FOIA advisers push for more proactive disclosure

A federal advisory committee wants agencies build Freedom of Information Act responsiveness into acquisition and tech plans.

Online document management (Jirsak/Shutterstock.com)
 

A federal advisory committee finalized a series of draft recommendations for the National Archivist and agencies to improve management of the Freedom of Information Act.

The FOIA Advisory Committee approved 37 recommendations for agencies to implement, 23 of which cover the topics of process management and proactive disclosure.

Agencies were advised not to remove legally posted documents already on agency websites, to improve communication with requesters, train FOIA professionals to manage records and use metrics such as case closures, pages reviewed and quality requirements as part of employee performance evaluations.

Other recommendations included expanding the use of tracking records, allocating resources for agency IT experts to work with FOIA officials for electronic searches, creating rotational career programs to get younger employees into FOIA, plus using interns or temporary staff for time-consuming tasks such as data entry.

The committee also recommended agencies adopt a centralized, departmentwide FOIA tracking platform or at least consolidate to fewer tracking systems.

On the proactive disclosure front, committee recommended agencies publish meeting and travel schedules of top officials within one month, release declassified documents, disclose their top 10 largest contracts, task orders or grants, as well as release documentation of lobbying activities.

The committee also recommended a series of specific actions broken into three main categories: search technology, accessibility and performance standards.

The committee finalized recommendations for the Chief FOIA Officers Council to establish a technology subcommittee to study how agencies use and deploy technology relating to FOIA and  a change in the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require agencies to consider FOIA responsibilities when procuring new IT.

“You have my commitment to support your work,” National Archivist David Ferriero told the committee.

"I look forward to receiving and reviewing the committee’s final report and recommendations, and more importantly, look forward to figuring out how to implement them," he said.

The FOIA committee's charter had been extended for two more years. The deadline to nominate candidates to become committee members for the next term is June 1.

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