The Attorney General's 2009 FOIA Guidelines directed agency Chief FOIA Officers to “review all aspects of their agencies’ FOIA administration” and to report annually to the Department of Justice on the efforts undertaken “to improve FOIA operations and facilitate information disclosure at their agencies.” In accordance with the 2009 FOIA Guidelines, OIP provides specific guidance each year to agencies on the content and timing of these reports and today we have issued the guidelines for agency 2016 Chief FOIA Officer Reports.
Since 2010, OIP’s guidelines for agency Chief FOIA Officer Reports have required agencies to examine the five key areas addressed in the 2009 FOIA Guidelines:
- Applying the Presumption of Openness,
- Ensuring that there are Effective Systems for Responding to Requests,
- Increasing Proactive Disclosures,
- Increasing the Utilization of Technology, and
- Improving Timeliness and Reducing any Backlogs.
Each year’s reporting guidelines build off the efforts and initiatives reported in the prior years. Our goal is to capture more advanced steps taken by agencies as their implementation of the FOIA Guidelines has matured. This year’s guidelines also continue to focus on certain areas where further improvements can be made.
The 2016 Chief FOIA Officer Report Guidelines maintain the streamlined reporting requirements introduced last year for agencies that receive a lower volume of FOIA requests, i.e. less than 1,000 incoming requests each year. For those agencies with more than 1,000 requests received annually, the guidelines remain quite comprehensive.
As in previous years, OIP has included new questions in the 2016 Chief FOIA Officer Report Guidelines, covering such topics as:
- Plans for ensuring that a high percentage of agency FOIA professionals receive substantive FOIA training,
- Steps to strengthen Requester Service Centers, FOIA Public Liaisons, and dispute resolution services,
- Proper procedures for “still-interested” inquiries,
- The role of FOIA professionals in posting records online, and
- Training conducted for processing tools, such as new case management systems or eDiscovery tools.
OIP has once again identified the twenty-nine agencies that received more than 1,000 requests during the most recent fiscal year of available data and has listed them in this year’s guidelines as “high-volume” agencies. These agencies must submit their draft 2016 Chief FOIA Officer Reports to OIP for review by no later than January 15, 2016.
The remaining agencies must submit their draft reports to OIP for review by no later than February 5, 2016. To assist agencies in the completion of their reports, OIP has created separate templates for large- and small-agencies containing their specific questions from this year’s guidelines.
Additional details on the review and submission process are included in the Guidelines. OIP will once again host a refresher training seminar on the preparation of both the 2016 Chief FOIA Officer Reports and the Fiscal Year 2015 Annual FOIA Reports. The details for this training will be announced here on FOIA Post.