Sunshine Week 2018 (Early) Recap

Sunshine Week Program

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) gives the keynote address during the National Archives’ 2018 Sunshine Week celebration. Photo by Jeffrey Reed.

There are still a few days left in Sunshine Week 2018, but we wanted to go ahead and share a recap of some exciting events that have already happened!

On Monday, we were honored to host the third annual National Archives’ Sunshine Week 2018 celebration in the William G. McGowan Theater. After a kick-off introduction by the Archivist of the United States, the afternoon featured three lively panels that generated stimulating discussions about the role of innovation in government, the opportunities and challenges surrounding digital civic engagement, and the roadmap for open data. We were particularly pleased and honored to have Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) present the afternoon’s keynote address. If you missed the event, you can watch the video on the National Archives’ YouTube Channel (unfortunately we did have a technical glitch at the beginning of the program that prevented us from livestreaming opening remarks from the Archivist of the United States and the beginning of the first panel; we hope to be able to post a video of the whole event soon).

On Tuesday, Director Semo testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on progress on implementation of the FOIA Improvement Act. You can find Director Semo’s testimony, and video of the hearing on the Committee’s webpage.

We are also very happy to announce that this week we published our Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report. Please download the report to learn more about demand for our dispute resolution services, trends we have noted through our agency compliance assessments, summaries of our work with the FOIA Advisory Committee and Chief FOIA Officers Council, and much more!

Looking ahead, we want to remind you that this afternoon (Wednesday, March 14) from 2:00 to 3:30 pm you can catch the livestream for Access and Transparency—Records Held at the National Archives. During the event, a panel of our National Archives colleagues will explain how they can help you request and access the restricted and non-restricted Federal records held at the National Archives. All week, you can also log on to the Citizen Archivist Dashboard to participate in the transcription challenge focused on the Pentagon Papers.

We hope you all have a great Sunshine Week, and we look forward to celebrating with you again next year!

Posted in About OGIS, National Archives and Records Administration, Sunshine Week 2018 | Leave a comment

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services FOIA Compliance Assessment Report Now Available

Earlier this week we published our FOIA compliance assessment report of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). OGIS has now published assessments of seven (7) component agencies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – including the three FOIA programs responsible for processing the majority of DHS’s annual share of FOIA requests – USCIS, CBP and ICE.

OGIS’s agency assessments are based on direct observation and review of an agency’s FOIA case files, analysis of applicable data and documents, and interviews with agency employees and officials. Our reports are intended to provide sufficient detail about the FOIA program’s processes to understand its operations, and provide actionable recommendations to strengthen the FOIA program. These recommendations are based on our observations and knowledge of FOIA practices across the Federal government.

As we document in the report, USCIS regularly receives and processes the largest volume of FOIA requests government-wide – in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 USCIS received an average of 640 requests daily, and responded to an average of 560 requests each workday. In our report, we note that USCIS implements strong management practices to ensure that routine requests for immigration-related records, which make up a vast majority of USCIS’s caseload, are handled as efficiently as possible and complex requests are given extra attention. We also note that USCIS’s communication with requesters encourages an efficient process by clearly articulating how to narrow a request to qualify for a track with a faster average processing time. Finally, we find that planned improvements to USCIS’s FOIA tracking and processing technology can further improve the program’s efficiency and customer service.

To learn more about the USCIS FOIA program and our recommendations, please download the report. We will follow up with the USCIS in 120 days to learn what steps they have taken in response to our recommendations.

Posted in Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

[UPDATED] Sunshine Week 2018 at the National Archives



Sunshine Week 2018 Agenda
Monday, March 12, 2018
1:00 pm – 5:30 pm
William G. McGowan Theater



Register to attend via EventBrite

Watch on YouTube (stream begins at 1:00 pm on March 12)

Speaker Biographies

1:00: Welcome by the Archivist of the United States

1:10: Innovation: Transforming Government of and by the People

  • Jim Thompson, Director of Innovation, Department of State
  • Navin Vembar, Chief Technology Officer, General Services Administration
  • Andrew Wilson, Digital Engagement Division Director, National Archives
  • Kate Zwaard, Digital Strategy Director, Library of Congress
  • Miriam Nisbet, former Director of the Office of Government Information Services (moderator)

2:20: Digital Civic Engagement: Lessons Learned in Congress

  • Steve Dwyer, Senior Advisor, Office of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer
  • Seamus Kraft, Executive Director, OpenGov Foundation
  • Jessica Presley, Minority Staff, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
  • Mollie Ruskin, Independent Designer and Strategist
  • Jessica Seale, Digital Director, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Daniel Schuman, Policy Director, Demand Progress (moderator)

3:40: Break

4:00: Introduction by the Archivist of the United States and Keynote Address

  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

4:15: Open Data: The Roadmap

  • Selene Arrazolo, Lead Data Analyst, Data.World, Inc
  • Victoria Collin, Acting Chief of the Management Controls and Assistance Branch, Office of Federal Financial Management, Office of Management and Budget
  • Hudson Hollister, Executive Director, Data Coalition
  • Sunmin Kim, Technology Policy Advisor, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)
  • Laura Manley, Director of Partnerships & Programs, Center for Open Data Enterprise
  • Peter Del Toro, Assistant Director, Strategic Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)
  • Alex Howard, Deputy Director,  Sunlight Foundation (moderator)

Don’t miss the National Archives’ other Sunshine Week celebrations, including:

  • a week-long transcription challenge using the Citizen Archivist Dashboard to focus on transcription of the Pentagon Papers; and
  • Access and Transparency—Records Held at the National Archives, an event on Wednesday, March 14 to teach users how we can help you request and access the restricted and non-restricted Federal records held at the National Archives. A panel of staff experts will discuss and answer questions about their work in making records available from our executive, legislative, and Presidential holdings. You can join the event live in the William G. McGowan Theater or catch it on YouTube.
Posted in Sunshine Week 2018 | 2 Comments

Updated: Sunshine Week Celebrations across the Federal Government

SunshineWeek2018FinalWe are looking forward to announcing details about our March 12th Sunshine Week celebration soon! While we put some finishing touches on our afternoon agenda, we wanted to go ahead and let you know about a couple of other Sunshine Week events hosted by our federal colleagues.

The Department of Commerce asked us to share the news about two events they are holding to mark the occasion. The title for Commerce’s event this year is “As a Matter of Open Government.” The kickoff event will be held at the Department of Commerce Research Library, 1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20230, on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon. In Suitland, Maryland the Census Bureau will host Speaker Sessions on March 13th and 14th aimed at showing how the Census Bureau meets the principles (transparency, participation, collaboration, and accountability) of Open Government. The events are open to federal employees, contractors, and the public. Registration (via EventBrite) is required

Our colleagues at the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Information Policy (OIP) are hosting their annual Sunshine Week Kick Off Celebration during the morning on March 12 (our event will be held later in the afternoon). During the event, DOJ will honor FOIA professionals from across the government who have made extraordinary contributions to the field. Nominations must be emailed to with the subject line “2018 Sunshine Week FOIA Award Nomination” by February 15, 2018. Learn more about the award categories and how to submit a nomination by reading OIP’s blog post. Registration (via EventBrite) is required.

During Sunshine Week the National Archives will also be running a transcription challenge using the Citizen Archivist Dashboard! Using the Citizen Archivist Dashboard is fun, and it allows users to make historical documents in the National Archives Catalog more searchable and accessible. This year’s Sunshine Week challenge will focus on transcription of the Pentagon Papers. [Update] The National Archives will also be hosting an event on Wednesday, March 14 to teach users how we can help you request and access the restricted and non-restricted Federal records held at the National Archives—often without a FOIA request. A panel of staff experts will discuss and answer questions about their work in making records available from our executive, legislative, and Presidential holdings. You can join the event live in the William G. McGowan Theater or catch it on YouTube.

Be sure to keep up with the latest on our Sunshine Week plans by following this blog or connecting with us on Twitter!

Posted in Sunshine Week 2018, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

OGIS Releases FOIA Compliance Self-Assessment Survey Results

self assessmentsWe are excited to announce the release of our analysis and observations of FOIA compliance issues based on the responses to FOIA questions included in the 2016 Records Management Self-Assessment (RMSA). The RMSA is a sophisticated agency self-assessment program developed and managed by the National Archives and Records Administration Office of the Chief Records Officer (CRO). Our partnership with the CRO on the RMSA has allowed OGIS to leverage over eight years of experience with conducting agency self-assessments and provided OGIS with the opportunity, for the first time since our doors opened in 2009, to gather comprehensive data about FOIA operations from almost every agency that is subject to FOIA

Reviewing FOIA policies and procedures for all administrative agencies subject to FOIA is a big job, and a key component of OGIS’s ongoing work to improve FOIA compliance across the government. To improve our understanding of FOIA compliance issues across the government, OGIS worked with the CRO to develop 11 questions about FOIA operations to include in the RMSA survey. The responses to the questions in the 2016 RMSA survey helped create a baseline for our understanding of the relationship between FOIA Officers and Federal Agency Records Officers and for the systems agencies do – or do not – have in place to identify information that could be proactively released. The questions and survey responses to the 2016 RMSA survey have also furthered our perspectives on observations in our agency compliance reports regarding program management, the use of technology, and communication with requesters. Please download the report to learn more about our observations and analysis of survey results.

We look forward to continuing this successful collaboration with the CRO in the future, and deeply appreciate the CRO’s willingness to work with us on this project. You can learn more about the RMSA and the CRO by visiting the National Archives’ Records Management Oversight and Reporting Program webpage and Records Express, the CRO’s blog.

Posted in About FOIA, Review | Leave a comment

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Responds to FOIA Compliance Report

CFPBOn January 19, 2018 we received a formal response from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to our August 2017 CFPB FOIA Compliance Assessment. Like other agencies that have participated in our agency assessment program, CFPB volunteered to go through the process as part of their ongoing efforts to strengthen its FOIA Program.

Our assessment report documented that the CFPB FOIA Program maintains a relatively small backlog and is currently responding to most requests well within the law’s 20-working-day response time. Our report includes three primary findings:

  • CFPB faces management challenges that may impact its ability to to maintain its current responsiveness to FOIA requests during the next five years;
  • CFPB’s investments in technologies are improving the FOIA process; and
  • CFPB communicates well with requesters.

To address our first finding and to ensure that the CFPB FOIA Program maintains its responsiveness to FOIA requests, we recommended that the FOIA Program continue to work with the agency’s leadership to highlight the importance of the FOIA Program, and that the FOIA Program keep leadership apprised of its resource needs. CFPB responded that it agrees with both of these recommendations, and noted that the FOIA office has been using employees detailed from other parts of the agency to meet increases in workload. Our report also included recommendations to make it easier for members of the public to view records posted to the CFPB FOIA reading room; and to create a formal feedback loop between FOIA processors and CFPB attorneys who process FOIA appeals. CFPB responded that its FOIA Program has implemented both of these recommendations.

We greatly appreciate CFBP’s interest in working with us to further improve its FOIA Program. We look forward to continuing to work with many other agencies to identify strategies for improving compliance with FOIA across the government. If you are interested in having OGIS conduct an assessment of your agency’s FOIA program, please contact us.

Posted in Review | Leave a comment

Advisory Committee Puts Forward Unanimous Recommendations to Improve FOIA

FOIA Act Advisory Committee Meeting

Members of the FOIA Advisory Committee during their meeting at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2016. NARA photo by Brogan Jackson.

On January 16, 2018 the FOIA Advisory Committee voted unanimously* in support of several recommendations to improve the administration of FOIA. Members of the three Subcommittees – Proactive Disclosure, Efficiency and Resources, and Searches – spent a little over a year researching issues and developing these recommendations.

The FOIA Advisory Committee brings together agency FOIA professionals and requesters to identify the greatest challenges in the implementation of FOIA and to develop consensus recommendations to address these issues. The Committee’s membership reflects the diversity of the FOIA community – including representatives of Cabinet-level and independent agencies, journalists, historians, academics, commercial requesters, open government advocates and others.

During the meeting, the Committee discussed and voted to support four proposals from the Proactive Disclosures Subcommittee. The aim of the proposals is to:

  • increase the release of agency FOIA logs in a way that is most useful to improving understanding of agency records and how the law is being used;
  • provide agencies with criteria for setting priorities for proactive disclosure;
  • give agencies a guide to categories of records that should be regularly released based on the ease of making them available and their importance for understanding the government’s actions; and
  • address requirements that documents on agency’s FOIA websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

The Committee opted to table one item from a Proactive Disclosure Subcommittee recommendation involving categories of records that should be proactively published; members of the Committee will further investigate agency policies concerning the publication of employee email addresses and consider the matter again at its next meeting.  The Committee also made changes to the Section 508 accessibility recommendation to highlight the sense of the Committee that agencies should be encouraged to not remove documents that are useful to the public from an agency’s FOIA website. Finally, the Committee also voted to support a set of best practices identified by the Efficiency and Resources Subcommittee and a set of recommendations and best practices offered up by the Searches Subcommittee. Minutes from the meeting and revised recommendations will be posted on the FOIA Advisory Committee webpages as soon as practicable; in the meantime, you can find video of the meeting on the NARA YouTube Channel.

At the FOIA Advisory Committee’s final meeting of the 2016-2018 Term, which will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater on April 17, 2018 from 10 am to 1 pm, the Committee will vote on its Final Report. The Committee’s Final Report will include all of its final recommendations and a description of the Committee’s research and deliberations. You can keep up with the work of the FOIA Advisory Committee by regularly checking this blog and following us on Twitter.

*In order to avoid a potential conflict of interest, the Director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) abstained from voting on all of the recommendations, and the Director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) abstained from voting on specific recommendations related to OGIS and the Chief FOIA Officers Council.

Posted in FOIA Advisory Committee | 1 Comment

Mark Your Calendars for Sunshine Week 2018 at the National Archives

SunshineWeek2018FinalAs most of the United States digs out and warms up from the latest blast of wintery weather, we at OGIS are happy to share the news that we are busy planning for Sunshine Week 2018!

Sunshine Week is an annual nationwide celebration of access to public information. Since the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) launched the initiative more than a decade ago, it has been embraced by journalists, librarians, concerned citizens, civil society organizations, elected official, and government employees alike as an opportunity to discuss the importance of open government and its impact.

Sunshine Week 2018 at the National Archives will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater during the afternoon of Monday, March 12th. The event will be free and open to the public, both in person and via a live web stream. For those who miss out, we also post video after the event (you can find video of our 2017 event here).

Be sure to regularly check out this blog and follow us on Twitter for updates on this year’s Sunshine Week program and participants!

Posted in OGIS events, Sunshine Week 2018 | 1 Comment

Mark Your Calendars for the January 16, 2018 FOIA Advisory Committee Meeting

FOIA Act Advisory Committee Meeting

Members of the FOIA Advisory Committee during their meeting at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2016. NARA photo by Brogan Jackson.

Registration is now open for the January 16, 2018 meeting of the FOIA Advisory Committee! The meeting is scheduled to run from 10 am to 1 pm in the William G. McGowan Theater.

As we have shared with you all before, the FOIA Advisory Committee has been hard at work for more than a year examining some of the major challenges to FOIA and developing recommendations to the Archivist to improve the law’s administration. During the January 16th meeting, we expect the Committee to further discuss, refine and vote on the draft recommendations developed by its three subcommittees – Proactive Disclosure, Efficiencies and Resources, and Searches.

We hope you will join us in person for the meeting. For those of you who cannot make it to the theater, the meeting will also be livestreamed via the National Archives’ YouTube Channel. You can also follow the FOIA Advisory Committee’s work by visiting this section of our website, and email any feedback you want to share with Committee members by emailing

Posted in FOIA Advisory Committee | Leave a comment

DOJ Releases FOIA Website Guidance 2.0


New guidance for more user-friendly FOIA webpages. (NARA ID 6609911)

The Department of Justice Office of Information Policy (OIP) recently issued updated guidance for agency FOIA webpages. The guidance provides helpful recommendations for agencies to ensure that requesters can find useful resources and information.

OIP’s guidance suggests that agencies ensure that members of the public can easily locate agency FOIA webpages by including a clear link to the FOIA webpages on the homepage. OIP also recommends that agency FOIA webpages cover three general categories of information. The categories of information are:

  • Public Interest – this category includes the agency’s FOIA library, which should include all frequently requested documents;
  • Making and tracking an existing FOIA request – this category includes the agency’s FOIA Reference Guide, FOIA regulations, and contact information for the FOIA Requester Service Center and FOIA Public Liaison; and
  • FOIA performance and operations – this category includes the agency’s Annual FOIA Report and Chief FOIA Officer Report.

OIP’s guidance also includes other suggestions that agencies should take into consideration when reviewing their FOIA webpages. Specifically, OIP suggests that agencies:

  • ensure the FOIA webpages meet any agency or government-wide styling conventions;
  • use plain language;
  • regularly review content to ensure that it is up-to-date and that links are correct; and
  • work with their web team to improve the quality of the FOIA webpages.

OIP’s new guidance is based in part on feedback gathered in a joint Requester Roundtable we co-hosted with OIP in June 2016.  Do you have any other suggestions for how agencies can make their FOIA webpages more informative? If so let us know in the comments!

Posted in About FOIA, Best practices, Open Government | Leave a comment