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Calculating FOIA Response Times after the Government Shutdown

As federal employees returned to work after the recent government shutdown, OIP has been asked by many FOIA professionals how these recent events will impact their agency’s FOIA reporting.  Specifically, agencies have asked whether the recent government shutdown affected how agencies should count the number of days used to respond to FOIA requests and administrative appeals. When considering how to calculate the number of days used to respond to FOIA requests and administrative appeals for agency Annual FOIA Reports, the following guidance should apply:

Agencies and requesters alike generally refer to the FOIA’s time limits as “working days.”  Logically, then, they could easily conclude that during a time when FOIA Offices had no choice but to be closed because of the lapse in funding, those days when employees were furloughed were not “working” days and so should not be counted as part of the FOIA’s response times.  As a matter of policy, however, and consistent with the spirit of openness in administering the FOIA, agencies should count as part of their response times for FOIA requests and appeals the eleven days when the government was closed, which excludes the Saturdays, Sundays, and the one legal public holiday that occurred during the shutdown.

Our hope and expectation is that requesters will fully understand that even though agencies will be including these shutdown days in their calculations of response times, that because FOIA personnel were not able to work during that period, there will necessarily be an impact on processing times. OIP’s FOIA Counselor Service and Annual FOIA Report Team are available to answer any questions on this guidance or any other topic regarding FOIA administration, and can be reached at (202) 514-FOIA (3642).

Updated August 15, 2014