OGIS & NARA:

FOIA Advisory Meeting Proposed Recommendations

On December 6, 2019, 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:

Proposals were presented by three subcommittees: Time/Volume Subcommittee, Vision Subcommittee, and Records Management Subcommittee.

Video of the meeting can be viewed here. (Timecodes for each recommendation are provided in parentheses below).

Proposed recommendations presented during this meeting

1

Recommends a comprehensive review of technology and staffing resources to ensure that they have the resources necessary to respond to changing FOIA needs. This should include planning to address future increases in the number of FOIA requests received, as well as high-volume e-discovery style document reviews. (27:22)
2

Recommends agencies provide regular training for all staff, including FOIA professionals, subject matter experts, technology professionals, and management/supervisors, responsible for implementing FOIA as a part of the agency’s FOIA procedures in order to enable staff to properly and efficiently process FOIA requests. (1:01:17)
3

Recommends agencies periodically review their FOIA SOP, or create one if necessary, to ensure that the process for receiving and logging- in FOIA requests, and the process for searching for, processing, and reviewing records are efficient. The SOP should accurately reflect current agency practices and technology used, should be updated at least every two years, and should be publicly available on the agency’s website. (47:40)
4

Recommends agencies identify common types of documents requested as part of FOIA and establish alternative processes for providing these documents to requesters on terms equal to or better than FOIA. (1:16:16)
5

Recommends agencies utilize existing statutory provisions that allow for the dissemination of information outside of the FOIA and ensure that the programs that provide such information dissemination are robust. Consistent with the OMB/NARA Memorandum M - 19-21 which requires all federal agencies to digitize their records by December 21, 2022, agencies should provide this information electronically, developing online databases where members of the public may access commonly requested (via the FOIA or alternative statutory provisions) 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. (1:31:31)
6

Recommends agency transparency be enhanced by providing, on the agency website, contact information for a FOIA Point of Contact, who may or may not be the Public FOIA Liaison; Commonly Asked Questions that include an explanation of the types of records maintained by the agency, and the estimate processing timeframes for simple and complex requests. (1:35:03)
7

(item #7 was not presented)
8

The Archivist of the United States requests that NARA/OGIS and DOJ/OIP work together to encourage agencies to work toward the goal of collecting, describing, and giving access to FOIA-released records in one of more central repositories in standardized ways, in addition to providing access on agency websites. (2:47:00)
9

The Archivist of the United States requests that NARA/OGIS and DOJ/OIP work together to encourage agencies to release FOIA documents to the public on their FOIA websites and in FOIA portals in both human-readable and machine-actionable formats, to the extent feasible. (2:51:00)

Additional Info & Resources

  • View the Time/Volume Subcommittee recommendations here.
  • View the Records Management Subcommittee Recommendations here.
  • View the FOIA Officer Survey Responses here (111 responses received)
  • View the FOIA Requester Survey Results here (81 responses received)
  • For more details, view past meeting info here.

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