknowledgment letter with the requester's FOIA number and the FOIA Requester Service Center's contact information for status inquiries. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• Implement sending a newly revised acknowledgment letter to each requester within five business days from receipt of each request. To be completed by 8-1-06.

7. Recycling of improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Center

Goal: Establish a formal process to document and make use of requester-provided information regarding improvements to our FOIA process. Target completion: 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Develop a FOIA Requester Service Center phone log to create a record for inquiries, comments, and follow-up calls. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Implement using a FOIA Requester Service Center phone log to track inquiries, comments, and follow-up calls. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• Hold quarterly staff meetings to discuss, capture, and make use of FOIA customer-service issues and improvement information obtained from the FOIA Requester Service Center calls. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 9-30-07, 12-31-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

8. Staff training

Goal: EOUST will investigate suitable formal FOIA training and will conduct in-house training for FOIA staff. Target completion: 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Investigate suitable formal FOIA training. To be completed by 8-1-06, 8-1-07.

• Attend annual formal FOIA training. To be completed by 12-31-06, 12-31-07 (and continuing thereafter).

• Coordinate and conduct in-house training for FOIA staff on Executive Order 13,392, FOIA exemption distinctions, other FOIA issues, customer service, and REDAX software. (Customer-service training also will include improvement information gleaned from the FOIA Requester Service Center calls.) To be completed by 9-30-06, 9-30-07.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Disclosure/FOIA reading room Web site
-- Processing procedures and times
-- Referrals and consultations
-- Customer service
-- Recycling of improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Center
-- Staff training

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Automated systems
-- FOIA personnel

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI)

A. NATURE OF FBI'S FOIA/PA OPERATIONS

The Federal Bureau of Investigation receives approximately 900 Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act (FOIA/PA) requests each month. Given the complexity of the FBI's mission, including significant national security responsibilities, the processing of FBI records for release to the public is often arduous. Many FBI records require declassification review and/or considerable research to determine what information may be released. Nevertheless, the FBI has attained the lowest number of pending FOIA/PA requests (December 2005 -- 1659) and the shortest time for pending requests (December 2005 -- 246 days) in the FBI's thirty years of processing FOIA/PA requests. These successes were achieved in great part through automated "paperless" processing of requests, which created greater efficiencies.

The year 2005 saw significant effort expended in responding to court-ordered processing deadlines, particularly for records relating to matters of topical interest such as the treatment of foreign detainees and re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act. In fact, 23% of the FBI's FOIA/PA employee resources were involved in meeting litigation requirements. In addition, the FBI began a systematic program to complete the sixty-seven requests that had been pending for more than two years. Almost all of these sixty-seven requests required declassification review, consultations with other agencies, and were in excess of 1000 pages. In May 2006, only twenty-six of these requests remained, with interim releases being made in each of these requests.

In 2005, the FBI negotiation team removed over one million pages. Through discussions with requesters, FBI analysts understood the nature of documents sought in the request. By reviewing voluminous investigative records, they pinpointed responsive documents and eliminated extraneous or duplicate information, allowing the requester to receive records much more quickly.

During 2006 the FBI noted a continuation of requests for internal policy documents, expedited requests/court ordered deadlines for records relating to topical issues, and continued complexity of requests due to the law enforcement/national security mix in FBI records. The trend towards reducing the number of pending requests and reduction in the median processing time continued until March 2006, when the monthly rate of new requests quadrupled.

In February 2006, the FBI's Record Management Division (RMD) began its move to a location outside of the Washington, DC area. While this move will significantly benefit the FBI's FOIA/PA processing in the long term, RMD is experiencing a short-term loss of experienced employees. This year's influx of new requests and short-term loss of employees represent significant challenges.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

In establishing planning considerations, the FBI identified two basic areas of focus: internal processing (i.e., focus on FBI's FOIA/PA processing system), and customer-oriented processes (see area breakdowns below).

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

In assessing the FBI's FOIA/PA processing system, the FBI used the following two basic assessment criteria; speed of processing -- ability to move requests through the processing system; and accuracy in processing -- ability to correctly locate relevant records and apply exemptions. The FBI did not consider the number of pending requests as an accurate indicator of the efficiency of the FBI's FOIA/PA processing. While the speed that the FBI is able to process requests impacts the number of pending requests, other variables such as: (1) change in volume -- the number of requests received over a period of time; (2) change in the complexity of the requests -- the difficulty in locating records and determining the appropriate exemptions/exclusions; and (3) change in the size of the requests -- the number of pages associated with a request, can impact the number of pending requests regardless of the efficiency of the processing system.

The FBI identified three factors that influence the speed and accuracy of the FBI's FOIA/PA processing: (1) the efficacy of the FBI's record system, (2) the quantity and quality of FOIA/PA human resources, and (3) the effectiveness of the FBI's FOIA/PA processing policies and design. The basic assessment tool for measuring speed was derived from the FOIA/PA automated processing system metrics from four sub-processes: (1) receipt/search, (2) record retrieval, (3) analysis of the request, and (4) delivery to the requester. The basic assessment for accuracy was derived from review of "bad results," spot checks, appeal results, and litigation issues.

In assessing the FBI's customer oriented processes, the FBI used information from its call center, complaints received from the public, reviewed public Web sites that commented on FBI FOIA/PA processing, congressional correspondence, and FOIA/PA appeals. The FBI divided the information into two categories: (1) submissions on speed and accuracy of processing, and (2) submissions relating to the ease-in learning the status of a request, of using the FBI's Reading Room and FOIA/PA Web site, and in submission of requests. It was determined that the first category related to the efficiency of the FBI's FOIA/PA processing system. The remainder were considered relevant to the customer-oriented processes.

As the FBI already has a fully operational automated FOIA/PA processing system, the greatest opportunity for improvement can be obtained through improvements to those areas where manual functions are performed, particularly in the receipt/search and record-retrieval sub-processes. As the FOIA/PA processing system is tied to the FBI's greater records system, many of the improvements to these sub-processes will be derived from the FBI's comprehensive program to improve its record system, including development of a central repository for all closed records, scanning of records and development of electronic case files, all to eliminate paper records and the manual movement of records. Also crucial are the development of new search tools and implementation of a records management application. Concurrently, the FBI will modify its automatic FOIA/PA processing system to be better integrated into future FBI systems, as well as continue to make internal improvements to the system.

Notwithstanding improvements in the numbers of pending requests, reduction of median processing times, or greater efficiencies, the FBI recognizes that certain large complex requests should not remain pending for lengthy periods. The FBI is focused on eliminating a legacy of such large, difficult requests.

Also essential is maintaining a skilled workforce in sufficient numbers to process requests. The current allocation of positions is sufficient, when fully staffed and trained, to effectively meet mission requirements. While not highlighted in the Executive Order, it is of vital importance to both the FBI and requesters that the FOIA/PA processing be accurate and of high quality.

The FBI has had in place a Public Information Officer who could immediately determine the status of a request, Web site submission of requests, and frequent contact with requesters for large requests. The FBI has established a FOIA Requester Service Center and modified its Web page with points of contact for requesters. The FBI will routinely assess the effectiveness of these areas. The most common requester complaint is not receiving periodic updates on the status of a request. Given the large volume of requests, the FBI is focused on leveraging the capabilities of its automated FOIA/PA processing system to provide periodic updates on the status of a request.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- FBI record system:
-- Adequacy of automated indices; increase search accuracy, decrease search time
-- Impact of using manual indices; increase search accuracy, decrease search time
-- Impact of paper files; reduce lost files, reduce manual movement of files, increase use of scanning
-- Records compliance; reduce missing serials, reduce lost files, capture e-mails
-- File series classifications; reduce use of "catch-all" series, increase specificity of subject matter within files
-- Human resources:
-- Maintain number of employees
-- Increase skill level of employees
-- Improve level and quality of effort of employees
-- FOIA/PA process design/Processing policies:
-- Review one-stop or multi-step sub-processes for efficiency
-- Review level of automation; in order to reduce the amount of manual movement, increase processing speed, increase OCR capability, increase use of pre-processed requests, speed retrieval of scanned records, possibility of one-touch scanning, and volume/speed of delivery
-- Review current processing policies to determine effectiveness of multiple tracks, parallel processing, interim releases, and negotiation
-- Review current metric collection to ensure they accurately measure speed and accuracy, compile annual reports, measure meaningful work, and are acquired with minimum manual effort
-- Complete large complex requests in a more timely manner
-- Improve customer's ability to determine the status of a FOIA request
-- Improve the FBI's FOIA/PA Web site reading room
-- Improve methods for submission of requests

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. FBI record system

Goal: Develop Central Record Complex. (This will improve receipt/search, record-retrieval, and delivery sub-processes by greatly minimizing lost files and manual movement of files.) Target completion: 12-31-08.

Steps

• Participate in and finish all aspects of plan for Central Record Complex in Winchester, VA. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Complete Phase I of move of FOIA/PA employees to Winchester, VA. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Complete Phase II of move of FOIA/PA employees to Winchester, VA. To be completed by 9-30-07.

• Complete Phase III of move of FOIA/PA employees to Winchester, VA. To be completed by 12-31-08.

Goal: Dispose of or transfer files to NARA per approved schedule. (This will improve receipt/search and record-retrieval sub-processes by increasing search accuracy, decreasing search time, and reducing lost files, missing serials, and manual movement of files.) Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Review over five million pages for transfer NARA or destruction, inventory, and remove out-of-service files at one HQ Division and three major field offices. To be completed by 12-31-06.

Goal: Review file classifications. (This will improve receipt/search and record-retrieval sub-processes by making file series classifications more specific and eliminating the use of "catch-all" file series.) Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Eliminate general file series and implement new series for administrative records. To be completed by 9-30-06.

Goal: Emphasize compliance with recordkeeping requirements. (This will improve receipt/search and record-retrieval sub-processes by reducing missing serials and lost files, as well as proper recordkeeping for e-mails.) Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Increase Director emphasis on the need for recordkeeping compliance, with new RMD video on recordkeeping standards and compliance. To be completed by 9-30-06.

Goal: Development of FBI Sentinel Project, including a FBI Records Management Application, electronic case files, and new search capabilities. (This will impact receipt/search and record-retrieval sub-processes by increasing search accuracy, by decreasing search time, and by reducing lost files, missing serials, and manual movement of files.) Target completion: 12-31-07.

Steps

• Participate in Sentinel planning and Business Process Review. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Complete FOIA/PA automated processing system integration with electronic case file and new search capabilities. To be completed by 12-31-07.

• Complete FBI Records Management Application. To be completed by 12-31-07.

2. Human resources

Goal: Fill vacant employee positions. (This will improve ability to process requests more quickly.) Target completion: 9-30-07.

Steps

• Fill sixty vacant positions. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Fill remaining vacancies. To be completed by 9-30-07.

Goal: Increase employee education level. (This will improve quality and consistency of processing.) Target completion: 6-30-06.

Steps

• Require bachelors degree or equivalent experience for entry-level positions. To be completed by 6-30-06.

Goal: Develop and implement formal, in-house training programs. (This will improve quality and consistency of processing, and ability to process requests more quickly.) Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Develop and implement formal training programs for search skills, declassification, FOIA/PA redaction, and automated processing. To be completed by 12-31-06.

Goal: Develop individual production metrics. (This will improve ability to process requests more quickly.) Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Implement automated individual production metrics for FOIA/PA declassification review teams. To be completed by 7-31-06.

Goal: Develop and measure individual quality metrics. (This will improve quality and consistency of processing.) Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

Complete implementation of spot-check program for the entire FOIA/PA process. To be completed by 12-31-06.

3. FOIA process policies and design

Goal: Improve existing process through focus on use of IT enhancements to the existing automated processing system. (This will improve ability to process requests more quickly.) Target completion: 7-15-06.

Steps

• Establish a FOIA/PA Process Board and an IT Change-Management Board. To be completed by 7-15-06.

Goal: Develop within the automated processing system OCR capability parallel with scanned images to identify duplicate documents. (This will improve quality and consistency of processing.) Target completion: 12-31-06

Steps

• Submit proposal before the IT Change-Management Board. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Develop prototype process for testing. To be completed by 10-31-06.

• Implement OCR capability. To be completed by 12-31-06.

Goal: Develop within the automated processing system enhanced recognition of similar requests. (This will improve quality and consistency of processing, and thus ability to process requests more quickly.) Target completion: 3-31-07.

Steps

• Submit proposal before the IT Change-Management Board. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Develop prototype for testing. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Implement enhanced recognition of similar requests. To be completed by 3-31-07.

Goal: Review current processing policies to determine effectiveness of multiple tracks, parallel processing, interim releases, focus on old requests, and negotiation. (This will improve ability to process requests more quickly.) Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Review all current processes at the bi-monthly at the FOIA/PA Process Board. To be completed by 9-30-06.

Goal: Review current metric collections to ensure that they accurately measure speed and accuracy, compile annual reports, measure meaningful work, and are acquired with minimum manual effort. (This will improve quality and consistency of processing, and thus ability to process requests more quickly.) Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Review all current processes at the bi-monthly at the FOIA/PA Process Board. To be completed by 9-30-06.

Goal: Continue emphasis on completing requests over two years old. (This will improve ability to process requests more quickly.) Target completion: 8-15-07.

Steps

• Identify, develop, and implement processing plans for all requests between August 15, 2002 and August 15, 2003. To be completed by 8-15-06.

• Complete all requests older than August 15, 2002. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Complete all requests older than August 15, 2003. To be completed by 4-15-07.

• Complete all requests older than August 15, 2005. To be completed by 8-15-07.

Goal: Decrease by 10% from Fiscal Year 2005 the median processing time for requests in the small (0-500 pages) and medium (501-1500 pages) queues. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Reduce the median processing time for small requests from 161 days to 145 days. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Reduce the median processing time for medium requests from 521 days to 469 days. To be completed by 9-30-06.

Goal: Decrease by 20% from Fiscal Year 2005 the median pending time for all requests. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Reduce median pending time for all requests from 286 days to 229 days. To be completed by 9-30-06.

4. Improvements in customer ability to determine the status of a request

Goal: Review FOIA Requester Service Center logs. Target completion: 1-15-07, 1-15-08, 10-31-08.

Steps

• Review public input from FOIA Requester Service Center at bi-monthly FOIA/PA Process Board meetings. To be completed by 1-15-07, 1-15-08, 10-31-08.

Goal: Review politeness/courtesy goals for interactions with requesters.Target completion: 6-30-06.

Steps

• Have all FOIA/PA employees review politeness/courtesy goals for interactions with customers. To be completed by 6-30-06.

Goal: Determine feasibility of automatic generation of status letters as requests move through FOIA/PA sub-processes. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Discuss feasibility of automatic generation of status letters at the bi-monthly FOIA/PA Process Board. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Develop prototype process for testing. To be completed by 10-31-06.

• Implement automatic generation of status letters. To be completed by 12-31-06.

5. Improvements to the FBI's FOIA Web site reading room

Goal: Improve Web site usability. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Review Web site navigation, layout with ITOD. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Review Web site navigation, layout with ITOD. To be completed by 12-31-06.

Goal: Update the FBI's general reading room and its FOIA/PA Web site's electronic reading room. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Review reading room and electronic reading room materials that "begin with A to C." To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Delete seldom-visited items (if not required to be posted under subsection (a)(2)) and add more recent/topical requests. To be completed by 12-31-06.

6. Improvements to methods for submission of requests

Goal: Review current methods (letter, fax, and Web site) for submission of requests to determine if other media are desired. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Review effectiveness of all existing methods for submission of FOIA/PA requests at the bi-monthly FOIA/PA Process Board. To be completed by 12-31-06.

7. Expedited processing

Goal: Review current procedures regarding the handling of expedited treatment requests, and implement practices necessary to ensure compliance with Department practices. Target completion: 8-31-06.

Steps

• Review procedures for immediate handling of requests for expedited treatment. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Create a mechanism that will ensure compliance with Department procedures for handling of expedited treatment requests, most particularly prompt notification to requesters of all action taken on such requests. To be completed by 8-31-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Improvements to the FBI's FOIA Web site reading room
-- Improvements to methods for submission of requests
-- Expedited processing

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Human resources
-- FOIA process policies and design

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

-- FBI record system
-- Improvements in customer ability to determine the status of a request

FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS (BOP)

A. NATURE OF BOP'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a Central Office location and several field offices. Requests are received in the Central Office and assigned to field offices based on the location of the records. Request are scanned into a document management system and in a majority of the offices are reviewed and redacted electronically.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

BOP reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Technology
-- Communication with requesters
-- Staffing
-- Training
-- Feedback
-- Perpetual auditing
-- Multi-track processing
-- Troubleshooting of request tracking
-- FOIA Web site
-- Affirmative disclosure
-- Proactive disclosure
-- Expedited processing
-- Recycling information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Center
-- Referrals/Consultations
-- Centralization/decentralization structure
-- Backlog-reduction project

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

As a result of its review, BOP determined that current standard operating procedures meet or exceed expectations in relation to:

BOP reviewed current procedures and considered avenues of improvement related to electronic processing including automated processing and the submission of Web-based FOIA requests. We also considered and reviewed possible areas of improvement in electronic request tracking and improvements to the public Web site.

BOP has accepted FOIA requests through the Web for several years. These electronic submissions are subject to automated processing thus reducing the amount of staff time necessary in the initial stage of processing. Through the recent conversion to a paperless office and a new document-management system, BOP has installed/improved automated tracking capabilities. In conjunction with this conversion BOP also planned and implemented the purchase of new equipment.

BOP reviewed areas related to communication such as politeness/courtesy exhibited by staff, and improvement in the manner, frequency, adequacy, and content of phone, electronic, and hard-copy correspondence.

BOP has established a FOIA Requester Service Center with a telephone line dedicated solely for the use of FOIA requesters seeking status information related to their request. General FOIA calls seeking information or guidance are handled through the main FOIA line. Within the last year, the document-management system/database used by BOP was modified to automatically generate acknowledgment letters. Several other letters (fee letters, rejection letters, etc.) that can be auto-generated were also developed to speed response times and ensure consistent response.

Practices and procedures for seeking, receiving, and incorporating feedback, input, or suggestions from staff, requesters and the customer service center in relation to ongoing improvements were reviewed. This includes a feedback from component program personnel.

BOP routinely seeks input from all FOIA staff via surveys or "e-mail threads." Informal solicitations are also frequently solicited.

The need and adequacy of staff training for both FOIA personnel and other component staff working with FOIA personnel was reviewed. This includes training that might facilitate cooperation from component program personnel.

BOP conducts formal and informal training several times each year and no less than once every three months. Training is also provided to other component program personnel in order to improve process and cooperation.

BOP reviewed and considered the concept of continuous case-by-case problem identification, possible generic fixes, proactive disclosures, and affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2).

BOP evaluates and considers generic fixes for unusual or recurring problems via an e-mail discussion board in which all FOIA staff participate as the issues arise.

BOP reviewed staffing and the possibility of contract staffing in relation to backlog reduction or elimination. We also reviewed possible needs for increased staffing or changes to office structure and staffing.

Within the last year, the staffing of BOP's FOIA Office was reviewed and restructured to optimize speed and efficiency.

In the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2005, the BOP FOIA Office initiated a backlog-reduction project. At the beginning of that quarter there were 1208 requests older than twenty days. As of June 6, 2006, there were 605 requests older than twenty days, a reduction of more than 50%.

Multi-track processing has been effectively used for several years. A determination was made that the current system is most effective at this time.

The BOP FOIA Office continually reviews data-entry techniques and takes steps to ensure consistency.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- FOIA Web site
-- Affirmative disclosure
-- Proactive disclosure
-- Expedited processing procedures
-- Recycle improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Centers
-- Referrals/Consultations
-- Centralization/decentralization structure
-- Backlog-reduction project

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Public Web site

Goal: Ensure that information on the public Web site is consistently up-to-date and accurate. Target completion: 11-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review Web site to determine if (1) information is easily located; (2) information is presented in a clear and precise manner; and (3) information is accurate and current. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Immediately correct or modify Web site information as determined necessary. To be completed by 11-1-06.

2. Affirmative disclosure

Goal: Establishing and implementing periodic review of subsection (a)(2) by ensuring continuous statutory compliance with posting frequently requested records, policy statement, staff manual and instructions to staff, and final agency opinions on the Web site. Target completion: 7-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review current disclosure list. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Appoint subsection (a)(2) liaison in FOIA Office. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Train appropriate staff on subsection (a)(2) requirements. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Conduct quarterly review to ensure compliance with subsection (a)(2). To be completed by 6-30-06, 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-06, 6-30-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

3. Proactive disclosure of information

Goal: Reduce the number of requests filed by increasing dissemination of records that can be made available to the public without the necessity of a FOIA request. Target completion: 6-30-07 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Review current frequently requested records list. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Modify Web site to reflect changes identified by bi-annual review. To be completed by 4-1-07.

• Conduct quarterly review of frequently requested records. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

4. Expedited processing procedures

Goal: Ensure compliance with time limits related to expedited processing. At the close of Fiscal Year 2008, compliance with time limits for expedited processing should be no less than 80%. Target completion: 6-30-07.

Steps

• Appoint Central Office expedited processing liaison. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Review/establish procedure for immediate identification of request for expedited treatment. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Provide training to all field staff on the proper procedures and requirements for expedited processing. To be completed by 6-30-07.

5. Recycling of improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Center

Goal: Cull, compile, and use suggestions, concerns, and ideas received via the FOIA Requester Service Center, with a goal of recorded assistance showing no less than 90% of appropriate customer-service standards (random review rated as acceptable/unacceptable/ exemplary by supervisory staff). 12-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Investigate the implementation of taping requester-provided information for the making of generic improvements. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Log suggestions and ideas culled from service center. To be completed by 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 9-30-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Share the logs with appropriate FOIA staff quarterly. To be completed by 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 9-30-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

6. Referrals/Consultations

Goal: Improve system of handling incoming referrals and consultations, with a goal of a 40% decrease in processing time by December 2007. Target completion: 11-30-06.

Steps

• Develop practice of attempting release via consultation before referral. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• Develop procedures to ensure referrals and consultations are made as expeditiously as possible. To be completed by 11-30-06.

7. Centralization/decentralization structure

Goal: Review BOP FOIA administration to determine effectiveness of FOIA administration structure in relation to centralization/decentralization. Target completion: 9-1-07.

Steps

• Identify detailed workflow. To be completed by 10-30-06.

• Identify record-location and record-retrieval methods. To be completed by 3-1-07.

• Evaluate pros and cons of centralization/decentralization of staffing. To be completed by 9-1-07.

8. Backlog-reduction project

Goal: Reduce the number of requests pending for more than twenty days to no more than 5% (in three staged intervals, i.e., 15%, 10%, and then 5%) of the total number of requests received for the fiscal year. Target completion: 3-1-08.

Steps

• Review and cull backlog list. To be completed by 10-1-06.

• 15% goal. To be completed by 3-1-07.

• 10% goal. To be completed by 10-1-07.

• 5% goal. To be completed by 3-1-08.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Public Web site
-- Affirmative disclosures
-- Recycling of improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Center
-- Referrals/Consultations

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- Expedited processing procedures
-- Centralization/decentralization structure

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

-- Backlog-reduction project

FOREIGN CLAIMS SETTLEMENT COMMISSION (FCSC)

A. NATURE OF FCSC'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission receives a nominal volume of requests annually. Typically, the FCSC receives under ten requests per year and the response is completed within two days of our office receiving the request.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

The FCSC reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Customer service
-- FOIA Web site improvement

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

The FCSC reviewed its FOIA operations and determined that, because the FCSC receives very few FOIA requests, we would focus on ensuring the continued professional delivery of customer service and on improving our FOIA Web site.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Customer service
-- FOIA Web site improvement

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Customer service

Goal: Provide training and orientation to the FCSC FOIA staff to ensure our continued professional delivery of customer service. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Provide training to the FCSC FOIA staff on the customer-service requirements highlighted in the Executive Order. To be completed by 7-31-06.

2. FOIA Web site improvement

Goal: Improve the FCSC FOIA Web site in order to provide more information to the public more promptly pertaining to current decisions on individual claims. Target completion: 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Refine and update process for locating and posting subsection (a)(2) reading room documents. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Review the FCSC FOIA Web site quarterly to ensure that information is current and relevant documents are posted. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 9-30-07, 12-31-07, 3-31-08, 6-30-08, 9-30-08, 12-31-08.

• Examine ways to improve the FCSC FOIA Web site to make it more user-friendly. To be completed by 9-30-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Customer service
-- FOIA Web site improvement

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

INTERPOL-U.S. NATIONAL CENTRAL BUREAU (USNCB)

A. NATURE OF USNCB'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The INTERPOL-U.S. National Central Bureau processes Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act (FOIA/PA) requests mainly from inmates who are interested in obtaining USNCB records related to themselves. Occasionally, requests are received from law firms representing clients, newsgathering institutions and other organizations, college students, businesses, and third-party requesters.

The USNCB's Office of General Counsel has oversight of its Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act programs; however, the Director is the official denial authority. In Fiscal Year 2005, the USNCB received 206 requests and completed the processing of 205 requests. Of these requests, 184 requests were processed within six days. Many of the FOIA requests processed by the USNCB are for records from our investigative case files which contain sensitive but unclassified law enforcement information and require careful handling. These requests were primarily processed by the FOIA/PA Specialist. The USNCB does not have a backlog.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

The USNCB reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Customer relations/Communications
-- Multi-track processing
-- Response letters
-- FOIA Web pages/Reading room record

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

After considering the above-noted areas for review, the USNCB determined that the processing of FOIA requests is working effectively, but nonetheless found several areas to improve.

As one of the main elements addressed in Executive Order 13,392 is customer relations, this area was reviewed carefully to identify additional steps to make the USNCB's operation more citizen-centered and results-oriented. Our review resulted in the identification of several measures that can be implemented to gain better results.

The USNCB acknowledges FOIA requests by letter within twenty working days. These letters include the name and phone number of a contact person that the requester can call with questions. Additionally, the USNCB frequently receives requests that are not proper FOIA requests because they are unclear or contain some other deficiency. The current practice is to respond to requesters by sending letters which address deficiencies. This practice results in delays as correspondence is mailed back and forth. In the future, the USNCB will attempt to address deficiencies by calling such requesters by telephone, thereby eliminating mail-related delays. When the USNCB receives requests which seek records that we do not maintain, we will similarly inform the requester by telephone and direct them to the appropriate other agency, if that information is known.

Also, we will review the USNCB's performance in responding to FOIA Requester Service Center telephone calls concerning the status of FOIA requests to ensure that appropriate communication is being conducted with the FOIA requester. Additionally, a tracking system will be initiated by establishing a log of calls received. This log will assist the USNCB in reviewing and evaluating the types of calls it receives and the results of those calls.

Another area which was examined for improvement was our multi-track processing system. Presently, the USNCB uses a three-track system in processing its FOIA requests. Requests are segregated into simple, complex, and expedited requests. Requests with few or no records or no consultations are placed in the simple track; requests with many records are placed in the complex track; and requests that meet the standards required for expediting a request, are placed in the expedited track. All requests in these three tracks are processed on a first in/first out basis. In the future, requests in the simple track will be assigned to additional component personnel for processing. This will permit the USNCB's primary FOIA specialist to concentrate on processing the more complex and expedited requests, thus creating a shorter response time.

Since most FOIA requesters appeal the USNCB's decisions to deny access to records, we reviewed the USNCB's response letters to requesters who were being denied records. For example, the USNCB most commonly withholds records which were acquired from foreign National Central Bureaus. The USNCB is by policy prohibited from further dissemination of information received from a foreign source without its prior approval. Besides citing the exemption(s) applied to the records being denied, a more detailed explanation of the reason(s) for denial of those records will be included in our responses. This should decrease the number of appeals and litigation caused by misunderstanding.

We reviewed our FOIA Web site as well. The USNCB's Web site offers a vast amount of information about the USNCB's FOIA operation, and includes links to the Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act Reference Guide and the Department's FOIA page. However, there remains room for improvement. Therefore, we are in the process of redesigning the USNCB Web site with the intention of making it more user-friendly and easier to navigate. Also, we will identify additional frequently requested records (those which have been or are expected to be the subject of three or more requests) and post those to the Web site.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Customer relations/Communications
-- Multi-track processing
-- Response letters
-- FOIA Web pages/Reading room records

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Customer relations/Communications

Goal: Ensure that our FOIA operation is citizen-centered and results-oriented. Target completion: 8-1-06.

Steps

• Review the performance of the USNCB's answers to calls to the FOIA Requester Service Center in order to make improvements in how to determine the status of a request and when the requester should be referred to the FOIA Public Liaison for a more detailed account of his request, if one is needed. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Create a log to record calls to the FOIA Requester Service Center, take notes of what is being requested, and take notes on what the results were. To be completed by 7-15-06.

• Review of this log to record calls to the FOIA Requester Service Center log to monitor improvements in this area. To be completed by 8-1-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

2. Multi-track processing

Goal: Increase efficiency in processing FOIA requests and eliminate any potential backlog. Target completion: 8-1-06.

Steps

• Segregate all requests into three groups: (1) simple; (2) complex; and (3) expedited. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Assign all simple requests to additional component personnel for processing. Such requests will include the "no records" requests, or easily obtainable existing materials. This step will permit the primary FOIA Specialist to concentrate on processing more complex and expedited requests, thus creating a shorter response time. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Assign FOIA-related tasks (such as retrieval of responsive records and photocopying of records) to additional component personnel. This step will permit the primary FOIA Specialist to concentrate on processing requests, thus creating a shorter response time. To be completed by 8-1-06.

3. Response letters

Goal: To better communicate the results of our search for responsive records and to explain the disposition of those records. Since most FOIA requesters appeal the USNCB's decision to withhold records totally, explain the denial of those records in a more comprehensive and effective manner. This should decrease the number of appeals and litigation caused by misunderstanding. Target completion: 12-1-06.

Steps

• Segregate all records into four categories (referred, partial denial, total denial, and total grant) and explain in greater detail the reason for the totally denied records. To be completed by 11-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Document and cover in the response letter everything that was done with the request, from inception until completion thereof. To be completed by 12-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

4. FOIA Web site/Reading room records

Goal: Redesign the USNCB Web site to better serve the needs of its customers, and to structure the Web site in a manner that will be customer-friendly and easy to navigate to retrieve desired information. Target completion: 11-20-06.

Steps

• Review Web page template in accordance with Department of Justice polices and guidance. To be completed by 10-30-06.

• Insert current Web site information into template and save. To be completed by 11-15-06.

• Review the USNCB Web site quarterly to ensure that information is current and relevant documents are posted for technical issues. To be completed by 7-1-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Obtain approval from the Department of Justice Web Content Manager to publish Web pages. To be completed by 11-20-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Customer relations/Communications
-- Multi-track processing
-- Response letters
-- FOIA Web pages/Reading room records

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

JUSTICE MANAGEMENT DIVISION (JMD)

A. NATURE OF JMD'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Justice Management Division does not have a centralized FOIA unit. JMD's various staffs process FOIA requests that pertain to documents that they maintain, with the advice of the Office of General Counsel (OGC) as needed. The General Counsel reviews and signs all denials of FOIA requests directed to JMD. The number of FOIA requests received by JMD for records that are maintained by JMD is relatively small, but many are particularly complex. In FY 2005, there were approximately 180 requests for records maintained by JMD.

Of those FOIA requests, the greatest number (eighty-one) were for records related to procurements and thus were handled by JMD's Procurement Services Staff (PSS). FOIA requests handled by PSS often involve business information that was submitted to the Department by a third-party entity (the submitter). At least a quarter of the time, PSS is required to notify the submitter of PSS's receipt of the request for the information and allow the submitter to object to the release of proprietary information. If the submitter objects to some portion of the information requested, PSS consults with OGC before making a determination regarding whether to release it. If information is to be released over a submitter's objection, the submitter must be notified and given an opportunity to take action. Those FOIA requests that involve submitter objections to release of the information usually take the greatest number of days to resolve.

In addition to FOIA requests that are directed by the requester to JMD, JMD's Mail Referral Unit, which is part of its Facilities and Administrative Services Staff (FASS), receives FOIA requests to the Department of Justice that are not directed to any specific Department component and it forwards them to the appropriate component or components. See 28 C.F.R. § 16.3(a) (2005). The Mail Referral Unit receives and forwards more than 2000 FOIA requests per year. The FOIA responsibilities in the Mail Referral Unit are primarily handled by two dedicated full-time FOIA clerks (contractors) who review the incoming FOIA requests, prepare acknowledgment letters, and after approval by a government employee forward the FOIA requests to the component(s) most likely to maintain the records requested. If the records requested are not records that the Department would maintain, the Mail Referral Unit will send a response to the requester indicating that the Department does not have the records requested. The Mail Referral Unit does not have a backlog.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

JMD reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- FOIA Web pages/Reading room records
-- Use of information technology
-- Backlog reduction
-- Customer relations/Communications

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

After a review of the items identified in Part B, above, JMD determined that although the processing of FOIA requests works fairly well considering the relatively small number of FOIA requests received and the fact that the JMD FOIA process is decentralized, there are areas that can be improved. The first area we reviewed is FOIA Web pages and reading room records. We determined that some pages contain obsolete records that should be deleted. We also learned that the total figures regarding JMD in the Department's annual FOIA report are problematic as to the way FOIA requests that are received by the Mail Referral Unit sometimes have been counted. FOIA requests forwarded to components have been counted by the JMD Mail Referral Unit and also by the component receiving them, resulting in double-counting in some instances. This problem will be corrected in the next annual report.

Next we reviewed our use of information technology and explored our options with respect to improvements in that area. For FOIA requests directed to JMD, we currently track FOIA requests in our correspondence tracking system. For FOIA requests received by the Mail Referral Unit, the requests are tracked manually. Some staffs, including PSS, accept FOIA requests by e-mail and correspond with requesters by e-mail as appropriate. However, in general, JMD does not receive, process, or respond to FOIA requests electronically. We determined, in sum, that JMD's FOIA processing operations do not utilize information technology to the fullest. We met with representatives from another agency who demonstrated their automated FOIA processes. We also met with contractors and IT personnel to discuss the information technology solutions that might be available to us. Because of the small volume of FOIA requests that we process, though, it does not make sense for us to independently seek an IT solution.

With respect to the Mail Referral Unit, we considered scanning incoming FOIA requests into the correspondence tracking system and transmitting them electronically to components. We determined that making this change would not be practicable at this time because it would require modifications to JMD's current mail referral contract and would require more staffing and training. In addition, we are concerned that cobbling together a less-than-ideal IT FOIA tracking and processing system could potentially cause as much harm as good. We understand that OIP is exploring IT solutions for FOIA processing for leadership office requests and we believe it would be most efficient to wait for OIP to complete its ongoing process regarding such IT solutions, which may be expected to benefit the Department as a whole. If this has not reached fruition at the time the mail referral unit contract is modified, we will consider adjusting our contract requirements to include an automated system for processing FOIA requests. Finally, we determined that we could automate our FOIA tracking for the purpose of compiling annual FOIA report statistics for the JMD offices. A collateral benefit of this improvement is that we will have improved tracking of the elements that are captured in the annual report should a requester seek such information.

In reviewing our backlog, we determined that most of our simple FOIA requests are handled in a relatively timely manner. The complicated FOIA requests that take the greatest number of days to resolve generally involve third-party information where there is disagreement as to whether the information may be released. The involvement of the Office of General Counsel for any such requests, as well as any response involving a denial, also adds to the time it takes to resolve these requests. Finally, the combination of existing staffing and workload does not always allow FOIA requests to be responded to in a timely manner. Because the volume of requests that JMD processes is relatively small, FOIA processing is a collateral duty for all JMD staff involved. It would not make economic sense for us to have a centralized FOIA office. We will, however, take steps to reduce the backlog by making more model letters available to staff who process FOIA requests in order to shorten the amount of time needed to respond. We will focus on requests that are the oldest and take steps to resolve them. We will also review a sampling of referrals and "no records" determinations by the Mail Referral Unit to ensure that they are accurate. While this latter step does not affect JMD's FOIA backlog, we view it as an area that if improved could save other components unnecessary work and help reduce their backlogs.

Finally, we reviewed customer relations and communications, and we found that most staffs provide FOIA requesters with contact information so that they can call with questions regarding their request. Most staffs also contact FOIA requesters to clarify requests as needed. We plan to advise all JMD staff who process FOIA requests of the requirements of the Executive Order, including attention to customer service and politeness. We will also reviewed our model letters used in order to ensure that requesters receive all useful and relevant information.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- FOIA Web pages/Reading room records
-- Use of information technology
-- Backlog reduction
-- Customer relations/Communications

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. FOIA Web pages/Reading room records

Goal: To improve JMD FOIA Web pages to provide updated information to the public in a more user-friendly format. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Remove obsolete records. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Update and consolidate into one page or cross-reference links. To be completed by 9-30-06.

2. Use of information technology

Goal: To increase efficiency by using better information technology to track and process FOIA requests. Target completion: 12-31-08.

Steps

• Input FOIA tracking sheets electronically so that the annual report statistics for the JMD offices will be automated. To be completed by 9-31-06.

• Continue to monitor the Department's progress in implementing a Departmentwide IT solution. To be completed by 12-31-07.

• If no Departmentwide IT solution is in place at the time that the Mail Referral Unit contract is modified, consider adjusting our contract requirements to include an automated system for processing FOIA requests. To be completed by 12-31-08.

3. Backlog reduction

Goal: To reduce the backlog, focus primarily on the oldest FOIA requests. Target completion: 3-31-07.

Steps

• Identify FOIA requests pending for more than 100 days. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Consider whether reassigning and prioritizing work is possible to alleviate delay. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Provide in-house training to PSS on FOIA legal issues. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Check status of those requests identified and re-examine any requests not yet resolved. To be completed by 10-31-06.

• Quality control -- review a representative number of referrals and "no record" decisions to ensure that the appropriate components are receiving referrals and that decisions are accurate, and provide feedback to staff. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Review and update model letters and make them available to staff processing FOIA requests. To be completed by 3-31-07.

4. Customer relations/Communications

Goal: Provide better customer service to FOIA requesters. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Educate staffs via memorandum and briefing regarding Executive Order requirements. To be completed by 7-31-06.

Goal: Improve forms of communications with FOIA requesters. Target completion: 3-31-07.

Steps

• Review selected model letters to ensure that all useful and relevant information is provided to requesters. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Review and update remaining model letters and make them available to staff processing FOIA requests. To be completed by 3-31-07.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- FOIA Web pages/Reading room records

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Customer relations/Communications
-- Backlog reduction

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

-- Use of information technology

NATIONAL DRUG INTELLIGENCE CENTER (NDIC)

A. NATURE OF NDIC'S FOIA OPERATIONS

Established in 1993, the National Drug Intelligence Center, located in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, employs approximately 350 government and contractor personnel and is a member of the Intelligence Community. The General Counterdrug Intelligence Plan signed by the President in February 2000 designated NDIC as the nation's principal center for strategic domestic counterdrug intelligence.

The number of annual FOIA requests received by NDIC during the past six years has remained relatively steady with gradual increases. NDIC received fifty-nine FOIA requests in 2005 and had a mean response time of twenty-two days. There is generally not a backlog of requests. NDIC has divided its entire FOIA process into nine overall categories.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

NDIC reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- FOIA Web site
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Checklist and worksheet maintained by FOIA personnel
-- Internal search process
-- Documentation
-- Processing of information located in searches
-- Completion of response letter
-- Weekly FOIA spreadsheet submitted to executive management
-- Chain-of-command review process of the information to be submitted to requester

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

A review of the NDIC FOIA process identified relatively minor areas for improvement. Based on the number of FOIA requests received annually, the primary areas for improvement were identified to be in the chain-of-command review process.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- FOIA Web site
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Checklist and worksheet maintained by FOIA personnel
-- Customer Service/Requester communications
-- Weekly FOIA spreadsheet submitted to executive management
-- Chain-of-command review process of the information to be submitted to requester

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. FOIA Web site

Goal: Update the NDIC Web site to ensure that information is current and that additional information has been added as appropriate. Target completion: 10-15-06.

Steps

• Ensure that newly identified frequently requested documents are added to the FOIA Web site. To be completed by 9-15-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Review the Department of Justice and other federal FOIA Web sites looking for potential enhancements to the NDIC Web site. To be completed by 9-15-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Implement any enhancements identified in review process. To be completed by 10-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

2. Acknowledgment letters

Goal: Send acknowledgment letters to requesters more quickly. Target completion: 7-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Institute system in which acknowledgment letters are signed off by the first-line supervisor. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Institute system by which acknowledgment letters are placed in mail within two working days of receipt of request. To be completed by 7-1-06.

3. Checklist and worksheet

Goal: Create a permanent FOIA checklist/worksheet. Target completion: 8-1-06.

Steps

• Institute a system in which all applicable information (including signing of all check list responses, documentation of all hours, and a brief synopsis of the basis for the FOIA response) is recorded on a FOIA checklist/worksheet. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• Update the checklist as organizational changes occur. To be completed by 8-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Customer service/Requester communications

Goal: Ensure that all conversations with FOIA requesters, other agencies, and NDIC personnel take place in a courteous and professional manner and are properly documented. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Institute a system in which memorandums to file, e-mails, and other applicable documentation gathered or generated by the FOIA personnel are kept in an organized manner in the applicable FOIA file folder. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Train NDIC FOIA staff on customer service and Executive Order. To be completed by 7-31-06.

5. Weekly FOIA spreadsheet

Goal: Keep NDIC management aware of the status of FOIA requests. Target completion: 8-1-06.

Steps

• Institute a system in which the weekly FOIA spreadsheet is completed in an accurate and timely manner no later than the close of business every Tuesday and submitted to management by noon the next day. To be completed by 8-1-06.

6. Chain-of-command review process

Goal: To minimize delays in placing response letters in the mail. Target completion: 9-1-06.

Steps

• Institute a system in which the FOIA file contains a brief synopsis of the basis for the response. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• Institute a system in which first-line supervisors will sign "no records" responses, instead of going up two more levels in the chain of command. To be completed by 9-1-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- FOIA Web site
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Checklist and worksheet maintained by FOIA personnel
-- Customer service/Requester communications
-- Weekly FOIA spreadsheet submitted to executive management
-- Chain-of-command review process of the information to be submitted to requester

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

OFFICE OF COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING SERVICES (COPS)

A. NATURE OF COPS' FOIA OPERATIONS

The Office of Community Policing Services was created by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The mission of the COPS Office is to advance community policing in jurisdictions of all sizes across the country. COPS provides grants to tribal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to hire and train community policing professionals, acquire and deploy cutting-edge crime-fighting technologies, and develop and test innovative policing strategies. COPS-funded training helps advance community policing at all levels of law enforcement, from line officers to law enforcement executives, as well as others in the criminal justice field.

The COPS FOIA Program receives approximately eighty-three requests annually (based on the average of requests received in FY05 and FY06). The median processing time for these requests was eight days, with all cases being processed and closed within the statutory twenty-working-day period. The COPS FOIA program has not had any appeals filed as a result of a processed FOIA request over the last two years. The COPS FOIA staff consists of a GS-13 FOIA Officer (Specialist).

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

COPS reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Backlog
-- FOIA Web pages
-- Electronic initial requests and case tracking
-- Proactive disclosure
-- Referral process
-- Customer service
-- Training

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

In accordance with the requirements established by Executive Order 13,392, a thorough internal review was conducted of the COPS FOIA Program in January 2006. This review was conducted to determine whether our agency practices are consistent with the policies set forth in the Executive Order and to identify potential areas where improvements or enhancements would increase the effectiveness of the program while ensuring that customer service remains a principle priority.

Our review indicates that the COPS FOIA program is in compliance with the statutory FOIA processing time requirements and currently has no FOIA backlog.

Our review of the COPS FOIA program's use of technology indicates that it takes advantage of today's technologies in the carrying out of its mission, as evidenced by the agency's use of an Internet Web site, with links directly to the COPS FOIA Program and the FOIA staff. The COPS FOIA Program allows the public to file FOIA requests electronically, thereby reducing the amount of time for correspondence between the requesters and the agency. When possible, responsive records are provided to the requesters in electronic format as well. The COPS FOIA Program also utilizes an electronic case tracking system, which allows for the real-time tracking of pending requests, and for the generation of various program reports.

As a result of the COPS FOIA Program review, four areas have been identified where improvements or enhancements can be made which will bolster the high-quality of service we are currently providing to the public, and to ensure compliance with the Executive Order. Proactive disclosure of information is an effective way to provide information to the public without requesters having to file requests. The COPS FOIA Program will increase the amount and type of information that is currently available in its electronic reading room. This is the type of information that is beyond the scope of the required disclosures contained under subsection (a)(2) of the FOIA.

Historically, when records were located in the processing of a FOIA request that originated with another federal agency, those records were referred to that agency for review and direct response to the requester at the end of the processing and closing of the FOIA case. In an effort to provide an even more timely response to the requester, the COPS FOIA Program will send out referrals to the appropriate agency as soon as the records are located. This will decrease the amount of time the requester is required to wait for all responsive records, regardless of where the records originated.

Although the COPS FOIA Office is adequately staffed, as demonstrated by its 100% compliance with the statutory FOIA processing time limits, we need to ensure that a designated backup is available in the absence of the FOIA Officer. It has been the practice of the COPS Legal Division to temporarily assign an attorney to perform the FOIA functions in the absence of the FOIA Officer. In an effort to ensure consistency in the carrying out of the various functions within the FOIA Office, and to facilitate the staffing of the newly mandated FOIA Requester Service Center, the Legal Division will assign a staff attorney to serve as a permanent back-up for the FOIA Officer.

A fundamental requirement found throughout Executive Order 13,392 is the requirement for agencies to conduct their FOIA programs in a customer-friendly environment. This encompasses the personal contacts with the public, the use of technology to receive and deliver requested information, and the ability for the requester to obtain the status of their pending request through the FOIA Requester Service Center. In that regard, training will be provided to all employees involved with the FOIA process to ensure awareness of the customer-service requirements mandated within the Executive Order.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Proactive disclosure
-- Referral process
-- Customer service
-- Training

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Proactive disclosure

Goal: Increase the amount and type of information that is currently available in the electronic reading room. This is the type of information that is beyond the scope of the required disclosures contained under subsection (a)(2). Target completion: 8-15-06.

Steps

• The FOIA Officer will determine the specific documents that will be made available to the public via the COPS Web site. To be completed by 7-15-06.

• The FOIA Officer will conduct meetings with the COPS Web site administrator to schedule the establishing of additional links to the COPS Web site, which will access the newly added material. To be completed by 7-30-06.

• The additional agency documents will be available for public access via the COPS Web site. To be completed by 8-15-06.

• Once implementation has been completed, an annual review will be conducted by the COPS FOIA unit to identify additional information that may be posted on the agency Web site and to remove information that is no longer available. To be completed by 8-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

2. Referral process

Goal: Reduce delays in response to requesters by streamlining the referral process. Target completion: 7-30-06.

Steps

• The FOIA Officer will update the COPS FOIA Manual to reflect the changes in procedures in handling referrals, so that referrals are sent out to the appropriate agency as soon as the records are located. To be completed by 7-15-06.

• Implement the new procedure regarding referrals. To be completed by 7-30-06.

3. Customer service

Goal: Improve customer service by ensuring consistency in the processing of FOIA requests. Target completion: 6-30-06.

Steps

• The COPS Assistant General Counsel will identify the Legal Division attorney who will serve as the permanent designated back-up FOIA Officer. This attorney will perform all FOIA-related duties in the absence of the regular FOIA Officer. This attorney will also be responsible for duties associated with the FOIA Requester Service Center. To be completed by 6-30-06.

4. Training

Goal: Improve customer service by educating COPS Legal Division staff on the requirements established in the Executive Order. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• The COPS FOIA Officer will identify all Legal Division staff that is involved with the agency's FOIA program. To be completed by 7-14-06.

• The COPS FOIA Officer will conduct training on the customer service requirements of the Executive Order. The FOIA Officer will also gather suggestions and recommendations from these employees on how to continue to improve our customer service processes. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• This training will be conducted by the COPS FOIA Officer to all staff involved with the COPS FOIA program, on an annual basis. To be completed by 8-15-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Proactive disclosure
-- Referral process
-- Customer service
-- Training

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL DETENTION TRUSTEE (OFDT)

A. NATURE OF OFDT'S FOIA OPERATIONS.

The Office of Federal Detention Trustee's FOIA operations are relatively small-scale, the office having received only thirty-seven requests in FY 2005. OFDT does not have a backlog of requests. The FOIA operations consist of a tracking system using an Excel database, manual processing of hard-copy documents, and a combination of electronic and regular mail receipt and response systems. The OFDT Web site is rapidly expanding and, with the assistance of our Webmaster, OFDT is continuing to post on the Web frequently requested and other key documents. Currently, only one staff member is assigned to handle FOIA requests. Due to that staff member's primary role as OFDT's legal counsel, the possible allocation of additional personnel and other resources were reviewed pursuant to the mandate of Executive Order 13,392.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

OFDT reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- Overall FOIA Web site improvement
-- Improvement of component's FOIA manual
-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Electronic FOIA -- automated processing
-- Electronic FOIA
-- Contracting out/Hiring of contract employees

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

A review was conducted of the areas for possible improvement listed in Part B, above, and it was concluded that, particularly in the area of electronic tracking, processing and responding to FOIA requests, there exists room for substantial improvement by OFDT. Currently, OFDT is expanding its electronic tracking and the office has hired a contractor to automate the business processes within the office. Although OFDT's Chief FOIA Officer has met with the contractor to inform it of the search functions which would assist in the search for records responding to a FOIA request, due to the availability of software which is specifically designed to assist in FOIA processing, rather than to design a separate architecture, it was determined that it would be more economical for OFDT to proceed to purchase the FOIA software.

Accordingly, OFDT has concluded that it should commence an investigation of commercially available FOIA software and purchase that software that best meets its needs for the tracking, processing, and responding to FOIA requests. Additionally, it has concluded that it should enhance its FOIA Web page to make it more prominent and to make additional documents available on it. Due to the fact that there currently exists no OFDT staff dedicated solely to the performance of FOIA processing duties, OFDT should investigate the feasibility of hiring contract employees to assist OFDT's principal FOIA Officer, who also is OFDT's legal counsel, in these duties.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- Overall FOIA Web site improvement
-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Electronic FOIA -- automated processing
-- Electronic FOIA
-- Contracting out/Hiring of contract employees

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Affirmative disclosure

Goal: Institute an initiative to ensure full implementation of the requirements of subsection (a)(2) for all records subject to public disclosure (including any such records pertaining to detention trends, procurement, program review, and budget) in an easy-to-access format on the OFDT Web site. Target completion: 9-15-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Identification of records subject to subsection (a)(2) public disclosure on OFDT's FOIA Web site. To be completed by 7-15-06.

• Formatting and coding of records to be posted to OFDT's FOIA Web site. To be completed by 8-31-06.

• Posting to OFDT Web site of records subject to subsection (a)(2) public disclosure. To be completed by 9-15-06.

• Review OFDT FOIA Web page quarterly to ensure that information is current and relevant documents are posted. To be completed by 9-15-06, 12-15-06, 3-15-07, 6-15-07, 9-15-07, 12-15-07, 3-15-08, 6-15-08, 9-15-08, 12-15-08.

Although, upon request, OFDT will make a hard copy of a record available to any requester who lacks access to OFDT's Web site, if the requester does have such access and the record is posted to the Web site, OFDT will respond to the request by referring the requester to the Web site. Whether the goal has been met will be measured by a determination as to whether OFDT has referred the requester to the OFDT Web site for an electronic copy of the requested document in five percent of its responses to FOIA requests in FY 2007.

2. Proactive disclosure

Goal: Even if a detention record is not one is required to be posted under subsection (a)(2), if the record increases public awareness of the OFDT mission, we will seek to make it available on the Web site. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Identification of records suitable for proactive disclosure on OFDT's FOIA Web site. To be completed by 7-15-06.

• Formatting and coding of records suitable for proactive disclosure on OFDT's FOIA Web site. To be completed by 12-1-06.

• Posting to OFDT Web site of records suitable for proactive disclosure. To be completed by 12-31-06.

3. Overall FOIA Web site improvement

Goal: Improve the OFDT FOIA Web site by making it more prominent and user-friendly. Specifically, expand the information contained on the page to include not only basic information regarding how to make a FOIA request, but also information regarding the types of records available from OFDT. Furthermore, OFDT will provide links to certain key detention records. OFDT is planning to utilize an eye-catching design that will encourage further exploration of the FOIA Web site and, ultimately, a better understanding of the workings of OFDT. Target completion: 7-31-07.

Steps

• Consultation with OFDT's Webmaster regarding new FOIA Web site design. To be completed by 10-31-06.

• Selection of layout for new FOIA Web site. To be completed by 4-1-07.

• Deployment of new FOIA Web site. To be completed by 7-31-07.

4. Automated tracking capabilities

Goal: Improve FOIA operations by implementing an automated system which, among others things, has the capability to track FOIA requests. OFDT already has met with and exchanged information regarding possible software purchases from several vendors. Target completion: 12-31-07.

Steps

• Contact vendors regarding system-specific requirements and price quotations for FOIA software. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Preparation and full processing (including interviewing of vendors) of a request for purchase of FOIA software. To be completed by 6-30-07.

• FOIA software installed and implemented, including any customizations needed to fit OFDT specifications. To be completed by 12-31-07.

5. Electronic FOIA -- automated processing

Goal: Implement an automated system which transforms the manual labor of processing a hard-copy FOIA request to an automated system using menus and icons. To the extent that the records being requested are stored electronically, the system will retrieve the record, redact it, and deliver it to the requester. Because it is anticipated that the electronic processing of FOIA requests will be a part of a comprehensive Web-based FOIA application which includes the tracking of the request, the precise steps and time milestones involved in achieving this goal are identical to those listed with regard to Automated Tracking Capabilities, above. Target completion: 12-31-07.

Steps

• Contact vendors regarding system-specific requirements and price quotations for FOIA software. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Preparation and full processing (including interviewing of vendors) of a request for purchase of FOIA software. To be completed by 6-30-07.

• FOIA software installed and implemented, including any customizations needed to fit OFDT specifications. To be completed by 12-31-07.

6. Electronic FOIA

Goal: Implement an automated system which prepares and delivers the requested documents to the requesters. Because it is anticipated that the electronic FOIA will be a part of a comprehensive Web-based FOIA application that includes the tracking and processing of the request, the precise steps and time milestones involved in achieving this goal are identical to those listed with regard to Automated Tracking Capabilities and Electronic FOIA -- Automated Processing, above. Target completion: 12-31-07.

Steps

• Contact vendors regarding system-specific requirements and price quotations for FOIA software. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Preparation and full processing (including interviewing of vendors) of a request for purchase of FOIA software. To be completed by 6-30-07.

• FOIA software installed and implemented, including any customizations needed to fit OFDT specifications. To be completed by 12-31-07.

7. Contracting out/Hiring of contract employees

Goal: Because there currently is only one staff member assigned to process FOIA requests at OFDT and that staff member also serves as legal counsel to the office, OFDT proposes to hire one contract employee to assist in OFDT's FOIA operations. Target completion: 7-31-07.

Steps

• Identification of requirements for contract employees to assist in OFDT FOIA operations. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Issuance of task order for hiring of contract employee to assist in OFDT FOIA operations. To be completed by 6-30-07.

• Hiring of contract employee to assist in OFDT FOIA operations. To be completed by 7-31-07.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
-- Proactive disclosure of information

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Overall FOIA Web site improvement
-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Electronic FOIA -- automated processing
-- Electronic FOIA
-- Contracting out/Hiring of contract employees

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL (OIG)

A. NATURE OF OIG'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducts independent investigations, audits, inspections, and special reviews of the Department of Justice personnel and programs to detect and deter waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct, and to promote integrity, economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in Department of Justice operations. OIG maintains records relating to its investigations, audits, inspections, and special reviews, as well as regarding the administration of OIG.

Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act (FOIA/PA) requests are received and processed by OIG's General Counsel's Office. The General Counsel provides legal and technical support in the handling of all requests. The FOIA unit is staffed with one FOIA/PA Specialist and one Paralegal Assistant.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

OIG reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- FOIA Web site
-- Automated tracking process
-- Electronic FOIA
-- Customer communications
-- Referral/consultation process
-- Backlog reduction

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

After a thorough review of the areas identified for potential improvement, OIG determined that overall, OIG's FOIA program is working quite well. However, there are areas in need of minor improvements. One area OIG reviewed was its FOIA Web site for records which it makes available to the public, such as audit, inspection, semi-annual, and special reports. We decided the Web site could be improved by providing both an e-mail address and a facsimile number to which FOIA requests may be sent.

We also took a look at our FOIA tracking system and determined that it could be improved by adding an additional search tool. Accordingly, we will be creating a "memo" section feature for our database to assist in improving our tracking capabilities.

With regard to electronic FOIA, again OIG will be setting up an e-mail address strictly for FOIA requests. In reviewing this area, OIG was advised by other components that it would be advisable to develop the capability to reply electronically as well. Accordingly, OIG is also consulting with other components regarding their use of electronic processing and analyzing the cost and feasibility of such a system for OIG.

We also considered the area of customer communications. Overall, OIG has not received complaints regarding the courtesy or politeness received from our office. We determined that we could improve communications with requesters by ensuring that a telephone number is included in our acknowledgment letters.

OIG receives numerous referrals and consultations from other components and/or agencies. There have been a few cases where referrals received from other components were already processed by OIG, creating a double response. OIG is considering creating a separate system to track referrals/consultations to ensure the proper handling of requests.

With regard to backlog reduction, OIG generally does not have a backlog problem. Last year, OIG received 208 requests, closing all but three requests. OIG generally meets the statutory response deadline. Occasionally, a deadline is not met due to certain complex cases requiring a more thorough review and process. In those cases, we could improve in this area by making a final determination in a more timely manner.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- FOIA Web site
-- Automated tracking process
-- Electronic FOIA
-- Customer communications
-- Referral/consultation process

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. FOIA Web site

Goal: Make additions to the Web site to allow requesters the option of sending requests either by e-mail or fax. Target completion: 11-15-06.

Steps

• Work with the HelpDesk to establish a link sending requesters to an e-mail address and post fax number on the Web page. To be completed by 11-15-06.

• Work with the HelpDesk to posting a request fax number on our contact page. To be completed by 11-15-06.

2. Automated tracking process

Goal: Track requests in the FOIA tracking system by name or other detailed information. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Create a "memo" section in the FOIA tracking system with detailed information to assist in tracking requests. To be completed by 9-30-06.

3. Electronic FOIA

Goal: To give requesters the option to file their requests electronically. Target completion: 1-15-07.

Steps

• Create an e-mail address strictly for FOIA requests with the capability of replying to the requesters. To be completed by 1-15-07.

4. Customer communications

Goal: Improve communications with requesters. Target completion: 7-1-06.

Steps

• Revise our acknowledgment letters to include a telephone number so requesters have that information to call for the status of their requests. To be completed by 7-1-06.

5. Referral/consultation process

Goal: Maintain a better system when dealing with referrals/consultations to ensure the proper handling of requests. Target completion: 10-15-06.

Steps

• Create a separate system to track referrals and consultations. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Implement the new system to track referrals and consultations. To be completed by 10-15-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- FOIA Web site
-- Automated tracking process
-- Customer communications
-- Referral/consultation process

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Electronic FOIA

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

OFFICE OF INTELLIGENCE POLICY AND REVIEW (OIPR)14

A. NATURE OF OIPR'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Office of Intelligence Policy and Review receives a nominal volume of access requests annually. However, given the complexity of OIPR's mission, including significant national security responsibilities, the review of OIPR records for release to the public often is arduous. Most OIPR records require declassification review and/or multiple consultations with other agencies within the intelligence community to determine what information, if any, may be released. In 2005, OIPR expended significant resources in responding to court-ordered processing deadlines, particularly for records relating to matters of topical interest such as the treatment of foreign detainees and the re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

OIPR reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- Electronic FOIA -- automated processing
-- System of handling referrals and consultations
-- Recycle improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Center
-- Backlog reduction
-- Customer service

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

OIPR conducted a review of its FOIA operations and identified initiatives that would enhance its practices and better align them with the spirit of the new Executive Order. OIPR typically carries a backlog of roughly five to ten cases at any given time. We promptly acknowledge receipt of all requests and/or substantively respond within twenty working days. Requests in our backlog typically involve the review of sensitive intelligence and counterintelligence records that are classified and require consultations and/or referrals.

The sensitive nature of OIPR's mission (foreign intelligence and counterintelligence) and the types of records generated therefrom does not ordinarily lend itself well to "proactive disclosures." The only documents currently posted on OIPR's Web site are the Attorney General's Annual Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Report to Congress. However, in connection with Executive Order 12,958, as amended, and our declassification review of twenty-five-year-old records, OIPR expects to initiate Web access to historically significant documents related to FISA-implementation policies. The FOIA automated tracking system (Microsoft Access) accommodates our report requirements and enables us to respond to status inquiries from requesters. However, we anticipate converting to a Web-based system so our "IT staff" can install modifications more efficiently on such a system.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- System of handling referrals and consultations
-- Recycle improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Center
-- Backlog reduction
-- Customer service

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. System of handling referrals and consultations

Goal: Install a "tickler" system to track and update the status of pending referrals and consultations. Target completion: 10-1-06.

Steps

• Capture data from the comments feature in the tracking system to determine the status of pending referrals and consultations. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• Create and implement use of a spreadsheet regarding the status of pending referrals and consultations. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Utilize the spreadsheet to follow up with other components and agencies to ensure more immediate resolutions to referrals and consultations. To be completed by 10-1-06 (and continuing thereafter)

2. Recycle improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Center

Goal: Implement a regular review of access community comments to ensure customer satisfaction, and implement any initiatives that will further enhance the process. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Continue to log calls from requesters. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Review FOIA Requester Service Center call logs in order to address requester concerns or suggestions for improvement. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

3. Backlog reduction/elimination

Goal: Reduce backlog of ten requests by two requests quarterly.Target completion: 9-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

Steps

• Contact other components and agencies wherever applicable regarding pending consultations in order to ensure the more timely processing of requests involving such consultations, thus minimizing our backlog. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

4. Customer service

Goal: Consistently exhibit polite and courteous interaction with the requester community. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Review the customer-service requirements of the Executive Order and gather suggestions and recommendations regarding process improvements. To be completed by 7-31-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- System of handling referrals and consultations
-- Recycle improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Center
-- Backlog reduction
-- Customer service

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS (OJP)

A. NATURE OF OJP'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Office of Justice Programs is the primary grant-making component within the Department of Justice. The FOIA requests received at OJP are primarily for information and documents pertaining to grant funding, training, programs, statistics, and research on technology to fight crime. FOIA requests are submitted by criminal justice agencies, researchers, organizations, law firms, media, inmates, and state agencies.

In Fiscal Year 2005, OJP received 370 requests and completed the processing and closing of 314 requests. Since the beginning of 2006, the FOIA Officer has devoted her time to eliminating the backlog of eight requests pending since FY 2004 and thirty-seven requests pending since FY 2005, in addition to processing 159 current requests received thus far this year. During this time, the FOIA Officer has also been training the current clerical contract employees. So far, we have completed the processing of, and closed, four of the FY 2004 requests and completed the processing of, and closed, thirty-two of the FY 2005 requests.

In 2002, OJP began receiving FOIA requests electronically through fax and FOIAOJP e-mail. We receive approximately five or six requests monthly electronically. The majority of our requests are received through regular mail. OJP now daily monitors the "FOIAOJP" e-mailbox to retrieve all FOIA requests and acknowledge receipt within two days, and to assign a FOIA tracking number. If the request is too vague, the FOIA Officer contacts the requester by e-mail, fax, telephone, or regular mail and requests additional information before assigning a FOIA tracking number. Upon receipt of the additional information, a FOIA tracking number is assigned and the request is again acknowledged by e-mail, fax, telephone, or regular mail. OJP now has the capability to scan documents into our office network and create adobe files. The staff has been trained on the use of this feature. OJP now responds to some requests by e-mailing responses and documents to the requesters.

In August 2005, a meeting was convened with the OJP's General Counsel, a Senior Counsel from the Office of the General Counsel (OGC), and the FOIA Officer to discuss improving the OJP FOIA operations. The General Counsel, OJP met with the Assistant Attorney General (AAG) of OJP to discuss plans to conduct FOIA/PA training for OJP employees. The AAG mandated that each OJP bureau identify a senior management official as the liaison between the bureau and OGC. As a result of OJP's in-house training in September and November 2005 of all OJP FOIA contacts and senior management officials, response times to document requests from the FOIA Officer to OJP's bureaus and offices have been reduced dramatically. OJP has the assistance of a Senior Counsel in OGC with twelve years of FOIA experience, who will, if necessary, contact the senior management officials in the bureaus or offices, if a response has not been forwarded to OGC within the time allotted. OJP, in conjunction with OIP, conducted in-house FOIA/PA training for its employees in September and November 2005.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

OJP reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Electronic FOIA -- receiving requests electronically
-- In-house training
-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- Backlog reduction/elimination
-- Timeliness
-- Plan for increased staffing
-- System of handling referrals and consultations
-- Communications with requesters
-- Response time from OJP bureaus and offices
-- Politeness/courtesy

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

OJP conducted a review of its FOIA operations and identified several areas for improvement. We determined that the primary concerns regarding OJP's FOIA operation include limited staffing, slow responses to document requests from internal program offices, increasingly demanding requesters, and an increase in the number of requests for highly technical and highly sensitive documents.

OJP now releases all releasable documents maintained in the grant file, unless otherwise noted by the requester that only specific documents are needed. OJP will be utilizing part-time law clerks to assist with processing voluminous FOIA documents. OJP will utilize e-mail to send referrals and consultations to Department of Justice components, and to request a "read receipt" to verify that the e-mail was received.

Because of the nature of some of OJP's requested documents, we often meet with subject-matter experts in the appropriate bureau to obtain their assistance in the review of documents. OJP modified its procedures for distributing requests for documents to the bureaus and offices by utilizing e-mail and fax. OJP's bureaus will continue to post on their Web pages the grant recipients, award amounts, and project periods of all funded grants. Often, the requesters obtain this information from the OJP Web page before submitting a request, thereby, eliminating the need to send a search letter to several different bureaus to determine where the documents may be housed.

OJP plans to eliminate or reduce its backlog by utilizing laws clerks and by hiring a temporary paralegal to assist in processing requests. OJP will refer requests for consultation to some Department of Justice components via e-mail. OJP will request assistance from the OJP IT staff to incorporate a tickler system to alert us to the pending due date that a response from the component is due.

OJP proposes to respond to referrals for consultations received in this office within five working days from receipt of the memorandum. If the referral(s) consists of voluminous documents and/or the subject matter requires multiple consults throughout OJP, the component will be notified within five working days. OJP has increased interactions with requesters as necessary. This has included having a Senior Counsel call requesters to assist in clarifying or narrowing requests and helping requesters understand some of the statutory limitations restricting release of certain information.

Currently, two contract employees have access to the FOIA tracking database in order to respond to callers to the OJP FOIA service center on the status of his/her request. The contract employees also have access to the FOIA contacts within the Department of Justice, in the event that a requester is seeking this information. OJP will grant access to the FOIA tracking database to other OJP/OGC employees, as needed, so that anyone who answers the telephone at the FOIA service center will have the information needed to assist a requester on the status of a request.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Backlog reduction/elimination
-- Plan for increased staffing
-- Communications with requesters
-- Response time from OJP bureaus and offices
-- Politeness/courtesy

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Backlog reduction/elimination

Goal: Respond to all requests that were filed during Calendar Years 2004 and 2005. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Part-time law student interns will be assigned to assist in the processing of older requests from 2004 and 2005. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Discuss with subject matter experts on highly technical documents that originated within outside companies, not federal agencies, and to provide contact name(s) and telephone number(s) to the FOIA Officer in order to expedite the consultation process. To be completed by 8-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Upon receipt of a FOIA request for voluminous or technical-related documents, the FOIA Officer will meet with the Senior Counsel and the appropriate subject-matter expert in the OJP bureau to identify options for the requester to narrow the request, and immediately contact the requester to discuss those options. To be completed by 7-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Revise statement of work for a temporary FOIA paralegal. To be completed by 9-1-06.

Goal: Reduce the processing time for FOIA requests to twenty days as provided by the statute. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• The Senior Counsel will monitor the OJP FOIA statistics to determine whether full-time resources are needed due to an increase interest by the public for highly technical documents. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Utilize part-time law student interns to assist with processing requests still pending from Calender Years 2004 and 2005. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Monitor FOIA requests for same documents and work with IT staff to post documents in the FOIA reading room and notify the public by way of OJP's bureaus' Web pages. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Update FOIA Web site. To be completed by 12-31-06.

2. Improving communications with requesters

Goal: To inform requesters on the status of their requests if the due date is approaching and the request has not yet been processed, and to contact requester(s) immediately to clarify any unclear requests. Target completion: 9-1-06.

Steps

• Train contractors and law student interns to identify unclear requests, prepare letters to requesters seeking clarification, and/or contact the requester by e-mail or telephone to clarify the request. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Create a log and utilize access database to track FOIA callers by name, the time of the call, the information requested, and the result of the call. To be completed by 9-1-06.

3. Improve response time from the OJP bureaus and offices

Goal: To receive responses from the OJP bureaus and offices within five days of receipt of the OGC search letter. Target completion: 9-1-06.

Steps

• To provide clear and helpful information to OJP bureaus and offices when questions arise during their searches. To be completed by 7-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Create a tracking system to monitor which bureaus and offices are delinquent in responding, inform the General Counsel and senior counsel on delinquent bureaus and offices, and meet to discuss any issues the bureaus and offices may have with searching for documents. To be completed by 9-1-06 (and continuing thereafter).

4. Politeness/courtesy

Goal: Ensure that all telephone calls from requesters are responded to courteously and within twenty-four hours. Target completion: 9-1-06.

Steps

• Train FOIA Requester Service Center staff on how to access the FOIA tracking database, determine the status of a request, and when to refer the caller to the FOIA Officer or the Senior Counsel. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Create a log and utilize access database to track FOIA callers by name, the time of the call, the information requested, and the result of the call. To be completed by 9-1-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Backlog reduction/elimination
-- Plan for increased staffing
-- Communications with requesters
-- Response time from OJP bureaus and offices
-- Politeness/courtesy

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

OFFICE OF LEGAL COUNSEL (OLC)

A. NATURE OF OLC'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Office of Legal Counsel assists the Attorney General in his function as legal advisor to the President and all the Executive Branch agencies. The Office drafts legal opinions of the Attorney General and also provides its own written opinions and oral advice in response to requests from the Counsel to the President, the various agencies of the Executive Branch, and offices within the Department. OLC is a small component handling approximately seventy-five FOIA/PA requests per year. We have two employees, a senior attorney and a paralegal, who handle the FOIA/PA requests for OLC. The FOIA is only a small part of their overall duties.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

OLC reviewed the following potential improvement areas:
.
-- Backlog reduction
-- Additional staff
-- Customer relations
-- Communications with requesters
-- Training
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Tracking capabilities
-- Web site improvement

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

We have reviewed our FOIA practices and have determined that because we are a small component with a fairly small FOIA practice there are only three areas in which we could improve. During our review we looked at our backlog. Historically, OLC has not had a backlog. In the last couple of years; however, we have received a number of requests dealing with the Global War on Terror, some of which are in litigation. These requests have been complex and time consuming and have caused a backlog of approximately twenty requests, which we will deal with by assigning FOIA duties to an additional, dedicated attorney.

We also looked at our customer relations and communications with requesters and determined that there have been no complaints by requesters, so further training is not indicated at this time. We did determine, however, that in certain cases where a request may take more than the allotted time to process, we will need to send out acknowledgment letters or contact the requester by phone or e-mail to let them know of that. We also reviewed our tracking capabilities and determined that this is a potential improvement area. Lastly, we reviewed our Web site, which has links to the Department's FOIA page and our electronic reading room. It also lists the address to be used in making a FOIA or Privacy Act request. Our electronic reading room contains all of our opinions that have been published since 1992 and opinions that have been approved for publication in future volumes. This is a good resource for requesters interested in learning about the Office and the types of opinions we write.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Tracking capabilities
-- Backlog reduction

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Acknowledgment letters

Goal: For requests involving a large quantity of records, implement a practice of informing requesters via acknowledgment letter that the request was received and that it might take longer than the twenty days to process it. This letter would be used only if we determine that a request would encompass a large quantity of documents that would take extra time to process. Target completion: 8-1-06.

Steps

• Obtain from the Office of Information and Privacy a sample copy of the type of acknowledgment letter that OIP sends to requesters. To be completed by 6-15-06.

• Revise the OIP sample letter to conform to the FOIA practice of OLC, then implement use of the revised letter. To be completed by 8-1-06.

2. Tracking capabilities

Goal: Improve FOIA request status tracking to enable the FOIA Requester Service Center to respond appropriately to requester status calls. Target completion: 8-1-06.

Steps

• Move the log we are currently using to a shared drive on the computer so that it will be available to the two individuals monitoring the FOIA Requester Service Center calls. To be completed by 7-15-06.

• Enhance the status log so that requests can be logged in when received, logged out after the response is sent, and so appropriate tracking and status information can be included in the log. To be completed by 8-1-06.

• For requests involving voluminous amounts of records and numerous consultations, contact the attorney(s) involved on a bi-monthly basis to determine the current status of the request. This will be noted on the log. We will include the date the letter was sent out and the action that we took on the request. To be completed by 8-1-06.

3. Backlog reduction

Goal: In order to reduce the backlog and minimize future backlogs, OLC will increase the staff working on FOIA requests, especially the complex-laden and time-consuming ones. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• A recently hired attorney will be trained to perform FOIA duties and then will be assigned such duties as one of his areas of responsibility. To be completed by 7-31-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Tracking capabilities
-- Backlog reduction

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

OFFICE OF THE PARDON ATTORNEY (OPA)

A. NATURE OF OPA'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Office of the Pardon Attorney FOIA program provides responses to FOIA requests for records contained in executive clemency case files, miscellaneous correspondence files, and FOIA files. Although OPA has a great deal of information available through its Web site, approximately forty-five percent of our requests are from persons currently incarcerated in federal or state facilities, who are not authorized to access publicly available information through the Internet. OPA is a small component that typically receives relatively few FOIA requests each year. Accordingly, OPA has one administrative FOIA Officer and one staff attorney serving as a FOIA Public Liaison, each of whom work part-time on FOIA operations.

A FOIA request is not required for the following publicly available information: executive clemency statistics from the administration of President McKinley to the present; rules governing the Pardon Attorney and petitions for executive clemency published at 28 C.F.R. §§ 0.35-36 and § 1.1, et seq.; forms for applying for executive clemency; copies of clemency warrants and proclamations for persons who have been granted executive clemency; description of clemency procedures contained in United States Attorneys' Manual at §§ 1-2.110, et seq.; whether an individual has applied for executive clemency and action on such application.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

Although some areas for improvement, such as obtaining software to use for redacting and contracting out FOIA operations, were considered during our review, budgetary constraints preclude further consideration at this time. OPA most particularly considered the following potential improvement areas:

-- FOIA Web site improvement/Proactive disclosure of information
-- Electronic FOIA -- receiving/responding to requests electronically
-- Customer relations and communication/Politeness and courtesy
-- Timeliness

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

OPA conducted a thorough review of its FOIA operations. While we believe that the improvements that have been made to our Web site over the past few years have greatly improved access to clemency-related information, we realize that our audience goes beyond the general public and that the demand for information has grown. Our Web site currently provides the following information: clemency application forms, clemency regulations, standards for consideration of clemency petitions, clemency statistics, charts reflecting clemency recipients from previous presidential administrations, and congressional testimony related to the clemency process.

In considering what steps we could take to best serve our customers and the general public, we believe that electronic submission and response to FOIA requests will be a great improvement. Additionally, we are currently reviewing information available through other government agencies and public resources in order to add access links to our Web site.

During FY 2006 thus far, OPA has received twenty-two FOIA requests. In twenty-one cases, the median response time was seven workdays. In one case, the response was completed in twenty-nine workdays, which was delayed largely because the records had to be retrieved from OPA's off-site records storage facility. As emphasized by Executive Order 13,392, OPA will continue to minimize delays in timeliness. In particular, our staff is dedicated to working more efficiently to retrieve files that are housed off-site and we will redirect staff as necessary when voluminous files are being reviewed in response to FOIA requests.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

After a careful review, OPA selected the following areas that we believe can be improved, thereby providing the public with better access to clemency-related information.

-- FOIA Web site improvement/Proactive disclosure of information
-- Electronic FOIA -- receiving/responding to requests electronically
-- Customer relations and communication/Politeness and courtesy
-- Timeliness

E. IMPROVEMENT AREAS PLANS

1. FOIA Web site improvement/Proactive disclosure of information

Goal: Provide up-to-date and accurate information to the Web site user. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Update Web site information. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Establish external Web site links to off-site information available through other government agencies and public resources. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• OPA will conduct a quarterly review and evaluation of all FOIA operations and will update the Web site information as appropriate. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

2. Electronic FOIA -- receiving/responding to requests electronically

Goal: Receive and respond to requests electronically. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Establish an e-mail account for receiving electronic FOIA requests through a link on OPA's Web site. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Develop a standardized method of acknowledging the electronic FOIA requests. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Post publicly available information on the Web site to ensure that anyone accessing the e-mail box will be able to ascertain that the FOIA request is the appropriate avenue for obtaining information. To be completed by 12-31-06.

3. Customer service

Goal: Provide training and orientation to FOIA operation personnel to ensure our continued professional delivery of customer service. Target completion: 10-31-06.

Steps

• Provide training to the FOIA staff on the customer-service requirements highlighted in the Executive Order. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Prepare an information paper for the staff to ensure OPA's goals for customer service, politeness, and courtesy are available for review by staff. To be completed by 10-31-06.

• All personnel will be provided an orientation as to who the FOIA Officer and FOIA Public Liaison staff members are, how the FOIA works, the information OPA has available to the public both in response to FOIA requests and in response to general requests for records, as well as where this information can be located. To be completed by 10-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

4. Timeliness

Goal: Improve the timeliness of responses to the very small number of FOIA requests that are not responded to within the statutory time-frame. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Implement a system in which the initial notification to the requester is prepared within five workdays and mailed out within seven workdays. Additionally, electronic notification will be utilized whenever possible to ensure that the initial notification is accomplished in a timely manner. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Ensuring that files that are housed off-site are obtained in a timely manner, and redirect staff as necessary when voluminous files are being reviewed. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- FOIA Web site improvement/Proactive disclosure of information
-- Electronic FOIA -- receiving/responding to requests electronically
-- Customer relations and communication/Politeness and courtesy
-- Timeliness

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

OFFICE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY (OPR)

A. NATURE OF OPR'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Office of Professional Responsibility is a component within the Department of Justice with the primary jurisdiction for investigating allegations of misconduct involving Department attorneys that relate to the exercise of their authority to investigate, litigate or provide legal advice, as well as allegations of misconduct by law enforcement personnel when they are related to allegations of attorney misconduct within the jurisdiction of OPR. OPR receives FOIA requests for records related to its jurisdiction from a variety of individuals including the subjects and complainants of those investigations, inmates, private attorneys, state and local government officials, and the general public. For the Fiscal Years 1999 through 2005, OPR has averaged receiving and processing 118 FOIA requests.

OPR's records are unique in that the vast majority of records maintained by OPR concerning its investigations are contained in a Privacy Act system of records that is exempt from access provisions pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552a(j)(2), (k)(1), (k)(2), and (k)(5). Most of the records in this system of records are exempt from access pursuant to subsection (k)(2). Because the records are maintained in a system of records, disclosures are limited to that information which is specifically authorized for disclosure with the written consent of the subject of those records or pursuant to one of the twelve Privacy Act statutory exceptions.

FOIA requests received by OPR are initially reviewed to determine the following: whether the request is a first-party or third-party request; whether a certification of identity is required; if the requester has asked for a fee waiver or expedited processing; and whether the requester has sufficiently described the subject matter of this request. FOIA requests are then assigned to one of two processing tracks. Track One is for those requests which receive expedited processing pursuant to subsection (a)(6)(E) of the FOIA or those which do not involve voluminous records or lengthy consultations with other entities. Track Two covers those requests which involve voluminous records, require lengthy or numerous consultations or involve sensitive records. FOIA requests are processed in the approximate order of receipt for each track.

OPR's FOIA personnel consist of the FOIA Specialist, the Special Counsel for FOIA/PA, the Associate Counsel, and an administrative specialist. The FOIA Specialist is devoted to the FOIA area full-time. The Special Counsel is the primary attorney with denial authority whose FOIA responsibilities comprise approximately twenty percent of her duties. The Associate Counsel's FOIA responsibility primarily concerns litigation. The Associate Counsel has denial authority in those instances in which the Special Counsel is recused from a particular FOIA request. Other than litigation, the Associate Counsel's FOIA processing responsibilities comprise approximately five percent of her time. Finally, the administrative specialist spends approximately ten to twenty percent of her time on FOIA matters.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

OPR reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- Improvements to OPR's Web site
-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Expedited processing
-- Backlog reduction
-- Politeness/courtesy
-- Communications with requesters
-- System of handling referrals
-- System of handling consultations
-- Training
-- Personnel changes
-- Purchase of new equipment and systems
-- Recycle improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Center

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

After an extensive review of the items in Part B, above, OPR determined that it should concentrate on those areas which would impact the following: access to information about OPR; communications and interaction with the public and FOIA requesters; ensure that OPR is properly handling requests for expedited processing; and review OPR's processing procedures for complex FOIA requests.

Because of its limited financial and human resources, OPR determined to not include several of the areas listed in Part B, above. These areas were not included because they were not feasible, cost effective or within OPR's control to implement, e.g., improvements to the OPR Web site or purchase of certain equipment. OPR also determined it is currently not in a position to commit to a definite plan for personnel changes or training. OPR chose not to have a specific area for recycling information gleaned from the FOIA Requester Service Center. However, this type of information will be assessed during semi-annual reviews conducted to ensure politeness and courtesy.

OPR decided that it should improve access to information about OPR by making affirmative disclosures of subsection (a)(2) material and proactive disclosures of information about OPR on its Web page. OPR took steps in this direction by posting two policy-related documents on its Web site in March 2006. OPR will continue toward improving these areas by instituting quarterly reviews for subsection (a)(2) material and semi-annual reviews of other possible documents that could be posted on the Web site. Providing this type of information may reduce the number FOIA requests and improve public access to information about OPR.

OPR also plans to consider ways to improve communications with FOIA requesters and the public in general by focusing on improving automated tracking capabilities, providing training and guidance to individuals handling calls in the FOIA Requester Service Center and including the FOIA request tracking number and OPR's telephone number in all correspondence. OPR will add a field to its FOIA database to ensure access by FOIA Requester Service Center personnel to information concerning the status of FOIA requests.

Another area selected for inclusion in OPR's plan is to conduct a review of three years' worth of FOIA requests seeking expedited processing. OPR will look at each of the FOIA requests that asked for expedited processing to ensure that OPR properly handled these requests. OPR will conduct such reviews on an annual basis. The results of these reviews will be included in OPR's part of the Department's annual FOIA report.

Finally, there are several reasons why complex FOIA requests take more processing time. OPR must still conduct a detailed analysis of all documents to balance a variety of governmental and personal privacy interests before a release determination can be made. Many complex requests involve a voluminous number of records which require a document-by-document and line-by-line review to identify all properly exempt information. These requests may also involve sensitive law enforcement information, grand jury information, or classified information. OPR intends to determine what if any improvement can be made in reducing the processing time of complex requests. Therefore, OPR chose to include backlog reduction review and analysis of complex requests in its plan. OPR will conduct a study of three years' worth of complex FOIA requests to determine whether any improvement in its processing procedures can be made. OPR will begin data collection following the conclusion of Fiscal Year 2006 and will prepare a report in December 2006 analyzing the data.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Affirmative disclosure of subsection (a)(2)material
-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Review of expedited processing
-- Backlog reduction review and analysis of complex requests
-- Politeness/courtesy
-- Communications with requesters

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Affirmative disclosure of subsection (a)(2) material

Goal: Institute an initiative to ensure fill implementation of the requirements of subsection (a)(2). Target completion: 9-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

Steps

• On a quarterly basis, conduct a review of OPR documents to identify additional documents that meet the criteria of subsection (a)(2) material. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 9-30-07, 12-31-07, 3-31-08, 6-30-08, 9-30-08, 12-31-08.

2. Proactive disclosure of information

Goal: Provide the public with access to information pertaining to or utilized by OPR in carrying out its responsibilities. Target completion: 12-31-06 (and semi-annually thereafter).

Steps

• On a semi-annual basis, conduct a review of OPR documents to identify and establish links on OPR's Web site to regulations and documents utilized by OPR in carrying out its responsibilities. To be completed by 12-31-06, 6-30-07, 12-31-07, 6-30-08, 12-31-08.

3. Automated tracking capabilities

Goal: Add an additional field to OPR's FOIA tracking system and establish computer link for FOIA Requester Service Center personnel to ensure that information concerning the status of requests is readily available for requester inquiries. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Add an additional field to OPR's FOIA tracking system and establish a computer link to OPR's FOIA tracking system for FOIA Requester Service Center personnel that will provide the necessary status information to FOIA requesters. To be completed by 7-31-06.

4. Conduct review of expedited processing

Goal: Ensure that OPR is properly handling requests for expedited processing. Target completion: 12-31-06, 12-31-07, 12-31-08.

Steps

• Conduct a review of the three most recent fiscal years' worth of requests for expedited processing. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• On an annual basis, conduct a review of the fiscal year's requests for expedited processing. To be completed by 12-31-07, 12-31-08.

5. Backlog-reduction review and analysis of complex requests

Goal: Conduct a study of three years' worth of data for requests in the complex processing track to analyze areas to improve processing time. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Begin data collection to study three years' worth of complex requests. To be completed by 10-31-06.

• Prepare report analyzing the results of the study. To be completed by 12-31-06.

6. Politeness/courtesy

Goal: Provide training for FOIA Requester Service Center personnel to ensure that calls from FOIA requesters and the public are handled accurately and in a professional and courteous manner. Target completion: 12-31-06, 12-31-07, 12-31-08.

Steps

• Create and establish FOIA call database for use in evaluating and documenting calls from FOIA requesters and the public. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Conduct FOIA Requester Service Center training. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• On semi-annual basis, review complaints received by FOIA Public Liaison and obtain feedback from FOIA Requester Service Center personnel. To be completed by 12-31-06, 6-30-07, 12-31-07, 6-30-08, 12-31-08.

7. Improve communications with requesters

Goal: Implement the inclusion of the FOIA request number and OPR's telephone number in all correspondence. Target completion: 7-1-06.

Steps

• Incorporate into all OPR correspondence both the FOIA tracking number and OPR's telephone number. To be completed by 7-1-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Affirmative disclosure of subsection (a)(2) material
-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Review of expedited processing
-- Backlog-reduction review and analysis of complex requests
-- Politeness/courtesy
-- Communications with requesters

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (OSG)

A. NATURE OF OSG'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The Office of the Solicitor General's FOIA staff consists of one FOIA Specialist. We ordinarily receive approximately seventy FOIA requests per year. We receive requests via mail and fax. Last year, we experienced an exceptional increase in our volume of requests due to the many requests we received for records related to the former OSG service of John G. Roberts, Jr., subsequent to his nomination as Chief Justice of the United States, and of Samuel A. Alito, Jr., subsequent to his nomination as Associate Justice. OSG does not have a backlog.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

OSG reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Customer service
-- FOIA Web site improvement

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

OSG reviewed its FOIA operations and determined that, because our ordinary volume of requests is relatively low and because we ordinarily respond to requests within the statutory time period, we would focus on ensuring our continued professional delivery of customer service and on improving our FOIA Web site.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Customer service
-- FOIA Web site improvement

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Customer service

Goal: Provide training and orientation to the OSG FOIA staff to ensure our continued professional delivery of customer service. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Provide training to the FOIA staff on the customer-service requirements highlighted in the Executive Order and the Department of Justice implementing guidance. To be completed by 7-31-06.

2. FOIA Web site improvement

Goal: Improve OSG's FOIA Web page in order to provide more information to the public. Target completion: 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Refine and update process for locating and posting subsection (a)(2) reading room documents. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Review OSG's FOIA Web site quarterly to ensure that information is current and that relevant documents are posted. To be completed by 9-30-06, 12-31-06, 3-31-07, 6-30-07, 9-30-07, 12-31-07, 3-31-08, 6-30-08, 9-30-08, 12-31-08.

• Examine ways to improve OSG's FOIA Web site to make it more user-friendly. To be completed by 9-30-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Customer service
-- FOIA Web site improvement

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

OFFICE ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN (OVW)

A. NATURE OF OVW'S FOIA OPERATIONS

In October 2004, the Office of Violence against Women officially became a separate component within the Department of Justice, having been located within the Office of Justice Programs since 1995. At that time, OVW assumed separate responsibility for its FOIA requests and assigned an OVW FOIA officer. OVW, which made its first annual FOIA report submission this year, is a relatively small component with an FTE ceiling of forty-four. OVW receives approximately fifteen to twenty FOIA requests per year. FOIA files are located in the office of the Chief of Staff, who also serves as the central FOIA point of contact. Most FOIA requests are from potential grantees who want to obtain copies of successful applications to use as samples for their own applications.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

OVW reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Backlog reduction/elimination
-- Forms of communication with requesters
-- FOIA Web site improvement
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Additional training

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

OVW reviewed the list of potential improvement areas presented in the Executive Order and selected several areas to consider (listed above). Based on the fact that OVW receives few FOIA requests compared to other Department of Justice components, we decided that backlog reduction, automated tracking, and forms of communication were not as critical to OVW's FOIA operations as Web site improvement, acknowledgment letters, and staff training. For Web site improvement, OVW staff thoroughly reviewed the Web site for timeliness of information and identified several areas where additional information could be added and reformatted for ease of use.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- FOIA Web site improvement
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Additional training

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Overall FOIA Web site improvement

Goal: Make OVW information easier to find so that people can get what they need from the Web site rather than have to submit a FOIA request for the information. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Provide information that is revised and updated by the OVW staff to the IT staff for posting on a new test site. To be completed by 7-15-06.

• Set imminent date for new site to go live. To be completed by 7-31-06.

2. Acknowledgment letters

Goal: Develop FOIA acknowledgment postcards to send in response to all FOIA requests to acknowledge receipt and provide an estimated time-frame for response (if appropriate). Target completion: 10-31-06.

Steps

• Contact communications contractor to obtain an estimate for the development of these postcards. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Receive samples of postcards for review. To be completed by 8-7-06.

• Submit content for postcards to contractor. To be completed by 8-31-06.

• Send postcard design to printer. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Receive completed postcards from printer and begin use. To be completed by 10-31-06.

3. Additional training

Goal: Provide FOIA training to two additional staff members in order to develop and enhance understanding of the FOIA process. Target completion: 8-31-06.

Steps

• Identify training opportunities offered by the National Advocacy Center. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Select candidates for the training. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Send selected staff to training. To be completed by 8-31-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- FOIA Web site improvement
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Additional training

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY ADVISORY OFFICE (PRAO)

A. NATURE OF PRAO'S FOIA OPERATIONS

After recognizing the need for a Departmental office dedicated to resolving professional responsibility issues faced by Department attorneys and Assistant United States Attorneys, the Department officially established the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office as an independent component within the Department of Justice on April 14, 1999. PRAO's mission is to provide prompt, consistent, and definitive advice to Department attorneys and Assistant United States Attorneys with respect to professional responsibility issues.

PRAO receives few FOIA requests. From 2002 through 2005, PRAO processed fifty-six FOIA requests and with rare exceptions responded to these requests within the statutory time-frame. As of June 2006, PRAO has no backlog of pending FOIA requests. Currently, FOIA requests are processed by PRAO's Information Management Specialist and Office Manager. In March 2006, PRAO implemented the use of an internal electronic tracking system to monitor FOIA requests, responses, and processing times.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

PRAO reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
-- Proactive disclosure of information
-- FOIA Web site improvement
-- Automated tracking capabilities
-- Electronic FOIA
-- Expedited processing
-- Politeness/courtesy
-- Forms of communication with requesters
-- Acknowledgment letters
-- Training
-- In-house training on "safeguarding label"/FOIA exemption distinctions

PRAO also initially reviewed the following potential improvement areas but readily determined them to be either inapplicable to PRAO's FOIA operations or better addressed at the agency level:

-- Improvement of agency FOIA Reference Guide
-- Electronic FOIA -- receiving/responding to requests electronically
-- Multi-track processing
-- Troubleshooting of any existing problems (even minor ones) with existing request tracking
-- Case-by-case problem identification
-- Backlog reduction/elimination
-- System of handling referrals
-- System of handling consultations
-- Process by which necessary cooperation is obtained from agency "program personnel"
-- Improvement ideas from field office personnel (where applicable)
-- Increased staffing (where applicable)
-- Changes to personnel practices (job series, grades, etc.) needed
-- Contracting out/Hiring of contract employees
-- Purchase of new equipment needed
-- Centralization/decentralization
-- Recycling of improvement information gleaned from FOIA Requester Service Centers

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

PRAO has conducted an extensive review of its FOIA operations. Areas of focus included affirmative and proactive disclosure of public information, intake, timeliness of responses, response tracking, communication with requesters, and available training for FOIA staff. In conjunction with the review process, PRAO implemented several improvements to its FOIA processing. These improvements include redrafting standard letters to improve clarity, politeness and courtesy, revising the hard-copy file structure, and implementing an electronic tracking system to monitor FOIA requests, responses, and processing times. Based on this in-depth review of office FOIA procedures, PRAO concluded that further action is not indicated for the following areas:
-- Affirmative disclosure under subsection (a)(2). Due to the limited volume of FOIA requests, PRAO does not have frequently requested records.
-- Proactive disclosure of information. PRAO has reviewed its records and concluded that it does not have any publicly available information suitable for posting on the Web.
-- Expedited processing. PRAO reviewed its practice related to expedited processing and determined that the office is fully compliant with the law and sound policy in this area.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Electronic FOIA
-- Politeness/courtesy
-- Training
-- In-house training on "safeguarding label"/FOIA exemption distinctions

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Electronic FOIA -- automated processing

Goal: Establish the capability to process FOIA request records electronically. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Complete conversion of existing records to electronic format. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Implement capture of incoming documents in electronic format. To be completed by 12-31-06.

2. Politeness/courtesy

Goal: PRAO recognizes the importance of politeness and courtesy when dealing with FOIA requesters, and while PRAO believes prior communications have met this standard, PRAO will endeavor to excel in this important aspect of the "customer-service" policy of the Executive Order. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Train FOIA staff on the courtesy and customer-service requirements highlighted in the Executive Order. To be completed by 7-31-06.

3. Additional training

Goal: Ensure that PRAO is taking full advantage of the governmentwide FOIA training that is available. Target completion: 8-31-06.

Steps

• PRAO's FOIA staff will attend "The Freedom of Information Act for Attorneys and Access Professionals" training provided by the Office of Information and Privacy. To be completed by 8-31-06.

• Additional training and FOIA seminars will be taken as appropriate. To be completed by 8-31-06 (and continuing thereafter).

4. In-house training on "safeguarding label"/FOIA exemption distinctions

Goal: Increase staff awareness of the appropriate use of "safeguarding labels" and its relationship to FOIA-processing decisions. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Train all staff on the importance of using appropriate "safeguarding labels," as distinct from FOIA exemptions. To be completed by 7-31-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Electronic FOIA
-- Politeness/courtesy
-- Training
-- In-house training on "safeguarding label"/FOIA exemption distinctions

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

TAX DIVISION

The Division's FOIA Unit consists of a full-time paralegal specialist and a full-time secretary. It is supervised by a Senior Division Counsel for FOIA and Privacy Act Matters who also supervises the defense of tax-related FOIA and Privacy Act lawsuits on a nationwide basis.

When a FOIA request is received, it is analyzed by the Senior Division Counsel who advises the Unit's secretary how to classify it and whether a search is necessary. The paralegal specialist reviews the secretary's work for accuracy and completeness. If no responsive files are located, the requester is usually notified by letter of that fact the day the request is received. If responsive files are found, the requester is sent a letter advising that the request will be processed in the order it was received. The paralegal specialist then processes the documents and prepares a memorandum detailing why FOIA exemptions were applied and which exemptions apply to each document. Her work is reviewed by the Senior Division Counsel, to whom authority to make a final determination has been delegated. When the request is for records generated by the Tax Division's criminal sections, a criminal section attorney is consulted before any documents are released.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

The Tax Division reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Timeliness
-- Manner of processing complex FOIA requests
-- Training
-- Customer service

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

Since the Tax Division currently has very few requests that take more then twenty days to process, and its tracking system is highly automated, we chose the above-noted areas for review. When the FOIA Unit receives requests for which no files are found, the request is almost always answered on the day the request is received or within twenty-four hours. With respect to more complex requests, the Tax Division's median time to process them was twenty-eight days during the last fiscal year.

The Tax Division recently hired a paralegal specialist from another agency. She had in-house FOIA training there, but has not attended any OIP training classes. The Division's customer service is professional and polite. There is training available within the Division with respect to responding to inquiries from citizens. It will be made available to FOIA Unit personnel.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Manner of processing complex FOIA requests
-- Training
-- Customer service

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Processing of complex requests

Goal: With respect to complex requests, the Tax Division will cut its response time by six percent within approximately one year, and by another six percent within the next year. Target completion: 6-30-07, 6-30-08.

Steps

• Implement a system in which we eliminate one level of review for certain types of form documents that are usually processed in the same fashion each time a request is received for them. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Implement a system in which we focus on the timeliness of responses. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Achieve response-time reduction. To be completed by 6-30-07, 6-30-08.

Goal: Process complex requests within 20-24 median days. Target completion: 6-30-08.

Steps

• Set time limits for processing complex requests. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Implement a system in which we review whether time limits that are specifically set for the processing of complex requests are met on a case-by-case basis. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Focus on backlog reduction. To be completed by 6-30-07, 6-30-08.

2. Training

Goal: Provide FOIA training to new paralegal specialist. Target completion: 7-20-06.

Steps

• New paralegal specialist will attend the two-day Office of Information and Privacy basic training program on the FOIA scheduled for July 18-20, 2006 in Washington, D.C. To be completed by 7-20-06.

3. Customer service

Goal: Train FOIA Requester Service Center staff on how to respond to service center calls. Target completion: 7-30-06.

Steps

• Develop and provide training to FOIA Requester Service Center staff. To be completed by 7-30-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Training
-- Customer service

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

None

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

-- Manner of processing complex FOIA requests

UNITED STATES MARSHALS SERVICE (USMS)

A. NATURE OF USMS'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The United States Marshals Service's Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act team consists of eight highly experienced and dedicated individuals, including one contract employee. We receive approximately 1000 FOIA/PA requests each year. The USMS requesters include news reporters, prisoners, students, historians, and the general public all of whom the FOIA team strives to serve with exemplary responsiveness and courtesy. Our operations are housed in the Office of General Counsel.

FOIA requests to the USMS are placed in one of three major tracks. Track One is for those requests which seek and receive expedited processing pursuant to subsection (a)(6)(E) of the FOIA. Track Two is for simple requests -- those requests which do not involve voluminous records or lengthy consultations with other entities. Track Three is for complex requests -- those requests which involve voluminous records and for which lengthy or numerous consultations are required, or those requests which may involve sensitive law enforcement records. In Fiscal Year 2005, we received 998 requests. The median time for processing requests was twenty-six days for the simple track and 196 days for the complex track. There was no request that met the standard for expedited treatment. We had 172 pending requests at the end of FY 2005. Delays in processing requests are due in part to the decentralized nature of the USMS. The geographical structure of the USMS mirrors the structure of United States district courts. There are ninety-four federal judicial districts, including at least one district in each state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and three territories of the United States -- the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Searches for records sometimes encompass several district offices as well as USMS Headquarters. The FOIA team relies on FOIA liaisons who have been assigned collateral duties to respond to our search request for responsive records.

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

USMS reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Customer service (including the following)
• Automated tracking capabilities for status of requests

• Electronic receipt of request

• Timeliness and completeness of responses to request for expedited processing

• Courtesy and politeness in responding to requesters' inquiries

• Written communications with requesters

• Improvements and suggestions made by requesters

-- Reducing backlog and improving efficiency (including the following)
• Automated processing of requests

• Improvements to multi-track processing

• Search for records procedures

• Improvements to referral and consultation procedures, correspondence, and tracking

• Improvements to training and cooperation from component program personnel

• FOIA-specific training and information technology training for personnel where additional personnel are needed
-- Electronic access and affirmative disclosure (including the following)
• Improvements to USMS FOIA Web site and electronic reading room

• Posting of frequently requested material

• Programs having material to disclose without a request

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

We began our review by renewing our commitment to building relationships with requesters that help them to understand the operations of the USMS and the processing of their request. The staff has fully embraced its responsibility to be customer-friendly. Our review focused on issues that would make us more customer-friendly and more responsive to requesters, both as an affirmative matter in providing information without a FOIA request and by responding to inquiries regarding their requests. We also focused on reducing our backlog of approximately 140 requests and reducing the time it takes to process FOIA requests.

As referenced above, USMS FOIA liaisons are responsible for conducting and/or coordinating document searches within the appropriate USMS Headquarters, district, or sub-office location to ensure that thorough document searches are expediently conducted, and that search results, including "no records" responses, are promptly forwarded to the FOIA staff. The FOI/PA Liaison is available also to respond or direct inquiries to appropriate district/office personnel to respond to specific questions by the FOIA staff regarding the origins or significance of information contained in district/office records, if not readily identifiable, to ensure that sensitive information is sufficiently protected against disclosure. When district or Headquarters offices are asked to search their records in response to a FOIA request, USMS policy specifies that within five days the responsible personnel are to search every file which is likely to contain the records, make two copies of each document relevant to the request and forward them to the FOIA staff. We determined that we could improve efficiency by monitoring our records search process more closely and by receiving responsive records electronically where appropriate rather than by mail.

We also determined that we may be able to reduce processing time by monitoring the way we categorize requests within our multi-track processing system. Currently, requests are placed in the complex category based primarily on volume of responsive records anticipated. If in addition to volume, we anticipate the law enforcement sensitivity of the responsive records and the FOIA exemptions that may apply, we can more accurately categorize request within the simple and complex tracks. Furthermore, we may be able to consult with USMS program managers earlier in the process regarding searches or applicability of FOIA exemptions. In addition, we may be able to help requesters reformulate their requests in order to receive records sooner. We anticipate that regular communication with FOIA personnel and program managers regarding the requirements of the FOIA and the important role that they play in our process will enhance our overall efficiency.

The USMS FOIA staff does not currently process requests electronically. We are aware, however, that there are electronic processing systems being used by other Department of Justice components. Our plan is to explore the feasibility of electronically processing requests by examining and testing various existing systems. Then we can seek to implement electronic processing within budget constraints.

We reviewed our process for handling consultations with other components. We determined that in some cases we could save processing time by improving our telephone and written communications with components regarding the turnaround time for requests. In addition, we will communicate with the appropriate components regarding those USMS records that do not require consultation prior to processing and release by another component.

We reviewed the need for additional FOIA personnel. While the USMS FOIA staff has the advantage of considerable experience in the FOIA, we could benefit from additional personnel to handle the initial processing of requests. Currently, FOIA personnel handle requests from the date they are assigned to them until their completion. We will explore adding additional personnel to handle the administrative work related to processing requests such as initial component searches, acknowledgment letters, scanning records, etc.

We reviewed improvements that might be made to our FOIA Web site and electronic reading room. We determined that in addition to our subsection (a)(2) information, we could reduce the number of FOIA requests by posting material for which we frequently receive requests such as awarded contracts for the housing of USMS prisoners. Furthermore, we will look for other areas of USMS operations that may be of interest to the public to which to provide links and for which we will make affirmative disclosures of material where appropriate.

With respect to other areas of customer service, we are addressing our written and telephone communications with requesters. We will improve our automated tracking of requests in order to provide requesters with timely and accurate responses to their inquiries regarding the status of their requests. We need to provide contact information for our FOIA Requester Service Center and FOIA Public Liaison as well as the individual FOIA specialist assigned to a particular request where appropriate. Furthermore, we have determined to work towards receiving and responding to requests electronically and establishing a tracking mechanism for requesters' improvement suggestions.

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Customer service (including the following)
• Automated tracking capabilities for status of requests

• Electronic receipt and response to request

• Timeliness and completeness of responses to request for expedited processing

• Courtesy and politeness in responding to requesters' inquiries

• Written communications with requesters

• Tracking suggestions made by requesters

-- Reducing backlog and improving efficiency (including the following)
• Automated processing

• Improvements to multi-track processing

• Search for records procedures

• Referral and consultations procedures

• Information technology training for personnel

• Training and cooperation of program personnel

• Additional FOIA personnel
-- Electronic access and affirmative disclosure (including the following)
• Posting material without request

• Ensuring proper subsection (a)(2) postings in the electronic reading room

• Creating links to and posting of USMS program and Department of Justice material

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Customer service

Goal: Improve automated tracking of status of requests and responses to requesters. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Add a page to USMS's automated case tracking for tracking FOIA status queries and responses. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Review tracking system with FOIA staff to determine whether fields provide sufficient information regarding nature of request, status of search for records, and request processing and change fields where appropriate. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Assign staff to receive and log in requests. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Post USMS FOIA e-mail request availability on USMS Internet Web site. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Respond electronically where appropriate. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Review responses to requests for expedited processing for timeliness and completeness. To be completed by 7-31-06.

Goal: Ensure that FOIA personnel receive training on courtesy and customer service. Target completion: 9-15-06.

Steps

• Train FOIA staff on the courtesy and customer-service requirements highlighted in the Executive Order. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Determine external training opportunities. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Discuss problems/suggestions monthly. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Track requester suggestions quarterly. To be completed by 9-15-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

Goal: Improve written communications with requesters. Target completion: 7-31-06.

Steps

• Ensure that FOIA Requester Service Center and FOIA Public Liaison contact information are on all correspondence. To be completed by 6-30-06.

• Use Web site to inform requesters of types of information that facilitate search for records. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• When requests are for records not maintained by USMS, ensure that requesters receive acknowledgment letters informing them that the records are not maintained by USMS. To be completed by 7-31-06.

2. Reducing backlog and improving efficiency

Goal: Determine automated processing system to be implemented. Target completion: 9-30-07.

Steps

• Arrange to examine existing automated processing systems within the Department. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Contact and arrange for vender demonstrations of automated systems. To be completed by 3-31-07.

• Determine appropriations for budget. To be completed by 9-30-07.

Goal: Enhance efficiency and effectiveness of the multi-track processing system. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Examine how requests are categorized within tracks. To be completed by 7-30-06.

• Establish specific guidelines for the FOIA staff regarding delineating the types of requests that fall into each track. To be completed by 7-30-06.

• Review requests in each track for compliance with guidelines. To be completed by 9-30-06.

Goal: Reduce median processing time for each track by twenty-five percent. Target completion: 9-30-07 (and continuing thereafter).

Steps

• Set quarterly goals and track the actual backlog for each reporting period. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Establish and implement bi-weekly review of oldest pending requests. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and bi-weekly thereafter).

• Achieve response-time reduction. To be completed by 9-30-07.

Goal: Improve handling of consultations and referrals. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Examine referrals upon receipt to see if it is in litigation and assign where appropriate to reduce backlog. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Review records and make agreements with other components to process consultation records where appropriate. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Institute a system to ensure that referrals are processed in order by date of receipt. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Establish routine correspondence to track status of consultations. To be completed by 7-1-06.

Goal: Improve cooperation and FOIA training of program personnel. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Institute a system for the sending via e-mail quarterly reminders, including to FOIA Public Liaison and system managers, regarding FOIA/PA requirements and responsibilities. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Communicate with FOIA Public Liaison as appropriate regarding complex/voluminous requests. To be completed by 9-30-06 (and continuing thereafter).

• Establish a regular response to staff personnel and supervisors for jobs well done. To be completed by 6-30-06 (and continuing thereafter)

• Standardize search/consultation letters within USMS to include a reminder about labels versus FOIA exemptions. To be completed by 7-31-06.

Goal: Improve search procedures. Target completion: 7-1-06.

Steps

• Establish the use of a request-tracking tickler system to flag due dates for search responses. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Establish the practice of e-mailing searches of FOIA requests to FOIA Public Liaison, flagging e-mail for importance, and tracking time limits. To be completed by 7-1-06.

Goal: Ensure receipt of FOIA and information technology training by FOIA personnel. Target completion: 7-31-07.

Steps

• Provide annual FOIA/PA training opportunity for all. To be completed by 7-31-07.

• Investigate and provide database and other automated applications and technology training. To be completed by 7-31-07.

• Recommend purchase of new technology for scanning/storing of records. To be completed by 4-1-07.

Goal: Review FOIA operations and recommend additonal staffing where appropriate. Target completion: 2-1-07.

Steps

• Investigate feasibility of hiring contractors for FOIA pre-processing tasks such as sending search request to program and field offices, scanning, and referring documents. To be completed by 2-1-07.

• Based on feasibility investigation, recommend additional FOIA staffing in budget. To be completed by 2-1-07.

3. Electronic access and affirmative disclosure

Goal: Take initiative to ensure full implementation of the requirements of subsection (a)(2). Target completion: 9-15-06.

Steps

• Update postings of staff manuals and instructions in electronic reading room. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Process USMS policy documents, awarded contracts, and other records of common interest for application of any applicable FOIA exemptions. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Submit processed material to the appropriate USMS program office for review and meet with program managers to ensure full posting. To be completed by 9-15-06.

Goal: Improve FOIA Web site. Target completion: 10-31-06.

Steps

• Link to Department of Justice FOIA material, forms, and references. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Review Web site for other program materials for which we receive FOIA requests, but which are not on the public Web site (e.g., information technology, budget). To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Establish links to program materials where appropriate. To be completed by 10-31-06.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Customer service
-- Electronic access and affirmative disclosure

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Reducing backlog and improving efficiency

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

UNITED STATES PAROLE COMMISSION (USPC)

A. NATURE OF USPC'S FOIA OPERATIONS

The United States Parole Commission primarily processes requests for inmates and parolees under its jurisdiction. The USPC also processes a small percentage of requests for third-party requesters such as newspaper reporters and individuals seeking public information on convicted prisoners. During Fiscal Year 2005, the USPC received 1066 requests and processed 1011 requests. These requests were processed by staff members in the USPC's Office of the General Counsel. The USPC has one full-time FOIA Officer,15 and it supplements its staff through the hiring of student employees. The General Counsel of the USPC is the official denial authority. The USPC is also responsible for processing its own FOIA appeals. In Fiscal Year 2005, the USPC received six appeals and processed five appeals. The Chairman of the USPC is the final authority on the outcome of USPC FOIA administrative appeals.16

B. AREAS SELECTED FOR REVIEW

The USPC reviewed the following potential improvement areas:

-- Recruitment
-- Technology improvements
-- Improving multi-track processing
-- Customer relations/Communications
-- Referral/consultation process
-- Written customer communications
-- Training
-- Improving recordkeeping
-- Backlog reduction
-- FOIA Web page/Reading room records

C. NARRATIVE STATEMENT SUMMARIZING RESULTS OF REVIEW

In the area of recruitment, the USPC determined that the backlog of 125 requests could be reduced through the temporary hiring of student employees or contract workers. In the past, the USPC has been successful in hiring students who are interested in working for the federal government during school breaks. In regard to contract workers, the Commission has hired a few contract workers to process FOIA requests but the quality of the work performed by contract workers has not been very high. A new approach is to hire contract workers who formally worked for the USPC or worked closely with the USPC.

In addition to hiring more personnel, the USPC also considered modifying its position description to add more duties and to increase the pay grade. Since the FOIA is such a particular speciality in the government, the USPC has noticed that other agencies offer higher pay grades for their FOIA specialists.

In regard to technology improvements, the USPC reviewed its current system and noticed improvements that could be made in gathering data and generating statistical reports. The USPC also considered software that is more user friendly that would make it easier to train personnel given that the temporary use of students and contract workers will create a high turnover rate for the FOIA unit. The USPC is also evaluating whether it would increase the efficiency of the FOIA unit if requests were received electronically.

The USPC reviewed its current multi-track processing system to see if it could be improved. The USPC currently uses a two-track system. Requests for two items or less are placed in a short-track file and requests for more than two items are placed in a long-track file. Within each track, requests are generally processed on a first in/first out basis. However, the first in/first out basis may be disrupted if the file for the next request is not available because it is being used by another section within the USPC.

In regard to customer relations/communication, the USPC reviewed its practice of sending telephone inquiries to an automated answering system. The automated system provides information on how to make a FOIA request but it could not provide information regarding the status of pending requests. The USPC now takes telephone inquires through the General Counsel's office to answer questions regarding pending FOIA requests. The USPC strives to respond to requests within twenty working days and, if it does not meet that goal, it generally sends outs acknowledgment letters within twenty working days explaining the reason for the delay and providing information on fees. The USPC has seen the backlog increase due to the resignation of the FOIA specialist and delay in hiring a replacement. The majority of the requests received by the USPC are from prisoners or parolees who are not permitted to contact USPC personnel by telephone. This is an internal policy that prevents miscommunication between USPC staff members and prisoners or parolees. Thus, the USPC tries to provide as much information as possible in the acknowledgment letters. The majority of telephone calls are from third-party requesters such as newspaper reporters. USPC staff members treat these requesters with courtesy. If a FOIA requester has additional questions that cannot be answered by the FOIA Requester Service Center, the requester is referred to the FOIA Public Liaison for more information.

In regard to the consultation process, the USPC has employed a practice over a number of years that has drastically reduced the number of referrals between the USPC and other Department components and other agencies. Generally, requesters seek documents from a number of components and agencies at the same time and each agency processes the exact same records for the requesters. For documents that frequently appear in USPC files from other components and agencies, the USPC advises the requester that it assumes that a request has already been sent to that agency and therefore the documents will not be processed. If the requester wishes to have the documents referred anyway, it simply notifies the USPC. This process has been successful, and for approximately ninety percent of requests the requesters do not seek the referral of documents to other agencies.

The USPC has relied upon the same model letters for a number of years. These letters have been reviewed and it was discovered that some of them contain outdated language or terms. The USPC intends to improve the language in the letters and thus, improve communication with the requesters.

In regard to training, the USPC attempts to conduct annual training with the FOIA processors. However, that is not always possible given the small size of the USPC's FOIA staff and the constant influx of new personnel. The USPC believes that it is important to conduct periodic training with the staff, even the more experienced staff members, and to hold meetings to consider any ideas for improvement that the staff members may suggest.

In regard to recordkeeping, the USPC maintains several copies of prior FOIA requests and the response letters. The retention schedule is generally a two-year period. The records need to be disposed of more quickly to make room for the new records. This will allow for easy access to the new records if questions arise.

In regard to backlog reduction, the USPC attempts to respond to its oldest requests, but often finds that the reason for the delay is the unavailability of the file. The USPC will coordinate with the other sections within the USPC to borrow files for a short time in order to process the oldest FOIA requests.

In regard to the Web page, the USPC provides relevant information regarding the FOIA process and the types of records that the agency maintains. The Web page also provides publications and minutes of the USPC's business meeting. The Web page provides a copy of the USPC's complete Rules and Procedures Manual. The reading room also provides public records regarding USPC decisions. Copies of the USPC's Manual are available for sale for $12.00 or a CD of the Manual is available free of charge. However, for the most part, FOIA requesters are seeking parole records, which are not available through the Web page or by visiting the reading room, because the records are not deemed public records

D. AREAS CHOSEN AS IMPROVEMENT AREAS FOR PLAN

-- Recruitment
-- Technology improvements
-- Improving multi-track processing
-- Customer relations/Communications
-- Written customer communications
-- Training
-- Improved recordkeeping
-- Backlog reduction

E. IMPROVEMENT AREA PLANS

1. Recruitment

Goal: Hire additional personnel through contracts and or student personnel. Target completion: 9-30-06.

Steps

• Explore with Personnel Office the hiring of former employees on a contract basis. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Explore with Personnel Office the recruitment of student interns. To be completed by 9-30-06.

Goal: Hire a FOIA Officer at a higher pay grade. Target completion: 8-31-06.

Steps

• Using revised position description, hire a FOIA Officer at an increased grade level. To be completed by 08-31-06.

2. Technology improvements

Goal: Explore improvement to software to allow for clearer statistical reports and to make system more user-friendly. Target completion: 10-15-06.

Steps

• Rewrite software program to generate clearer statistical reports. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Meet with IT staff to consider improvements to program to make it more user-friendly. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Implement improvements. To be completed by 10-15-06.

3. Improving multi-track processing

Goal: Create an additional track to improve efficiency and reduce backlog. Target completion: 6-30-07.

Steps

• Develop three separate categories for requests. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Separate requests into three categories and create filing system for pending requests by category. To be completed by 3-30-07.

• Implement new three-track multi-track processing system. To be completed by 6-30-07.

4. Customer relations/Communications

Goal: Communicate with requesters on a more frequent basis and improve quality of telephone interactions. Target completion: 12-31-06.

Steps

• Provide general training to staff on courtesy issues in responding to telephone inquiries. To be completed by 7-31-06.

• Provide training to FOIA Requester Service Center staff members on communicating with FOIA requesters. To be completed by 7-1-06.

• Implement a system in which we verify with requester that pending FOIA request is still needed in light of routine document disclosure provided prior to parole hearings. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Consider accepting FOIA requests electronically. To be completed by 12-31-06.

5. Improve written communications with requesters

Goal: Issue new model letters to be used on a regular basis. Target completion: 3-1-07.

Steps

• Review all model letters for revision of outdated language. To be completed by 9-1-06.

• Draft new model letters for routine requests. To be completed by 12-1-06.

• Implement use of new model letters in responding to requests. To be completed by 3-1-07.

6. Training

Goal: Provide training to FOIA processors and conduct quarterly meetings with staff. Target completion: 1-31-07.

Steps

• Update training manual. To be completed by 1-31-07.

• Schedule quarterly training for FOIA processors. To be completed by 1-31-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

• Hold quarterly meetings with FOIA staff to discuss changes or needed areas of improvement. To be completed by 1-31-07 (and quarterly thereafter).

7. Recordkeeping

Goal: Implement a schedule for disposal of old records and preparing for new records. Target completion: 6-30-07.

Steps

• Review process for keeping copies of records. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Consider alternative for organizing pending requests and draft schedule for removal of old records. To be completed by 12-31-06.

• Implement new schedule for organizing requests and record removal. To be completed by 6-30-07.

8. Backlog reduction

Goal: Reduce the number of backlogged requests by fifty percent. Target completion: 6-30-07.

Steps

• Hire additional personnel, including a new FOIA Officer. To be completed by 9-30-06.

• Improve multi-track system. To be completed by 6-30-07.

• Target and process the oldest FOIA requests by obtaining file from other USPC sections. To be completed by 1-31-07.

F. IMPROVEMENT TIME PERIODS

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-06

-- Recruitment
-- Technology improvements
-- Customer relations/Communications

Areas anticipated to be completed by 12-31-07

-- Improving multi-track processing
-- Written customer communications
-- Training
-- Improve recordkeeping
-- Backlog reduction

Areas anticipated to be completed after 12-31-07

None

CONCLUSION

In sum, the Department of Justice has established a firm plan for the improvement of its administration of the Freedom of Information Act, on a component-by-component basis,17 that fully complies with Executive Order 13,392. Implementation of this FOIA improvement plan comes next. Pursuant to Section 3(c)(ii) of the Executive Order, the Department will report on the successes of its initial implementation activities, with reference to its plan's specific goals and milestones, as part of its annual FOIA report for Fiscal Year 2006 (which is due on February 1, 2007). See FOIA Post, "Executive Order 13,392 Implementation Guidance" (posted 4/27/06) (Part III).18 Anyone with any question about any aspect of this plan, or its implementation, should contact the particular Department component involved19 or may raise it more generally with the Office of Information and Privacy at (202) 514-FOIA.

Attachments (3)

    1 In order to further facilitate the Executive Order's governmentwide implementation, the Department created and maintains a list of the Chief FOIA Officers of all federal agencies, a copy of which is attached as Attachment A.

    2 A copy of this listing is attached as Attachment B. The Department of Justice is comprised of forty separate components. For purposes of FOIA administration, eight leadership offices are handled as a group, yielding a total of thirty-three separate offices. A thirty-fourth FOIA Requester Service Center has been established within the Justice Management Division in connection with the special FOIA Mail Referral Unit that is contained within that component.

    3 This includes all agency activity under the FOIA as well as action on first-party requests for access to records made under the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a (2000); in the case of the latter, such a first-party access request is treated as one made under both the FOIA and the Privacy Act.

    4 These additional seven covered offices are the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the Office of the Associate Attorney General, the Office of Legal Policy, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison, and the Office of Public Affairs.

    5 There currently is one vacant FOIA Specialist position on the IR Staff; OIP expects to be able to fill this vacancy very soon.

    6 The Office of Information and Privacy's Deputy Director acts on initial requests independently of OIP's Director, who decides administrative appeals taken from denials of such requests for the Department. See 28 C.F.R. § 16.9(a) (2005); see also note 7, below. Thus, OIP maintains separation between its initial request-level actions and its higher-level review of those actions on administrative appeal.

    7 An additional function of the Office of Information and Privacy is to adjudicate the approximately 3000 administrative appeals that are filed by requesters each year from denials of FOIA and Privacy Act requests by the Department's forty components. This area of FOIA administration, too, is part of the Department's plan. Accord FOIA Post, "Executive Order 13,392 Implementation Guidance" (posted 4/27/06) (Part IV, Q&A # 7). During the past year, OIP began a process of adjustment in this area due to the retirement of the one of its two directors who had held primary responsibility for administrative appeal adjudication over the past twenty-five years. As a result of this, and due also to a major difficulty encountered in the FBI's shift to a new administrative appeal-related recordkeeping system that was adopted by the FBI at approximately the same time, the Department experienced a substantial increase in its backlog of pending administrative appeals during the first half of Fiscal Year 2006. This area has been carefully reviewed and further adjustments have now been developed and instituted to address it. Already, a supervisory change instituted by OIP to overcome the administrative difficulty that arose at the FBI has yielded a faster and more efficient flow of administrative appeal adjudications involving that major component. Going forward, OIP's goal is to apply its recently restructured administrative appeal adjudication processes toward the goal of reducing its backlog of pending appeals by 25%, 30%, and 35% during roughly the next three calendar years (i.e., by 1-15-07, 1-15-08, and 12-31-08, respectively), a goal that also includes completion of the ten oldest appeals pending (at a minimum) during each of these three time periods.

    8 OIP also plans to continue routine communication with the FOIA contacts in its seven covered offices regarding outstanding FOIA searches, with special emphasis on requests for which expedited processing has been granted.

    9 Part of this plan will involve OIP overseeing the further development of Web-based processes by which Department of Justice components may receive FOIA requests electronically, something which OIP will be doing with an eye toward implementation with respect to its own aggregated group of initial requests as well as those received by other components. As may be noted throughout the Department's plan, several individual components already are providing a basis for moving forward comprehensively in this regard.

    10 It should be noted that certain steps described within the previously discussed improvement areas (i.e., improving the records search process and hiring new staff) also constitute steps pertinent to this backlog-reduction improvement area.

    11 These requests involved such subjects as the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Freedom Riders; the desegregation of schools in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and other jurisdictions; the deaths of Viola Liuzzo, Medgar Evers, Andrew Goodwin, Michael Schwerner, and James Cheney; Birmingham Bombings; Kent State; Orangeburg, SC Campus killings and Mississippi State; the People's Park; the Wilmington 10; the killing of Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers; FBI surreptitious entries. Later years brought requests for records involving the Civil Rights Division's prosecution of the killing of Alan Berg; the Rodney King matter; the Philadelphia Police Department and the MOVE organization; as well as an intense requester interest in the Division's guidance on Disability Rights.

    12 See note 14, below.

    13 See note 1, above.

    14 Under an upcoming reorganization, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review will become subsumed within a newly created National Security Division of the Department. This reorganization, which will consolidate OIPR with two sections of the Criminal Division, was announced by the Department on March 13, 2006, and it is expected to take effect soon.

    15 The FOIA Officer position currently is vacant.

    16 Pursuant to its independent grant of statutory authority, the United States Parole Commission administers the FOIA independently in certain respects. See 28 C.F.R. § 16.207(b) (2005).

    17 One additional component of the Department, the Office of Dispute Resolution, is so small that it received only four FOIA requests during the last fiscal year, which it handled with ready dispatch. Although it is not discussed above, this Department of Justice component likewise plans to ensure that it will be conforming to Executive Order 13,392's principles in all aspects of its limited FOIA activity.

    18 Under the Executive Order, a further report of implementation results will be made on February 1, 2008.

    19 A listing of Department of Justice components, with names and telephone numbers of principal component FOIA personnel, is attached for convenient reference as Attachment C.