Open Government

Agencies, what's up with your FOIAs?

Shutterstock image: National Archives front columns.

Mandated to review the handling of Freedom of Information Act requests at 99 agencies but unable to speedily get to all of them, the National Archives and Records Administration's Office of Government Information Services is asking agencies to assess themselves.

In a January letter, OGIS Director James Holzer invited the chief FOIA officers at 60-odd agencies that field more than 95 percent of FOIA requests to take a SurveyMonkey self-assessment.

The request comes on the heels of a majority staff report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that declared the FOIA process to be broken.

Holzer promised to be nonjudgmental. "We will use the survey answers to identify trends governmentwide as opposed to grading or ranking agencies against each other," he wrote.

The 27-question survey will serve as a complement to the typical OGIS reviews of agencies' FOIA processes, websites and regulations.

An official familiar with the initiative said the results will be used in two major ways: as part of a March 2017 report on governmentwide FOIA trends and in individual agency reports that will include anonymized responses from FOIA officers.

The survey is hosted on an open web app that could invite fraudulent answers, but the official said OGIS would check any suspect responses against the provided contact information.

The survey, which will be open until March 11, is meant for FOIA staff only, and respondents must provide their names, positions and contact information to log answers.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a former FCW staff writer.

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