The signatory of the original Freedom of Information Act takes in the sunshine in the White House pool. (NARA Identifier 6802686)
With wintry weather events closing federal offices closing practically across the country, it might be easy to miss that Sunshine Week 2015 is almost upon us. We hope you all will join our friends and colleagues inside and outside government in this weeklong celebration of openness March 15-21.
What’s Happening at OGIS?
We are only a couple of months into the new year, but 2015 has already been an exciting year at OGIS. As we shared in December, OGIS staff has changed (and grown) quite a bit in the last few months!
This Sunshine Week, OGIS will highlight the federal FOIA Advisory Committee. Be on the lookout for a joint statement from the Committee members celebrating the week. The National Archives and Records Administration Twitter handle also will be hosting brief interviews with some of the Committee members throughout the week. Check out this blog and follow @USNatArchives for updates.
Our mediation team continues to assist customers from both agencies and the requester community to resolve disputes. You can keep up with our casework by taking a look at our case log. OGIS has also posted a significant number of our final response letters. These letters, which are redacted to maintain the confidentiality of our customers, help the public and agencies understand the types of cases OGIS assists with, and what kinds of steps we take to resolve disputes.
The review team, which launched its new agency assessment program at the end of FY 2014, is preparing to release its second assessment soon. (Check out our report on our first assessment here.) During an agency assessment, our review team uses a variety of methods—including interviews, surveys, and a review of a sample of the agency’s FOIA cases—to better understand the agency’s FOIA process. The final report is designed to be a usable and readable guide to the agency’s program that highlights best practices and makes recommendations to improve the FOIA process.
What are Other Federal Agencies Doing?
Federal agencies will mark Sunshine Week in a variety of ways, including employee training and other awareness activities. A few agencies will also host events that are open to the public.
The Department of Justice will kick off Sunshine Week on Monday March 16 by hosting an event recognizing great FOIA work by federal agencies. This year’s celebration will honor FOIA professionals. Read DOJ’s announcement for details, including how to register to attend.
The Census Bureau also will host an event on Wednesday, March 18 at its Suitland, Md., headquarters at 4600 Silver Hill Road, accessible from Metro’s Green Line. The event, titled Era of Transparency: FOIA, the Privacy Act, and Open Government, kicks off at 9 a.m. featuring a discussion with the Office of Information Policy’s Melanie Pustay, Commerce’s Catrina Purvis, CREW’s Anne Weismann, and Census Bureau’s Avi Bender and Jeannie Shiffer. At 1 p.m. Michael J. Toland, Chief of the Bureau’s FOIA and Open Government Branch will discuss how FOIA and Open Government are carried out at the Census Bureau. Register now or request more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many other Sunshine Week events taking place inside and outside the beltway. Take a look at sunshineweek.org to see what ‘s going on in your area. Or leave a comment below to tell us what you’ll be doing during Sunshine Week 2015.