As you might have heard, the Federal government received a record-breaking number of FOIA requests in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 – 788,769 requests. Did you know, though, that one of the more than 100 Federal agencies and departments that process FOIA requests accounts for almost 40 percent of that total? In FY 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) received 325,780 requests.
In addition to receiving an overwhelming amount of the FOIA requests sent to the Federal government, during FY 2016 DHS also handled about 40 percent of the requests processed by the federal government (DHS processed 310,549 of the 759,842 requests processed in FY 2016). DHS’s backlog – 46,788 – also accounts for about 40 percent of the FY 16 Federal government backlog.
DHS is now providing additional insight into the government’s FOIA operations by posting statistics updated monthly on their FOIA web page. In addition to providing information about the number of requests that DHS receives, processes, and has in its backlog during the previous month, DHS is also posting information about the number of pages released during the current Fiscal Year. Understanding the number of pages the FOIA program released improves our understanding of the amount of work the agency needed to do to process cases and of the amount of information that is being released under FOIA. In addition to releasing the total number of pages released during the Fiscal Year, DHS is taking the extra step of specifying the number of records released through the administrative appeal process, and the number of records released as a result of litigation: according to the statistics DHS posted for April 2017, the number of records released through litigation (82,000) represents about one half of one percent of the total number of records released in FY 2017 (16 million).
Do you have any suggestions for data points about the FOIA process that agencies can post on their web pages? Let us know in the comments!