DHS Chief FOIA Officer Compliance Assessment
What OGIS Found
FOIA requires each agency to designate a senior official at the Assistant Secretary or equivalent level to act as the agency’s Chief FOIA Officer. The statute gives the agency Chief FOIA Officer several specific responsibilities for ensuring implementation of the statute, oversight and customer service, 5 U.S.C. § 552(j). The DHS Privacy Officer serves as the DHS Chief FOIA Officer.
In August 2011, the DHS Secretary delegated the responsibility to fulfill duties related to FOIA to the Chief Privacy Officer. These responsibilities are carried out by a FOIA branch under the DHS Privacy Office.
The DHS Privacy Office meets its obligation to support implementation of the FOIA by providing targeted services to components, including the creation of a department-wide FOIA processing and tracking system; assisting with processing requests from component backlogs; and providing guidance on FOIA policy issues. During our assessments of DHS components, we observed that the Privacy Office’s assistance processing requests was key to reducing Customs and Border Protection’s backlog in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. During our assessments, we also observed a large variation in the use of the department-wide FOIA system’s capabilities by participating components and varying levels of success using technology to process requests by components that opted to not participate in the department-wide system. Our assessments also showed that some components were not aware of or not compliant with DHS FOIA policies.
The Privacy Office meets its responsibility to provide oversight through its reporting program in which it monitors the status of component FOIA programs monthly and raises issues with component Chief FOIA Officers as necessary. The Privacy Office also prepares statutorily required reports for the Attorney General.
The Privacy Office also supports customer service as required by providing requesters with information on its FOIA webpage about how to make a FOIA request that furthers public understanding of FOIA. The Privacy Office also has a FOIA Public Liaison who is responsible for assisting to resolve disputes with requesters. Additionally, the Privacy Office has launched information technology efforts that are intended to improve customer service across the department.
Compliance Assessment Report
Title: "Privacy Office Meets Chief FOIA Officer Responsibilities by Aiding FOIA Implementation and Oversight and Supporting Customer Service"
Date: December 27, 2016