OIP Guidance

Guidelines for 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Reports

The FOIA requires all agency Chief FOIA Officers to report to the Attorney General on their performance in implementing the FOIA.  See 5.U.S.C. § 552(j)(2)(D) (2015), amended by FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, Pub. L. No. 114-185, 130 Stat. 538.  The Department of Justice’s 2009 FOIA Guidelines highlighted the key role played by each agency’s Chief FOIA Officer and emphasized that “[i]mproving FOIA performance requires the[ir] active participation.” Accordingly, DOJ directed agency Chief FOIA Officers to review “all aspects of their agencies’ FOIA administration” and to report each year to the Department of Justice on the steps taken “to improve FOIA operations and facilitate information disclosure.”

Since 2010, agencies have highlighted in their Chief FOIA Officer Reports a wide range of initiatives, big and small, that have been undertaken to improve transparency in keeping with DOJ’s 2009 FOIA Guidelines.  Every year since the establishment of this reporting requirement, OIP has prepared a comprehensive annual assessment of agency compliance with the FOIA, which combines pertinent details outlined by agencies in their Chief FOIA Officer Reports with data from their Annual FOIA Reports. These assessments are accompanied by a summary of agency Chief FOIA Officer Reports, which describes the various initiatives undertaken by agencies.  Additionally, each year OIP compiles and posts a collection of success stories from the Chief FOIA Officer Reports of key agencies.  OIP will once again prepare and release an assessment after the submission of the 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Reports.

In addition to the summary and assessment, based on its review of agency Chief FOIA Officer Reports, OIP issues guidance each year on steps that can be taken by agencies to achieve greater transparency in the years ahead.  Over the last six years, these guidance articles have addressed the importance of:

  • reducing the age of pending requests,
  • updating FOIA Reference Guides,
  • posting raw data comprising agency Annual FOIA Reports,
  • utilizing advanced technology to process requests,
  • limitations on the use of “still interested” letters,
  • complying with the FOIA’s requirements for response letters
  • focusing on quality FOIA training,
  • closing the ten oldest pending requests and appeals pending at each agency every year,
  • utilizing multitrack processing,
  • improving processing times for simple track requests, and
  • communicating with requesters electronically.

Topics to be Addressed and Format of 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Reports

In accordance with the DOJ’s 2009 FOIA Guidelines, OIP is charged with the responsibility of providing guidance to agencies on the timing and content of agency Chief FOIA Officer Reports to the Attorney General.  The guidelines for the 2018 reports are set out below.

While the overall topics to be addressed in the reports remain the same, for 2018 OIP has once again modified and updated the questions that are asked. As agencies continue to make improvements to their FOIA operations it is important that the Chief FOIA Officer Reports reflect the more advanced steps agencies are taking to implement FOIA law and policy.  At the same time, it is also important that the Chief FOIA Officer Reports address those areas where agencies need to improve.  In the course of planning for these guidelines OIP met with representatives of civil society and has taken their input into account.

Reporting Standards for Agencies Based on Volume of Requests Received

In 2014, OIP began issuing separate reporting requirements for agencies based on the volume of FOIA requests they receive.  The 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Report Guidelines follow a similar format.  As a result of streamlined reporting requirements, OIP provides separate questions for small-volume agencies receiving 50 requests or less in Fiscal Year 2016 and all other agencies receiving more than 50 requests.  By providing agencies with distinct reporting requirements based on the volume of requests received, OIP can more easily address the different circumstances and challenges faced by those agencies with small-volume FOIA workloads, while continuing to focus in depth on those agencies that receive a higher volume of FOIA requests. 

To account for the differences in FOIA administration across the government, the Chief FOIA Officer reporting guidelines for each agency are based on the number of requests that the agency received during Fiscal Year 2016.  The two charts at the end of this page list the agencies in each reporting group.     

Agencies receiving 50 requests or less in Fiscal Year 2016:

As more fully explained in the attached template, these agencies should provide a short narrative describing the steps they have taken to improve their FOIA administration.  Small volume agencies should use this template to provide their narrative. 

All other agencies that received more than 50 requests in Fiscal Year 2016:

These agencies should answer the questions provided in this template.

As in previous years, the 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Reports should provide an overall picture of each agency’s activities.  Thus, even for those agencies that process requests on a decentralized basis, by component, the Chief FOIA Officer Report should contain agency overall answers and should not be broken down by component.  Instead, it should be organized by the five key topical areas.  Then, within the discussion of each key area, data and examples from the agency’s various components can be provided.  That approach makes it easier to get a picture of how the agency as a whole is addressing all the various aspects of their FOIA administration. 

Deadlines for Submitting 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Reports

All agencies receiving more than 50 requests noted below must submit their 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Reports to OIP for review no later than Friday, January 19, 2018.

Agencies receiving 50 requests or less must submit their 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Reports to OIP for review no later than Friday, February 2, 2018.

The drafts should be submitted by email to DOJ.OIP.FOIA@usdoj.gov.  Please use the following text for the subject line of the email:  Draft [insert agency name] Chief FOIA Officer Report.

After the reports are reviewed and cleared by OIP, they should be posted on each agency’s website. OIP, in turn, will make all the Chief FOIA Officer Reports available to the public on the Department of Justice’s website.  For 2018, agency Chief FOIA Officer Reports should be posted in final form by no later than Monday, March 12, 2018.

If you have any questions regarding your agency’s 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Report, you can contact OIP’s FOIA Compliance Team at 202-514-3642, or by using the e-mail noted above.

Time Frame for Report

Unless otherwise noted, agency 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Reports should address agency activities that have occurred since the posting deadline of last year’s Report, which was March 13, 2017, up until the filing of the 2017 Report (March 12, 2018).  Thus, the general reporting period for the Chief FOIA Officer Reports is March 2017 to March 2018.

Agency Reporting Categories

Agencies Receiving 50 Requests or Less in Fiscal Year 2016

Administrative Conference of the United States

American Battle Monuments Commission

Appraisal Subcommittee

Armed Forces Retirement Home

Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

Commission on Fine Arts

Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled

Corporation for National and Community Service

Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board

Denali Commission

Farm Credit Administration

Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation

Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council

Federal Maritime Commission

Federal Open Market Committee

Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council

Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation

Institute of Museum and Library Services

Inter-American Foundation

James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation

Legal Services Corporation

Marine Mammal Commission (MMC)

Millennium Challenge Corporation

Morris K. Udall Foundation

National Capital Planning Commission

National Council on Disability

National Endowment for the Humanities

National Indian Gaming Commission

National Mediation Board

Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation

Office of National Drug Control Policy

Postal Regulatory Commission

Presidio Trust

Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

Selective Service System

Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB)

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

Surface Transportation Board

U.S. Access Board

U.S. African Development Foundation

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

U.S. Copyright Office

U.S. Election Assistance Commission

U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP)

U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)

U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission

U.S. International Trade Commission

U.S. Trade and Development Agency

Agencies Receiving More Than 50 Requests in Fiscal Year 2016

Amtrak

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Broadcasting Board of Governors

Central Intelligence Agency

Commodity Futures Trading Commission

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Council on Environmental Quality

Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

Dept. of Agriculture

Dept. of Commerce

Dept. of Defense

Dept. of Education

Dept. of Energy

Dept. of Health and Human Services

Dept. of Homeland Security

Dept. of Housing and Urban Development

Dept. of Justice

Dept. of Labor

Dept. of State

Dept. of the Interior

Dept. of the Treasury

Dept. of Transportation

Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Environmental Protection Agency

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Export-Import Bank

Federal Communications Commission

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Federal Election Commission

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Federal Housing Finance Agency

Federal Labor Relations Authority

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission

Federal Trade Commission

General Services Administration

Merit Systems Protection Board

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Archives and Records Administration

National Credit Union Administration

National Endowment for the Arts

National Labor Relations Board

National Science Foundation

National Transportation Safety Board

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission

Office of Government Ethics

Office of Management and Budget

Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation

Office of Personnel Management

Office of Science and Technology Policy

Office of Special Counsel

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Peace Corps

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

Railroad Retirement Board

Securities and Exchange Commission

Small Business Administration

Social Security Administration

Tennessee Valley Authority

U.S. Agency for International Development

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

U.S. Postal Service

Updated September 27, 2017

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