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Agency Chief FOIA Officers Respond to the President’s and Attorney General’s Call for Transparency

This year, for the first time, all agencies subject to FOIA were required to submit Chief FOIA Officer reports. In those reports, agencies were asked to describe the steps they had taken to improve transparency in accordance with the President’s FOIA Memorandum, and the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines. The department’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) has analyzed and prepared a summary of the reports. The reports show that more documents have been released, more information has been made available on websites, and backlogs of pending requests have decreased in the past year. “These 94 agencies have taken significant steps forward in providing the American people with the transparency they want and deserve,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Much work needs to be done in the effort to open up the government’s FOIA process and improve its efficiency, but these results indicate we have made important strides in the right direction.” Among the results:
  • All agencies reported progress in implementing the presumption of openness, with over half having that progress rated as “remarkable.”
  • Almost half of the ninety four agencies reported divulging documents in discretionary releases – i.e., the documents were requested under the FOIA and the agency could legally have withheld information, but chose not to. Over half looked for opportunities to do so.
  • More information is being released to FOIA requesters. In Fiscal Year 2009, the number of responses with released records, either records released in full or in part, increased overall. The number of partial releases increased by approximately 50,000 documents.
  • 89% of agencies reported proactively disclosing material on their websites – i.e., producing material that has not (yet) been requested by the public.
  • 95% of agencies, including all Cabinet agencies, can receive FOIA requests electronically, rather than merely via snail mail or other non-technological methods. 91% track the requests electronically as well.
  • 60% of agencies either had no backlog in processing FOIA requests or reduced that backlog in Fiscal Year 2009. 85% reduced the age of the oldest request or had no backlogged request to close.
Updated April 7, 2017