Office of Government Information Services (OGIS)

FOIA Advisory Committee Recommendations Dashboard

The first three terms of the FOIA Advisory Committee made a total of 30 recommendations for improving FOIA administration across the government: one in 2016; seven in 2018; and 22 in 2020. This dashboard provides descriptions of each recommendation, actions taken to fulfill each, and links to reports, correspondence and other related material. 

The dashboard indicates whether recommendations are completed, in progress, or pending. Closed recommendations are marked completed. Open recommendations may be in progress or pending.

  • Completed means that we have fulfilled the recommendation although opportunities may exist for additional work.
  • In Progress means work has begun on fulfilling the recommendation.
  • Pending means work has not yet started on the recommendation.

Last Modified on April 9, 2021

Number of Reports Number of Recommendations Number of Completed Recommendations Number of Recommendations In Progress Number of Pending Recommendations

3

30

6

19

5

FOIA Advisory Committee Recommendations by Term

 

FOIA Advisory Committee Pending and In Progress Recommendations by Category

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Committee Term

Recommendation No.

Recommendation Description

Recommendation Category

Status

Action Taken

2014-2016

2016-01

The Archivist of the United States will recommend to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that it update its 1987 OMB Guidelines for FOIA Fees, which govern FOIA fees government-wide.

FOIA FEES

Completed Recommendation icon

The Archivist sent a letter to OMB on August 26, 2016, asking for revisions to reflect technological changes and to clarify fee issues. The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) provided OMB with suggested updates to the guidelines.  OMB published a May 20, 2020,  Federal Register notice,  proposing revisions to sections of its Uniform Freedom of Information Act Fee Schedule and Guidelines and inviting public comments. OMB addressed comments and finalized revisions in a December 17, 2020, Federal Register notice.

OMB did: (a) incorporate the statutory change which states that certain fees cannot be charged when an agency fails to comply with any time limit, if no unusual or exceptional circumstances apply to the request (as the Committee recommended); (b) clarify that that the revisions to its Guidelines do not address fee waivers or reduction of fees if the disclosure is in the public interest; (c) clarify that both teachers and students may be eligible for the Educational and Noncommercial Scientific Institution category; and (d) remove the definition of "representative of the news media" from the Guidelines, given that the term is now defined in the statute.

OMB did not: (a) address how agencies may use their administrative discretion to decide not to charge FOIA fees when the interest of the federal government would be served and is clearly articulated; (b) provide guidance on fees associated with reproduction costs; (c), clarify that FOIA fees are paid to the U.S. Treasury, not to agency FOIA offices.

2016-2018

2018-01

The Archivist of the United States will propose that the Chief FOIA Officers (CFO) Council establish a technology subcommittee, in partnership with the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council, to study the utilization and deployment of FOIA technology across agencies and identify best practices and recommendations to implement across agencies.

SEARCH TECHNOLOGY

Completed Recommendation icon

 

The CFO Technology Committee, established in late FY 2018, met throughout FY 2019 and 2020, and in February 2020 published a reportwith best practices and recommendations. We expect to present the report to the CIO Council in FY 2021.

In FY 2020, the CFO Technology Committee established seven working groups on the following topics: FOIAXpress, FOIAonline, FOIA Searches, Artificial Intelligence, 508 Compliance and Collaborative Tools, FOIA and Classified Information, and Video Redactions.

The CFO Technology Committee continues its work, including in collaboration with the Technology Subcommittee of the 2020-2022 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee.

2016-2018

2018-02

The Archivist of the United States will request that the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), collect detailed information, as part of each agency’s Chief FOIA Officer (CFO) Report, regarding the specific methods and technologies agencies are using to search their electronic records, including email.

SEARCH TECHNOLOGY

Completed Recommendation icon

OIP asked agencies the following question in the 2019 CFO Reports: Is your agency leveraging technology to facilitate efficiency in conducting searches, including searches for emails? If so, please describe the type of technology used. If not, please explain why and please describe the typical search process used instead. OGIS analyzed agency responses and published an issue assessment, Leveraging Technology to Improve FOIA Searchesin July 2019. OGIS’s assessment shows that FOIA processors at some federal agencies are working across disciplines, collaborating with agency technology experts, and leveraging technology tools to conduct more efficient searches for records, including emails. The findings show that the FOIA process works best when agency FOIA programs cooperate with other program offices to improve searches for responsive records.

2016-2018

2018-03

The Archivist of the United States will suggest a modification to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to require all agencies, when acquiring electronic records management software, electronic mail software, and other records related information technology, to consider features that will help facilitate the agencies’ responsibilities under FOIA to provide access to federal agency records.” [The FAR governs how federal agencies acquire goods and services through purchase or lease.]

SEARCH TECHNOLOGY 

Completed Recommendation icon

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) drafted a business case in FY 2019 that would modify the FAR to require access to federal agency records as a consideration in the procurement process. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) submitted the business case to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in early FY 2020 for consideration by the FAR Council. We consider this recommendation complete and will continue to urge this amendment to the FAR.

2016-2018

2018-04

The Archivist of the United States will launch an interagency effort to develop standard requirements for FOIA processing tools, to ensure that both the tools and their outputs are Section 508-compliant. [Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires, among other things, that all records posted to agency websites be accessible to people with disabilities unless doing so would pose an “undue burden” on the agency.]

FOIA AND ACCESSIBILITY

In Progress icon

Aspects of this recommendation have been addressed through the submission of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) business case discussed in Recommendation 2018-03. The Technology Committee of the Chief FOIA Officers (CFO) Council spent FY 2019 and 2020 studying the FOIA technology landscape and will continue in FY 2021 in collaboration with the Technology Subcommittee of the 2020-2022 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee. The CFO Council Technology Committee also established a 508 Compliance and Collaborative Tools interagency working group.

2016-2018

2018-05

The Archivist of the United States will request that the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) conduct an assessment of the methods undertaken by agencies to prepare documents for posting on agency FOIA reading rooms.

 

FOIA AND ACCESSIBILITY

Completed Recommendation icon

OGIS included two questions about this issue in the 2018 Records Management Self-Assessment (RMSA)administered by the Office of the Chief Records Officer (CRO) for the U.S. Government in the spring 2019. As OGIS reported in Assessing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Compliance through the 2018 National Archives and Records Administration’s Records Management Self-Assessment, the responses showed that, generally, agencies are complying with FOIA’s mandate and have procedures for preparing documents for posting on FOIA reading rooms; and it is largely FOIA staff who are preparing documents for posting. The responses form the foundation for OGIS Issue Assessment: Methods Agencies Use to Prepare Documents for Posting on Agency Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Websites published in December 2020.

 

2016-2018

2018-06

The Archivist of the United States will encourage the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) to highlight the issues with proactive disclosure and Section 508 compliance in its report to Congress by recommending that legislation be enacted to clarify agency requirements under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 794d, especially as they relate to proactive posting of large numbers of records.

FOIA and ACCESSIBILITY

Completed Recommendation icon

 

OGIS included a recommendation to Congress in our OGIS Annual Report for FY 2018: OGIS recommends that Congress pass legislation to provide agencies with sufficient resources to comply with the requirements of both FOIA and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, especially as they relate to proactive posting of large numbers of records. We provided three possible legislative options, not mutually exclusive, that may be pursued.

2016-2018

2018-07

The Archivist of the United States will direct the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) to examine the use of appropriate performance standards in federal employee appraisal records and work plans to ensure compliance with the requirements of FOIA and OGIS will submit the results of its assessment and any recommendations to Congress and the President in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552(h)(5).

FOIA PERFORMANCE STANDARDS

In Progress icon

The 2018 Records Management Self-Assessment Survey (RMSA) included a question about FOIA performance measures. As OGIS explained in Assessing Freedom of Information Act Compliance through the 2018 National Archives and Records Administration’s Records Management Self-Assessment Report, the responses show that nearly half of the agencies do not have FOIA performance measures for non-FOIA professionals. The responses to this question formed the foundation for OGIS Issue Assessment: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Performance Measures for Non-FOIA Professionalspublished in September 2020. OGIS expects to submit assessment results to Congress and the President in 2021 as part of our Annual Report for FY 2020.

2018-2020

2020-01

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) will assess information about the FOIA filing process available on agency websites, with the goal of informing further the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP) guidance on how agencies may improve online descriptions of the process.

ENHANCING ONLINE ACCESS

In Progress icon

The 2019 Records Management Self-Assessment Survey (RMSA)included a question about the types of information that agencies make available on their FOIA websites to help requesters better understand the FOIA filing process and the records they maintain. The RMSA results are the foundation for an assessment that OGIS launched in January 2021 and will be shared with OIP to inform guidance.

2018-2020

2020-02

The Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), will issue guidance related to the inclusion of records management-related materials and FOIA handbooks on agency websites.

ENHANCING ONLINE ACCESS

In Progress icon

The 2019 Records Management Self-Assessment Survey (RMSA)included a question about the types of information that agencies make available on their FOIA website to help requesters better understand the records that the agencies maintain. The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) will share the results and the assessment related to Recommendation 2020-01 with OIP to help inform guidance.

2018-2020

2020-03

Agencies will work toward the goal of collecting, describing, and giving access to FOIA-released records in one or more central repositories, and on agency websites.

ENHANCING ONLINE ACCESS

In Progress icon

10X, a U.S. government program that funds, supports and develops ideas from federal employees about how technology can improve the public’s experience with the government, is in the early discovery phase of looking into a centralized search capability that would allow the public to search across all agency FOIA libraries. The project, proposed by the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), would enhance the public’s interaction with government by facilitating the discovery of records already in the public domain.

2018-2020

2020-04

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), will offer records management training to FOIA officers and FOIA Public Liaisons in federal agencies, and include a FOIA module in records management training courses open to all federal employees.

FOIA TRAINING

In Progress icon

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and the Office of the Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government began working in January 2021 to develop content for online training in federal records management for FOIA officers and all federal employees. 

2018-2020

2020-05

The Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), will issue guidance requesting agencies to provide annual mandatory FOIA training to all new and current employees and contractors. The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and OIP will review agencies’ current FOIA training requirements and content.

FOIA TRAINING

In Progress icon

As a first step, OIP is asking agencies in their 2021 Chief FOIA Officer Reports to describe efforts to ensure proper FOIA training is made available and used by agency personnel, and to inform non-FOIA professionals of their obligations under FOIA.

2018-2020

2020-06

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), will assist agencies in developing FOIA and records management briefings for incoming senior leaders following changes in administration or leadership.

FOIA TRAINING

In Progress icon

OGIS and the Office of the Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government began working in January 2021 to develop briefing material for new senior leaders.

2018-2020

2020-07

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), will review the FOIA performance measures used in Agency Performance Plans and Reports, encourage agencies to include FOIA in their performance plans and submit the results of their review and any recommendations to Congress and the President.

RAISING THE PROFILE OF FOIA WITHIN AGENCIES

In Progress icon

OGIS launched this assessment in January 2021.

 2018-2020

2020-08 

The Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), will collect information as part of Chief FOIA Officer Reports regarding standard operating procedures (SOPs) for FOIA processing.

RAISING THE PROFILE OF FOIA WITHIN AGENCIES

In Progress icon

OIP  asked agencies in their 2021 Chief FOIA Officer Reports several questions regarding SOPs for the FOIA process. The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) reported in Assessing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Compliance through the 2016 National Archives and Records Administration’s Records Management Self-Assessment, that 77% of respondents to the survey reported having SOPs for FOIA processing, while 12% reported having SOPs for some parts of the process.

2018-2020 2020-09 The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will incorporate and further develop the idea of public access to federal records, including through FOIA, as part of its Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI). RAISING THE PROFILE OF FOIA WITHIN AGENCIES In Progress icon NARA updated its Universal Electronic Records Management (ERM) Requirements in April 2020 to include FOIA. The ERM now requires agencies to manage records in ways that support proactive release under FOIA. The ERM further states that records management should support sufficiency of FOIA search.

2018-2020

2020-10

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), will establish liaisons with the Chief Data Officers (CDO) Council to ensure that Council officials understand the importance of federal recordkeeping and FOIA requirements.

RAISING THE PROFILE OF FOIA WITHIN AGENCIES

In Progress icon

The Directors of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and OIP and the Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government will serve as liaisons to the CDO Council.

 

2018-2020 2020-11

The Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), will provide guidance to agencies on the use of e-discovery tools to assist agencies in their searches of electronic records in response to FOIA requests.

TECHNOLOGY

Pending Icon

 
2018-2020 2020-12

Agencies will publicly release FOIA documents on their FOIA websites and portals in open, legible, machine-readable and machine-actionable formats, to the extent feasible.

TECHNOLOGY In Progress icon

As a first step, the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), asked agencies in their 2021 Chief FOIA Officer Reports to provide examples of steps taken to post information in open, machine-readable and machine-actionable formats, to the extent feasible.

2018-2020 2020-13 Agencies will review their FOIA-related technological and staffing capabilities within two years to identify the resources needed to respond to current and anticipated future FOIA demands. TECHNOLOGY Pending Icon  
2018-2020 2020-14 The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP), will help agencies explore and consider alternative, more efficient ways for requesters to access records about themselves. PROVIDING ALTERNATIVES TO FOIA ACCESS In Progress icon OIP asked agencies in their 2021 Chief FOIA Officer Reports to describe any common categories of first-party requests and whether the agencies have explored establishing non-FOIA access to those records. OGIS launched a review      of the issue in January 2021, and the 2020-2022 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee continues to study the issue.
2018-2020 2020-15

Agencies will make commonly requested documents available outside of the FOIA process, including in publicly accessible online databases.

PROVIDING ALTERNATIVES TO FOIA ACCESS Pending Icon  
2018-2020 2020-16 The Chief FOIA Officers (CFO) Council will create a committee to research and propose cross-agency grant programs and other FOIA funding sources, create career paths for FOIA professionals, and promote models to align agency resources with agency transparency. CHIEF FOIA OFFICERS COUNCIL In Progress icon

The CFO Council’s Co-Chairpersons solicited agency FOIA professional volunteers for the Council’s Committee on Cross-Agency Collaboration and Innovation (COCACI), which began meeting in February 2021. COCACI is focusing on three topic areas: virtual FOIA office administration; Government Information Specialist (GIS) job series; and technology standardization.

2018-2020 2020-17 The Chief FOIA Officers (CFO) Council will work with agency leadership to issue an annual memorandum on the importance of FOIA.  CHIEF FOIA OFFICERS COUNCIL Pending Icon  
2018-2020 2020-18 The Archivist of the United States will ask the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) to consider a cross-cutting project examining how successful agency FOIA programs are in providing access to agency records in electronic and digital form. OVERSIGHT Pending Icon  
2018-2020 2020-19 The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) will ask Congress to engage in regular and robust oversight of FOIA, hold more hearings, establish regular and coordinated communication with agencies around FOIA issues, and strengthen OGIS with clearer authority and expanded resources. OVERSIGHT In Progress icon The Legislation Subcommittee of the 2020-2022 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee expects to continue studying these ideas.
2018-2020 2020-20 The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) will ask Congress to address funding for agency FOIA programs and ensure that agencies have sufficient resources to comply with the FOIA. OVERSIGHT In Progress icon The Legislation Subcommittee of the 2020-2022 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee expects to continue studying these ideas.
2018-2020 2020-21 The Archivist of the United States will actively guide ongoing and future federal data strategies to include FOIA and federal recordkeeping policies. LOOKING TO THE FUTURE 

In Progress icon

 
2018-2020 2020-22 The Archivist of the United States will promote research into the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve FOIA searches and efficiently process FOIA requests.  LOOKING TO THE FUTURE 

In Progress icon

The Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government issued a white paper, Cognitive Technologies: Records Management Implications for Internet of Things, Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence, in October 2020. Although the paper does not reference FOIA, there is a crucial relationship between records management and FOIA.
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