VIII. COMPARISONS WITH PREVIOUS YEAR(S).
A. Comparison of numbers of requests received:
182,079 in FY02 vs. 196,917 in FY01, a 7.5% decrease
B. Comparison of number of requests processed:
184,928 in FY02 vs. 194,612 in FY01, a 5% decrease
C. Comparison of median numbers of days requests were pending as of end of fiscal year:
Varies by component.
D. Other statistics significant to components:
2677 requests for expedited processing received; 120 requests for expedited processing granted
E. Other narrative statements describing component efforts to improve timeliness of FOIA performance and to make records available to the public (e.g., backlog-reduction efforts; specification of average number of hours per processed request; training activities; public availability of new categories of records):
Bureau of Prisons
The Bureau of Prisons made inmate location information, which was previously available through a written request, available on the BOP Web site. This resulted in a significant reduction in the number of simple requests received and processed.
Civil Rights Division
During FY02, the Civil Rights Division's FOIA/PA Branch experienced an increase in the median number of days to process requests and in the median number of days that requests were pending. This occurred due to complicating circumstances in conjunction with the 2001 bio-terrorist attack on federal mail. An estimated 150-200 FOIA/PA requests did not arrive for 3-5 months during the shutdown of the Division's mail service. The FOIA/PA Branch experienced nearly a complete shutdown from October 2001 until February 2002. After October 1, 2002, FOIA/PA requests that had been mailed during the anthrax shutdown began to arrive in significant numbers.
As a result, the FOIA/PA backlog increased by 34% in spite of a 33% reduction in the number of incoming requests. Consequently, the median time period for completion of complex requests increased from 208 days in FY01 to 273 days in this reporting period. The median number of days for pending requests increased from 33 to 119 days.
DEA is currently in the process of implementing an electronic redaction program.
Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA)
One of the challenges of the past year was to reduce the backlog while at the same time continuing to fulfill the Office's demand for litigation support and to respond to current FOIA requests. EOUSA targeted the oldest backlog requests for 1997 to 1999 for closing and devoted extraordinary resources to closing these old requests. By the end of the fiscal year, EOUSA had closed all of the 1997 request files and has made significant progress in reducing the 1998 request files. Our goal is to close all of the 1998 and 1999 files by the end of the calendar year.
In addition to this major initiative, we adopted several changes which should result in more efficient processing and backlog reduction:
(1) EOUSA increased the training of the its FOIA staff and FOIA contacts at the United States Attorneys Offices by holding frequent training sessions in the Districts, at the National Advocacy Center and by use of the JTN System.
(2) EOUSA holds regular meetings of attorneys, managers, and staff, in which important issues and questions about processing FOIA/PA requests are discussed.
(3) EOUSA developed a language bank so that requests can be answered by using standard language that can be copied into response letters and thereby have reduced the time spent drafting correspondence.
(4) EOUSA changed the language concerning fee procedures in our form letters to give the requesters notice about possible fees, identifying when we will charge fees, and meeting with the Budget staff to set up an account for processing checks received.
INS continued its efforts to reduce its backlog of requests by:
(1) continuing to coordinate a proposal to centralize the workload;
(2) upgrading software and hardware for the automated system for processing requests;
(3) working to establish a fee-for-service Genealogy Unit that would process requests for genealogical information; and
(4) developing and implementing the first phase of a Web-based FOIA and Privacy Act training course. (This course would provide users with on-line training and support to enable them to process more efficiently.)
COPS has improved its median response time from 19 days in FY01 to 13 days in FY02. This decrease is attributed to its ability to respond to FOIA requests by searching the COPS database and sending the sometimes voluminous data listings to requesters via e-mail. This has been a very effective and timely way to respond to requesters seeking a "customized" computer listing of COPS grant awards. COPS requesters have been grateful to receive responses in this fashion.
With the adoption of a multi-track processing system, OPR formalized its two-prong strategy to emphasize two main areas of backlog reduction. First, FOIA personnel focus on the processing of large, complex requests to remove those requests from the FOIA/PA backlog. Second, the simple processing track places emphasis on the processing of requests which need minimal processing. FOIA/PA requesters seeking voluminous documents have the option of narrowing the scope of their request to take advantage of the faster processing track. The simple and complex processing tracks operate concurrently and OPR hopes to maximize the multi-track processing system to better manage its FOIA/PA backlog.
OPR's FOIA/PA backlog dcreased six requests, or 18.8%, in FY02. The median number of days for processing increased from 31 to 36 in FY02. The median number of days that pending requests remained open increased dramatically because of most of those requests involve a voluminous number of documents. It is important to identify several factors that have adversely impacted FOIA processing during FY02. Part-time FOIA staff experienced increased demands of other OPR mission-related activities. While the overall number of requests received dropped from 114 in FY01 to 84 in FY02, the requests were more complex and involved large numbers of documents. Finally, the amount of time expended on FOIA litigation in FY02 diverted resources away from FOIA processing.
The following efforts were made to improve timeliness of FOIA performance: hiring of part-time and temporary staff; reorganization of FOIA staff responsibilities; and additional training programs.