In March, we released our assessment of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program at Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Our report explained how support from CBP’s leadership and the effort of the FOIA staff improved the agency’s FOIA performance. As our report documents, CBP’s decisions to put in place management controls, to invest in technology, and to improve communication with requesters helped the agency to reduce its backlog in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 by 74 percent—from 34,307 requests to 9,024 requests. The changes also improved CBP’s responsiveness to requests: during FY 2015, CBP responded to most simple requests within the 20 working days allowed under the law.
CBP recently responded to the questionnaire we send to FOIA programs 120 days after we publish our assessments, and there is even more good news to report. Among the improvements CBP outlines in its response: a new system that helps the FOIA office better manage requests to program offices for searches for responsive records and raises the visibility of the FOIA program at the agency’s most senior levels. CBP’s response also details the office’s efforts to further streamline the process and ensure that the FOIA program has access to sufficient staff to keep up with the volume of requests.