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Renewed Effort to Close the Ten Oldest Requests and Consultations

April 5, 2012
Last month we celebrated Sunshine Week 2012, a time set aside to commemorate the accomplishments in FOIA administration and open government initiatives every year.  Sunshine Week also presents us with the opportunity “to renew our efforts and set goals for the year ahead.”  In guidance issued today, Director Melanie Ann Pustay called on all agencies to "establish a goal of closing both their ten oldest requests and their ten oldest consultations each year." Many strides have been made in the last few years by agencies to close their ten oldest requests.  This past fiscal year at the Department of Justice, we were not only able to close our ten oldest pending requests, but we were able to significantly reduce the age of our oldest pending requests in the process.  However, throughout the government, there is still more work that can be done in this area, with Director Pustay noting in this new guidance that agencies should:
“[R]enew their focus on their ten oldest requests and the steps that can be taken to ensure that every effort is made to close those requests by the end of the current fiscal year.  This is a good time to reassess the steps needed to close [these] requests, to identify any barriers to closing them, and to develop solutions that will allow for the processing to be completed by the end of this fiscal year.”
Additionally, with the government processing over 25,000 consultations in fiscal year 2011 alone, it is important that agencies also set a goal of closing their ten oldest pending consultations.  Because the consultation process relies on the efficiency of multiple agencies, “any delay [for an agency] in receiving a response back on [a] consultation necessarily also delays the final response to the request.”  Only through agencies working together will it be possible to achieve success. Closing the ten oldest pending requests and consultations each year will represent a significant step not only toward reducing overall backlogs at agencies, but also to improving FOIA administration across the government.  OIP’s FOIA counselor service is available to answer any questions on this, or any other FOIA matter, and can be reached at (202) 514-FOIA (3642). You can read the full guidance article here

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Updated August 6, 2014