Last week the Office for Information Policy issued guidelines for the timing and content of agency 2019 Chief FOIA Officer Reports. The FOIA requires agency Chief FOIA Officers to report to the Attorney General on their performance in implementing the law. Accordingly, since 2009, the Department of Justice has 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.”
Since the beginning of this reporting obligation, OIP has required agency Chief FOIA Officers to include in their reports steps taken to implement the five key areas of FOIA administration:
- 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, OIP develops reporting guidelines that build off the efforts and initiatives reported in previous years. Our goal is to capture more advanced steps taken by agencies as their implementation of FOIA law and policy continues to mature. This year’s guidelines include some new questions concerning the Chief FOIA Officer, proactive disclosures, FOIA websites, the number of requests processed, and efforts to reduce the overall age of backlogs.
The 2019 Chief FOIA Officer Report Guidelines once again include separate reporting requirements for agencies depending on the number of FOIA requests received in the prior fiscal year. For 2019, there are two sets of reporting requirements. Agencies that received 50 requests or less in Fiscal Year 2017 are again required to provide a short narrative on their implementation of the DOJ’s FOIA Guidelines. All other agencies receiving more than 50 requests have more extensive reporting requirements.
OIP has identified 72 agencies that received more than 50 requests during Fiscal Year 2017. These agencies must submit their draft 2019 Chief FOIA Officer Reports to OIP for review by no later than January 18, 2019. The remaining agencies receiving 50 requests or less in Fiscal Year 2017 must submit their draft reports by no later than February 1, 2019. A listing of all agencies with a link to their reporting requirements is included at the end of the 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 2019 Chief FOIA Officer Reports and the Fiscal Year 2018 Annual FOIA Reports. The details for these trainings were recently announced here on FOIA Post.
You can view the 2019 Chief FOIA Officer Report Guidelines, as well as all other guidance issued by OIP, on the Guidance page of our site. As in past years, OIP will issue a Summary and Assessment based on agencies’ 2019 Chief FOIA Officer Reports. You can view the 2018 Summary and Assessment on the Reports page of OIP’s website, along with the 2017-2018 Agency Success Stories.