United States Coast Guard
What OGIS Found
The Coast Guard’s decentralized FOIA process creates challenges in managing its FOIA program. In particular, the dispersed nature of the process makes it difficult for the Coast Guard to allocate resources and ensure processors have adequate training. Between Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 and FY 2014, the Coast Guard’s backlog and the number of requests processed have stayed relatively consistent despite fluctuations in staffing.
Despite the challenges, the Coast Guard uses several customer-friendly practices that help improve requester understanding of the process and ensure that responses are sent out in timely fashion. The Coast Guard has also worked to improve management of the FOIA process by logging all requests into a centralized system. The Coast Guard also has developed a staffing plan for a centralized process.
Failure to respond to requesters in a timely fashion continues to be an issue for the agency. Although the Coast Guard reported no litigation-related costs from FY 2009 to 2014, lack of a response was a factor in six of the seven FOIA lawsuits filed against the Coast Guard since 2009. The Coast Guard also provides FOIA processors that are located in the field with a lengthy and outdated manual.
OGIS’s three primary findings are:
- The Coast Guard is not effectively managing challenges created by decentralization;
- Technology is under-utilized; and
- Communication needs improvement.
What OGIS Recommends
Among other things, OGIS recommends that the Coast Guard create a plan to unify the FOIA process and that the Coast Guard fully implement its FOIA processing system. We also recommend that the Coast Guard update its FOIA manual and create an at-a-glance manual for employees who process FOIA requests as a collateral duty.
Compliance Assessment Report
Title: "Effective Management of Decentralized Program, Better Use of Technology, and Improved Communication with Requesters Needed"
Date: September 25, 2015
120-day Follow-Up Material
- Letter Closing 15 of 17 OGIS Recommendations for the Coast Guard FOIA Program - November 29, 2016
- Compliance Assessment Response - January 27, 2016