Welcome Remarks at OGIS Open Meeting (Virtual)
Good morning and welcome to the National Archives. I am David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. Thank you for joining us for the fourth annual open meeting of the Office of Government Information Services, or OGIS, the Federal Freedom of Information Act Ombudsman.
July is a most appropriate month for OGIS’s annual meeting. Fifty-four years ago this month, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed FOIA into law, providing for the public availability of federal department and agency records. In the years since, Congress has amended FOIA, creating OGIS in 2007—the Office opened in 2009—and in 2016, mandating that OGIS hold an annual meeting to inform the public about its reviews and reports, and to receive public comments.
When President Johnson signed FOIA into law in 1966, he noted in his signing statement that he did so, quote, “with a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people’s right to know is cherished and guarded.”
As the tenth Archivist of the United States, I share that profound pride in our open society. And I am proud of the work that OGIS does advocating for a Federal FOIA process that works for all. OGIS’s work facilitating greater access and transparency to Federal Government records and assisting anyone who seeks help with the FOIA process ties closely to our democracy. OGIS’s work also fits squarely into one of the National Archives’ four strategic goals: Make Access Happen.
Later this morning, we will hear from two members of the FOIA Advisory Committee about the 22 recommendations the Committee has sent to me for improving the FOIA process. The Committee, whose 20 members I appointed two years ago, has spent the last two years researching, surveying, listening, and deliberating to come up with ways to improve FOIA.
The recommendations, which the Committee approved last month and were delivered to me earlier this month, provide a road map for some of the work OGIS will do in the next year.
Before turning the program over to OGIS Director Alina Semo for an update on OGIS’s activities in the last year, a note to the FOIA community: thank you for the work you do, whether you are a member of the public submitting FOIA requests for records or a member of the federal civil service or a contractor working to fulfill those requests. None of this is easy amidst a pandemic and racial injustice. But your work, as President Johnson noted, helps our democracy work. Thank you.
Over to you, Alina, to update us on OGIS’s activities in the last year.