Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 was very busy for the FOIA Ombudsman’s office. You can get a more complete picture of our work during FY 2015 by checking out the latest version of our Annual Report.
One major change to OGIS in FY 2015 was the appointment of a new Director, Dr. James Holzer. During the transition between the retirement of OGIS’s first Director, Miriam Nisbet, and Director Holzer coming on board in August 2015, we continued to offer mediation services and review FOIA compliance under the leadership of OGIS’s Deputy Director, Nikki Gramian.
Since we began offering mediation services in 2009, we have assisted customers in all 50 states and in 22 foreign countries. Our Mediation Program’s FY 2015 numbers are impressive: we received 1,160 requests for assistance with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) issues—a 32-percent increase from FY 2014—and closed more than 1,200 cases; we also handled cases involving all 15 cabinet-level agencies and 34 percent of all other agencies. Be sure to read our FY 2015 Annual Report for more in-depth information about the types of cases we handled, where in the FOIA process requesters came to us, and more.
FY 2015 also marked the first full reporting period of OGIS’s Compliance Program. During the reporting period, our Compliance Team published assessments of the Special Access and FOIA program at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and of two Department of Homeland Security components: the Federal Emergency Management Agency and United States Coast Guard. (In late FY 2014, we published our first compliance report the FOIA program at NARA’s Office of General Counsel.) While we recognize that every agency FOIA program is unique in the records it processes and the type of requests it receives, we note that a FOIA program is set up for success if it properly manages its resources, uses technology appropriately, and communicates effectively with requesters. In the four compliance reports we published by the end of FY 2015, we made nearly 50 recommendations largely focused on improving management, the use of technology, and communication.
Our FY 2015 Annual Report also includes an update on the status of the recommendations we have made to improve the FOIA process, and reports on our efforts to better engage our stakeholders.
While FY 2015 was busy, FY 2016 is proving to be even more exciting! Be sure to keep up with our work by checking this blog (we regularly add new posts on Wednesdays) and following us on Twitter — @FOIA_Ombuds.