September 6, 2011
The following post is authored by Director Melanie Ann Pustay For FOIA professionals across the government the month of September holds particular significance. As the last month of the fiscal year, September marks the time when agencies are doing all that they can to close requests and appeals, to reduce backlogs, and continue to make increased releases in response to requests. All the efforts that have been made throughout the fiscal year toward those efforts culminate in September. This is the month when the final backlog reductions can be made and when the final steps of processing the ten oldest requests and appeals from Fiscal Year 2010 can be completed. September has long been a time when agencies make a final “push” to close out the fiscal year strongly. As agencies focus on meeting their year-end goals for Fiscal Year 2011 they can take pride in the many accomplishments achieved in the last two fiscal years. In Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010, the number of requests where records were released either in full or in part exceeded ninety percent. In addition, the backlog of pending requests and pending administrative appeals declined over those two years. The Office of Information Policy looks forward to assessing agency progress in Fiscal Year 2011. The efforts being made by agencies right now, during this last month of the fiscal year, will be instrumental toward achieving the greater transparency and improved efficiency in FOIA administration that the Attorney General called for and that all agencies seek. Looking ahead, in Fiscal Year 2012 the Office of Information Policy will focus on the power of technology to transform how the FOIA is administered. Agencies already have widely embraced technology to receive and track requests and to prepare Annual FOIA Reports. OIP sees the next horizon in FOIA administration as entailing far greater utilization of technology to assist in the core elements of FOIA processing so that even greater efficiencies can be achieved. Technology tools can greatly improve the process by which agencies conduct document searches, allowing simultaneous searches of multiple custodians using sophisticated search terms. Technology tools can greatly improve the process by which records are reviewed, for example, by allowing for electronic de-duping and sorting of records. Technology tools can also improve the consultation process, for example, by allowing multiple offices to review and comment simultaneously on a document posted to a shared platform. Once the fiscal year ends, OIP will convene its technology working group to discuss these and other uses of technology and to provide a forum for agencies to exchange ideas on greater use of technology in FOIA administration. So, there is much to look forward to in the upcoming fiscal year. Until then, rest assured that all your efforts during September, which are a culmination of your hard work throughout the year, are much appreciated and collectively are helping us achieve our new era of open government.
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