Chief FOIA Officers Council Meeting Highlights New Attorney General FOIA Guidelines
The Chief FOIA Officers Council met virtually on April 21, 2022. Associate Attorney General of the United States Vanita Gupta's opening remarks focused on key aspects of the new Attorney General's FOIA Guidelines. The new Guidelines emphasize a presumption of openness when applying the FOIA and, among other things, encourage agencies to make information more accessible to the public by removing barriers to access, proactively posting records online, and reducing agency FOIA backlogs.
The Office of Information Policy (OIP) Director, Bobby Talebian, emphasized additional elements of the Attorney General's FOIA Guidelines, in particular focusing on removing barriers to access by examining alternative means of access to records outside the FOIA process and ensuring agency FOIA websites enable the public to easily find records. The Guidelines also emphasize that FOIA is everyone's responsibility and highlight the important role of Chief FOIA Officers and regular FOIA training for the entire workforce. OIP will provide guidance and updated FOIA reporting requirements to help agencies implement the new FOIA Guidelines. Director Talebian also provided an overview of recent Government Accountability Office FOIA reports, reminders about FOIA.gov, and highlighted upcoming FOIA training.
The Office of Government Information Services Director, Alina Semo, discussed the importance of providing requesters with estimated dates of completion (EDC) and shared several recommendations for agency compliance with the requirement to provide an EDC, including ensuring FOIA professionals have necessary resources and use of average processing times to determine EDCs. Director Semo also highlighted the work of the FOIA Federal Advisory Committee. The final meeting of the 2020-2022 term of the Committee will be held on June 9, 2022.
The CFO Council’s two Committees provided updates on their work. The Committee on Technology recapped the NextGen FOIA Showcase and follow up workshop, and announced the creation of new working groups focused on data, IT integration, technology best practices, and FOIA reference models. The CFO Council's Committee on Cross-Agency Collaboration and Innovation (COCACI) gave an overview of each subcommittee's progress, including surveys that will be disseminated to FOIA professionals government-wide and a workshop on best practices and innovative methods for using a sharing resources. Both committees are open to new members. If you are an agency FOIA professional and are interested in joining, please contact DOJ.OIP.FOIA@usdoj.gov.