The Department of State received nearly 19,000 FOIA requests in fiscal year 2012 – clearly, people are interested in the agency’s records! To better satisfy the needs of the public, the department has launched a new FOIA website (available at www.foia.state.gov).
State designed the website with researchers in mind. It makes already-public information easier to find, and allows the public to file FOIA requests more easily. The website features robust search functions and more detailed information and guidance on how to access department records and information. New features include:
- a “Learn” section designed to assist the public in determining whether the information they seek falls within the department’s mission;
- step-by-step instructions for submitting requests, along with detailed checklists to help a requester provide all the information necessary for filing a valid request;
- an enhanced tool for filing requests online; and
- a Feedback Form to solicit comments to assist State in making refinements and/or improvements to the site.
The site’s Virtual Reading Room contains over 80,000 documents already released to the public pursuant to FOIA, Mandatory Declassification Review requests, or other declassification reviews. This includes almost 5,000 newly posted documents – this is the largest number of State FOIA documents posted online in any fiscal year (and exceeds the Department of State’s Open Government Plan milestone!). The Virtual Reading Room also includes links to resources in and outside the Department of State, including a link to declassified department records available online at the National Archives and Records Administration.
The new FOIA site is the result of an 18-month effort by the State Department’s Global Information Services, Office of Information Programs and Services (“IPS”) in the Bureau of Administration. The website team was guided by input and recommendations from the FOIA requester community and OGIS. IPS is committed to working in collaboration with the public to support the Administration’s emphasis on improving transparency and openness in government.