On March 5, 2020, the National FOIA Advisory Committee met in Washington DC to discuss proposed recommendations from three subcommittees focusing on records management, FOIA vision, and time/volume.  Here is a recap of that meeting:

Kirsten Mitchell, designated federal officer for the FOIA Advisory Committee & Compliance Team Lead at the Office of Government Information Services (OJIS), the FOIA Ombudsman’s office, was asked to present the 2018 Records Management Self Assessment Findings before the group delved into the FOIA subcommittee recommendations.  Here is a link to the slides from that presentation: https://www.archives.gov/files/ogis/assets/foiaac-mtg-ppt-slides-rmsa-2020-03-05.pdf

 


OGIS & NARA – FOIA Advisory Meeting Proposed Recommendations

Proposals were presented by two of the three subcommittees: Records Management Subcommittee and Time/Volume Subcommittee.  There was not enough time get to the proposals from the Vision Subcommittee.  The plan is to move the vision subcommittee presentations to the May 1st meeting and to see if they can extend the time allotted for that meeting.

Video of the meeting can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/e3C3uFnddgc. Meeting agenda, presentations and more can be found here: https://www.archives.gov

Here are the proposed recommendations presented during the meeting on this day:

Proposals from the Records Management Subcommittee

Rec 1: We recommend the Archivist request that the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (DOJ/OIP), issue guidance to require agencies to include records management-related materials as part of agency websites and FOIA handbooks maintained pursuant to FOIA.  (time volume committee has similar recommendations). – this recommendation passed.

Rec #2: We recommend that the Archivist of the United States direct NARA and request that DOJ/OIP offer targeted training in selected topics in Federal records management to FOIA officers and FOIA Public Liaisons in Federal agencies, and otherwise include a FOIA module in selected records management training courses open to all Federal employees. – this recommendation passed.

Rec #3: 

We recommend that the Archivist of the United States request that DOJ/OIP provide further best practice guidance on the use of e-discovery tools to assist agencies in meeting their obligations to conduct an adequate search of electronic records, including but not limited to email in Capstone repositories (policy voluntary elect to preserve email for senior officials permanently, others for 7 years). – this recommendation passed.

Rec #4:

We recommend that as part of the Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI), the Archivist of the United States direct NARA to incorporate and further develop the idea of public access to Federal records, including through FOIA. – this recommendation passed.

Rec #5: 

We recommend that the Archivist of the United States make a formal request to the Chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE)19 that CIGIE consider designating as a cross-cutting project or priority area the issue of how agencies are doing in providing FOIA access to agency records in electronic or digital form. – this recommendation passed.

Rec #6: 

We recommend that the Archivist of the United States direct NARA and request that DOJ/OIP each establish a liaison with the newly created Chief Data Officer (CDO) Council, for the purpose of ensuring that CDO officials understand the importance of Federal recordkeeping and FOIA requirements and how such laws apply to the maintenance of data within agencies. – this recommendation passed.

Rec #7: 

We recommend that the Archivist of the United States request that NARA/OJIS work with other governmental components and industry in promoting research into using artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning technologies, to (i) improve the ability to search through government electronic record repositories for responsive records, and (ii) segregate (identify) sensitive material in government records (for potential segregation), including but not limited to material otherwise within the scope of existing FOIA exemptions and exclusions. – this recommendation was amended and passed.

Rec #8: 

We recommend that the Archivist of the United States request that NARA/OGIS work together with DOJ/OIP to encourage (direct?) agencies to work towards the goal of collecting, describing, and giving access to FOIA-released records in one or more central repositories in standardized ways, in addition to providing access on agency websites.- – this recommendation passed with general consensus to adjust the explanatory text

Rec #9:

We recommend that the Archivist of the United States request NARA/OGIS to work together with DOJ/OIP to encourage agencies to release FOIA documents to the public on their FOIA Websites, and in FOIA portals in open, (legible), machine-readable and machine-actionable formats, to the extent feasible. – this recommendation was amended and passed.

View the Records Management Subcommittee recommendations here:

https://www.archives.gov/files/ogis/assets/foiaac-mtg-rm-subcom-doc-2020-03-05.pdf

 


Proposals from the Time/Volume Subcommittee

Rec 1:

That the Archivist request that agencies conduct a comprehensive review of their technological and staffing capabilities and requirements within two years to identify the resources needed to respond to their current FOIA needs and the anticipated FOIA demands of the future. Further recommend that the Archivist request that agencies apply the results of their comprehensive reviews to create agency-specific strategic plans that address expected increases in the number of FOIA requests received, as well as high-volume e-discovery style document reviews. – this recommendation did not get a vote.  It was accepted as Best Practice.

Rec 2:

The archivist requests that OIP collect information, as part of each agency’s Chief FOIA Officer (CFO) Report, regarding: 1) the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the processing of FOIA requests; and 2) the posting of a public version of the SOP on the agency’s FOIA webpage. – this recommendation got a vote in favor of the spirit and passed with wordsmithed language to be presented at the May 1 meeting.

Rec 3:

updated draft read twice draft read at 2:46:00 – Archivist direct OJIS to undertake a study of agencies’ FOIA training requirements and content including an evaluation of mandatory training, onboarding, or supplemental training, firstline supervisor training and subject-specific training for subject matter experts and technology professionals. The study should also include an assessment of funding sources and allocations for the identified training.  The committee further recommends that OJIS submit the results of its assessment and any recommendations to congress and the president in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552H5 – this recommendation got a vote in favor of the spirit and passed.

Rec 4:

The archivist recommend that OGIS/IOP recommend that agencies identify common categories of documents requested frequently under the FOIA and/or Privacy Act by or on behalf of individuals seeking records about themselves, and seek to establish alternative processes for providing access to these documents to requesters in a more efficient manner than the FOIA. – this recommendation was amended and passed.

Rec 5: 

  1. Recommend that the Archivist address agencies’ need to provide for the dissemination of information outside of the FOIA and ensure that the programs that provide such information dissemination are robust.
  2. Consistent with the National Archives and Records Administration’s M-19-21 Memorandum which directs agencies to ensure that all Federal records are created, retained and managed in electronic formats, with appropriate metadata, by December 31, 2022, recommend that that Archivist address agencies’ need to provide these records electronically, developing online databases where members of the public may access commonly requested types of documents that go to the heart of the agency’s mission, and providing secure online databases where that information contains personally identifiable information or other sensitive information. – this recommendation got a vote in favor of the spirit and passed.

Rec 6: 

The Archivist recommends OGIS undertake an assessment of information agencies make publicly available on their website to facilitate the FOIA filing process. After the assessment, OGIS will recommend best practices. The assessment will examine how agencies describe the process for filing a FOIA request on their websites, the viability of agencies providing expected wait times for complex and simple requests, and the best contact information for an agency representative that can answer questions prior to the filing of the FOIA request. – this recommendation passed.

View the Time/Volume Subcommittee recommendations here:

https://www.archives.gov/files/ogis/assets/foiaac-mtg-tv-subcom-doc-2020-03-05.pdf

 


For more details, visit: https://www.archives.gov/ogis/foia-advisory-committee/2018-2020-term/meetings

This National FOIA Advisory Committee Meeting Recap is an example of how GovQA keeps our finger on the pulse of up and coming legislation affecting public records and other government request news.

The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, live roundtables, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

Subscribe to the Peers in Public Records Newsletter