United States Secret Service
What OGIS Found
In recent years, the United States Secret Service (USSS) increased the size of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) staff and recently approved funding to address persistent problems faced by FOIA processors using the agency’s proprietary FOIA tracking and processing system. The FOIA program appears to have a strong working relationship with the agency’s Office of Chief Counsel (OCC), which processes the agency’s FOIA appeals, and the two offices have worked together to improve the agency’s initial search for records.
The USSS FOIA backlog is relatively small compared to other DHS components: between Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 and FY 2015 USSS’s backlog accounted for between 5 percent of DHS’s overall backlog in FY 2010 to less than 1 percent of DHS’s overall backlog in FY 2014. In FY 2015, USSS’s backlog of 791 requests accounted for about 2 percent of DHS’s total backlog of 35,374 requests. However, during the last few reporting periods USSS has recorded possessing most of the oldest pending requests among DHS components, including seven of the 10 oldest requests pending across DHS during FY 2015. In FY 2015, USSS also reported the second highest average processing time for complex requests among all DHS components. The 247 working days on average reported by USSS to process a complex request is more than twice as long as the average processing time for a complex request reported by DHS overall: 108 working days.
OGIS’s three primary findings are:
- The USSS FOIA program needs a robust strategy to reduce the backlog;
- USSS FOIA program has invested in technology, but key systems are not fully operational; and
- USSS does not proactively communicate with FOIA requesters.
What OGIS Recommends
We recommend that the USSS FOIA program take several steps to improve its responsiveness to requesters. In particular, we recommend that the FOIA branch institute strong management controls so that the Director of Disclosure can better oversee the program and that it develop a data-driven plan to reduce the USSS FOIA backlog. We also recommend that USSS provide the FOIA program with additional IT support, and that the USSS FOIA program provide requesters with additional information to improve their understanding of the FOIA process.
Compliance Assessment Report
Title: "Management Controls, Technology Support, and Improved Communication Needed"
Date: July 27, 2016