About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for the Chief FOIA Officers Council Meeting

Good morning and welcome from 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, where we would ordinarily meet. I very much look forward to a time when I can actually welcome you to this building.

The National Archives is a shrine to American democracy and plays an important role in the Freedom of Information Act landscape. The National Archives is home to both the Federal FOIA Ombudsman’s Office—OGIS— and to the Office of the Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government.

As senior officials tasked with ensuring agency FOIA compliance, you know first-hand the crucial link between an excellent records management program and an efficient and responsive FOIA program.

April 13 marked the 106th birthday of the late U.S. Representative John Moss of California who worked for six congressional sessions—12 years!— to get the original FOIA through Congress.

In urging his House colleagues to vote for the measure in 1966, Representative Moss said:

“We must remove every barrier to information about—and understanding of—Government activities consistent with our security if the American public is to be adequately equipped to fulfill the ever more demanding role of responsible citizenship.”

Fifty-five years later, FOIA continues to play a role in helping Americans fulfill what Representative Moss called the “demanding role of responsible citizenship,” though it is important to note that one need not be a citizen to file a FOIA request.

In Fiscal Year 2020, requesters submitted more than 790,000 FOIA requests to federal departments and agencies. Fulfilling those requests becomes more and more challenging as the amount of government information and data swells.

Last summer, one of the four federal advisory committees here at the National Archives, the FOIA Advisory Committee, delivered to me 22 recommendations for improving FOIA administration. Two of those recommendations are directed at the Chief FOIA Officers Council. I am pleased that the Council has already established a Committee on Cross-agency Collaboration and Innovation, and I look forward to learning more about its agenda in the coming year as well as the work of the Technology Committee.

Many of you have not been back to your offices since early March of 2020. The last year has challenged all of us, but it has also created opportunities to look at new ways of doing things. I hope today’s meeting sparks thought about opportunities for finding innovative ways to administer FOIA.

As we enter our second year of physically distancing ourselves from one another, please continue to take care and stay safe.  I now turn the meeting back over to Alina.