This post was written by Miriam Nisbet, former Director of the Office of Government Information Services
Hello and welcome to The FOIA Ombudsman: Information and Advice, the official blog of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS). We know that’s a mouthful, so please call us FOIA Ombudsman for short. We’re so glad you’re here!
OGIS was created within the National Archives and Records Administration when the OPEN Government Act of 2007 amended the Freedom of Information Act. OGIS mediates disputes between FOIA requesters and agencies and review agency compliance with FOIA. The office also recommends to Congress and the President ways to improve the administration of FOIA. In the coming months, we’ll tell you lots more about what we are doing, things we are observing, and much, much more.
Our office has been open for a year and a half, and in that time, our staff has grown to seven members who have handled nearly 600 FOIA disputes, set up an office, given dozens of presentations, testified before Congress, provided training to FOIA professionals, and now…started a blog.
Why a blog? Well, for starters, our office is all about transparency. We post our case logs weekly so that our customers (and everyone else) can see what we are doing. We regularly communicate what we are observing through presentations and publications. But we have lots more we would like to share – advice about using FOIA, best practices we observe, announcements of events, and sometimes, just plain fun stuff.
We also envision this blog as a way to help us fulfill our role as the FOIA Ombudsman (as Congress has dubbed us). While there are many different definitions of the term “ombudsman,” they all agree that the central function of an ombuds office is to be a neutral party that can act as an intermediary between the general public and an institution (such as the U.S. Government). Regular communication with the general public and agencies is essential to the success of an ombuds office, and that is something we expect to achieve through this blog. We’ll be asking questions, stimulating discussion, and generating ideas – and we can’t wait to hear from you!