In late February, the United States Secret Service (USSS) FOIA sent us a letter responding to the 12 recommendations we made in our compliance assessment report of their FOIA program. In the letter, USSS reports that they concur with each of our recommendations and explain the steps that are underway to strengthen the FOIA program and improve FOIA compliance.
USSS reports that they are using their FOIA processing and tracking system as a management and quality assurance tool, and are reporting information about the number of pages processed each week to management to highlight the FOIA workload. The FOIA program is also working with the USSS Performance Management Team in their Office of Human Resources to develop new performance measures for FOIA staff. They are also developing a data-driven backlog reduction plan to reduce the current backlog by 10 percent.
USSS also reports that they have taken a number of steps to address technical issues with their FOIA processing and tracking system that were impacting the FOIA program’s productivity and efficiency. In particular, the USSS reports that they have invested in increased technical support from a contractor to stabilize the system and are providing the FOIA program with in-house technical support. USSS also reports that they are exploring how to provide requesters with information about the status of their requests online.
USSS has also provided us with information about what they are doing to help improve their communication with requesters. Notably, USSS reported that they have developed template letters to provide requesters with an update on the status of particularly old requests and to describe why certain material is exempt from disclosure. USSS also reports that they are re-enforcing the appropriate use of “still interested” letters with the staff and plan to provide additional training to the staff on the proper use of “still interested” letters pursuant to current Department of Justice guidance.
We are excited to hear about all of USSS’ efforts to strengthen their FOIA program, and look forward to continuing to work with agencies to ensure the effective implementation of FOIA. We have closed all 12 OGIS recommendations in light of the USSS’ response.