About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee

Good morning, I am David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. Today I join you from my office at the National Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington, DC.

This Friday marks one year since the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee last met in person here in this majestic building. Elbow-to-elbow bumps and toe-to-toe taps replaced handshakes, hinting at what would occur just one week later: sudden physical distancing that forced us to work from home — or, as some say — live at work. These are interesting and difficult times for us all.

March 3rd marks the 150th anniversary of Congress passing legislation to reform the civil service, creating a system in which civil servants are hired based on merit rather than politics. Today, there are roughly 5,000 full-time FOIA professionals across the government––civil servants and contractors —who work to administer and respond to FOIA requests without regard to politics. Their work is more challenging than ever in these times of misinformation, political division and public health challenges. I thank this Committee for working so diligently and thoughtfully to strive toward a FOIA process that works better for all — FOIA processors and requesters alike.

The Committee today is exploring an idea that several Committee members began discussing near the end of the third Committee term: whether FOIA should apply to legislative and judicial branch records. There is no easy answer. Committee members, I appreciate your curiosity and thoughtful deliberation about this and other important FOIA matters.

Finally, I would like to invite all of you—Committee members and the public—to the National Archives’ first virtual Sunshine Week event from 1 to 3 p.m. on Monday March 15th. Please sign up via Eventbrite or tune in on the NARA YouTube channel.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth will headline the program. Judge Lamberth is no stranger to FOIA, having ruled in hundreds of FOIA cases over the years. We are delighted that he is joining us to observe Sunshine Week, an annual nationwide celebration of access to public information.

Our event also will feature a panel titled “The U.S. Transparency Landscape: Where Do We Go From Here?” FOIA Advisory Committee Member Alexandra Perloff Giles is one of the panelists. Details are at archives dot gov forward slash ogis.

I hope to see you there.