Over the course of Sunshine Week last week, agencies across the government began posting their 2017 Chief FOIA Officer Reports. For anyone unfamiliar with these reports, they’re annual narratives on agencies’ efforts to improve the administration of the FOIA at their agencies in five key areas: applying the presumption of openness; ensuring that there are effective systems in place for responding to requests; increasing proactive disclosures; increasing the utilization of technology; and improving timeliness and reducing backlogs.
The Department of Justice released its 2017 Chief FOIA Officer Report last Monday detailing a range of accomplishments and initiatives in each of these areas. For example:
- The Department worked to meet the high demand of increasing numbers of incoming requests by processing more requests than in any year since 2002. While processing a record high number of requests, the Department maintained a high release rate of 93.5% and closed its oldest requests, appeals, and consultations.
- The Department continued to embrace the importance of proactive disclosures by posting more material on its websites. For example, the FBI continues to add to its robust FOIA Library, The Vault, which contains over 6,700 documents and other media.
- Embracing our governmentwide role in FOIA, the Department also continued to provide quality FOIA training to all FOIA professionals across the government. During 2016, OIP provided training on a range of FOIA topics to over 2,100 FOIA professionals. Additionally, in order to assist agencies in understanding the new changes made to the FOIA by the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, OIP issued guidance to agencies and added new resources to its website, including a summary of the changes to the law as well as an Implementation Checklist on the new requirements for FOIA response letters and a Decision Tree for Assessing Fees. OIP also provided government-wide training on the new provisions and updated its guidance and sample language template on the content of agency FOIA regulations.
As agencies post their 2017 Chief FOIA Officer Reports, we encourage you to review them to find out more about the various FOIA efforts undertaken across the government this past year. OIP will continue to provide a central link to these reports on our website as they become available. OIP will also once again publish a governmentwide summary of the reports and an assessment of agencies’ FOIA administration based on the Annual and Chief FOIA Officer Reports. Be sure to continue reading FOIA Post for more information.