Our assessment of the FOIA program at the United States Coast Guard is now available.
The Coast Guard’s FOIA process is decentralized, meaning that requests received in the nine districts and more than 1,200 units are processed by those districts and units, generally as a collateral duty. Final memorandums on maritime disasters and records pertaining to investigations into boating accidents are frequently requested under FOIA. The Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis, which investigates boating accidents and reports of pollution, processed the bulk of the 2,620 requests that the Coast Guard processed in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014.
The report, our second of six assessments of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) component FOIA programs, highlights the agency’s best practices and includes several recommendations for improving the Coast Guard’s FOIA program. Among our recommendations are that the Coast Guard:
- Create a plan to centralize its FOIA process;
- Create clear standard operating procedures for the FOIA process by updating the Coast Guard FOIA manual;
- Fully implement the Coast Guard’s FOIA processing system;
- Overhaul the Coast Guard FOIA web page, including reviewing all reference material for accuracy; and
- Send a link to the open investigations database to all requesters who seek investigative records.
We will follow up with Coast Guard and DHS officials in 120 days regarding the status of our recommendations.
As our regular readers know, we are working on assessments of four other DHS component FOIA programs: the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, the United States Secret Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Please keep up with our assessments by watching this blog, and following us on Twitter: @FOIA_Ombuds.