On July 22, 2016, the Chief FOIA Officers (CFO) Council, created by the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, held its inaugural meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The CFO Council is composed of all agency CFOs, plus the Deputy Director for Management from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and is co-chaired by the Directors of OIP and the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS). Chief FOIA Officers and representatives from over 64 agencies attended, along with several members of the public. The meeting was available via livestream, and the full video recording is available here.
OIP Director Melanie Ann Pustay, opened the meeting by providing an overview of the responsibilities of agency CFOs. Next, Andrew Mayock, a Senior Advisor at OMB, emphasized the Administration’s commitment to transparency and open government. Mr. Mayock described the recently-announced Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal for FOIA that will be co-led by OMB, DOJ, and NARA to focus senior leadership attention and drive performance and accountability for improving FOIA administration, and to ensure that Federal departments and agencies are providing sufficient resources toward FOIA responsibilities. He explained that the CAP goal will be publicly posted on Performance.gov, and will have a detailed action plan, including specific metrics and milestones that will be used to gauge progress. Mr. Mayock explained that the initial focus of the CAP goal will be on implementing the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.
Acting Director of OGIS Nikki Gramian also gave opening remarks. She discussed the responsibilities of OGIS and summarized the first meeting of the second term of the FOIA Advisory Committee, which is composed of representatives from both agencies and the requester community. Ms. Gramian indicated that she anticipates the work of the CFO Council and the FOIA Advisory Committee will be complementary, and that she looks forward to keeping the CFO Council informed about the Advisory Committee’s activities.
Director Pustay then introduced the Council’s first item for consideration – implementing a “release to one is release to all” presumption for FOIA responses. Director Pustay briefed the Council on OIP’s six-month pilot program conducted with seven volunteer Federal agencies that was designed to assess the viability of a policy that would direct agencies to proactively post online their FOIA responses. The President has directed the CFO Council to consider the lessons learned from the DOJ pilot program and to work to develop a Federal Government policy establishing a “release to one is a release to all” presumptive standard for Federal agencies when releasing records under FOIA. After briefing the Council on the pilot and OIP’s findings, Director Pustay answered questions from the members on a wide range of issues connected with implementation of the policy.
In the coming months, the CFO Council will examine issues critical to this policy’s implementation, including assessing the impact on investigative journalism efforts, as well as how best to address technological and resource challenges. At its next meeting, the Council will invite journalists and members of the public to provide feedback about the “release to all” policy, specifically addressing the concerns raised by some journalists about its possible impact on their work. Details about the next meeting will be available here on FOIA Post.