VIII. COMPARISONS WITH PREVIOUS YEAR(S).
A. Comparison of numbers of requests received:
53,904 in FY03 vs. 182,079 in FY02*
B. Comparison of number of requests processed:
54,583 in FY03 vs 184,928 in FY02*
C. Comparison of median numbers of days requests were pending as of end of fiscal year:
Varied by component.
D. Other statistics significant to agency:
290 requests for expedited processing received; 123 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):
Bueau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
ATF does not utilize multi-track processing. The status of pending requests at the end of the fiscal year shows a median of 41 days processing time for pending requests. ATF's response time for completed cases ranged from 1 day to 175 days, with a median time of 10 days.
Drug Enforcement Admininstration (DEA)
DEA is currently in the process of implementing an electronic redaction program.
Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD)
ENRD processed roughly thirty fewer FOIA requests and had about twenty more overdue requests pending at the end of FY 2003 than in FY 2002. This is primarily because one of its two paralegals who processed FOIA requests terminated her government service prematurely at the end of June, rather than at the end of the summer as anticipated. Because of a Divisionwide hiring freeze, ENRD was unable to replace her until mid-November. Consequently, for almost half the year, the Division had only one paralegal assigned primarily to FOIA activities. It now has two paralegals on board again and thus expects that it will be able to improve its FOIA performance in FY 2004.
Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are processed by the Office of the General Counsel, FOIA Unit, in EOIR. In order to process a voluminous amount of records, EOIR hired two full-time contractors as well as one additional part-time student. The staff is usually composed of one part-time student and four full-time workers. The FOIA Unit worked overtime on weekends in addition to discharging many other duties. The FOIA Unit also used two volunteer staff members within other sections of the Office of the General Counsel in processing FOIA requests. The FOIA Unit resources also include the use of several attorneys for guidance on possible litigation-related issues. These added resources were essential in attaining the goal of processing the FOIA requests within 25 days as a statistical median.
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)
COPS has significantly improved its median response time over the past three years, from 19 days in FY 2001, to 13 days in FY 2002, and only 8 days in FY 2003. This decrease is attributed to its ability to respond to FOIA requests by searching the COPS database and sometimes sending voluminous data 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's requesters have been grateful to receive responses in this fashion.
Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)
During FY 2003, OPR's delegation of denial authority was changed due to a retirement. While the individual who retired had considerable FOIA/PA experience, his replacement does as well. The new designee previously was the initial reviewer prior to final review and disclosure. OPR has eliminated one review level, which should increase response time and reduce OPR's backlog in the coming fiscal year.
OPR's multi-track processing system has been working well and has been an important feature in maintaining consistency with its backlog and in effecting a reduction in the overall median number of days to process FOIA/PA requests. The multi-track processing system has also been instrumental in OPR's ability to respond to increased processing demands. OPR experienced a 38.8% increase in FOIA/PA requests from 90 requests in FY 2002 to 125 in FY 2003, while maintaining a consistent backlog level and improving the overall processing time. By comparison, OPR carried over 26 pending FOIA/PA requests from FY 2002 and is carrying over 27 FOIA/PA requests from FY 2003 in spite of the increased processing demand. The median number of days to process 90 FOIA/PA requests in FY 2002 was 36 days, while the median number of days to process the 125 FOIA/PA requests in FY 2003 was only 22 days.
United States Parole Commission (USPC)
The following efforts were made to improve timeliness of FOIA performance: hiring several part-time students; providing additional in-house training; and working with requesters to narrow the scopes of requests in order to avoid fees.
* During FY 2003, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service was made part of the newly created Department of Homeland Security. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms became part of the Department of Justice. See FOIA Post, "Annual Report Guidance for DHS-Related Agencies" (posted 8/8/03). The overall volume of FOIA/PA requests received and processed by the Department decreased accordingly.