OGIS Releases Compliance Assessment of U.S. Postal Service FOIA Program

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Responsive records could be located at approximately 30,000 USPS field offices, mostly post offices and mail processing centers throughout the country, including in U.S. territories. (National Archives Identifier 550130)

We are happy to announce the publication of our compliance assessment report of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). USPS invited us to conduct this assessment as part of their ongoing efforts to strengthen their FOIA program.

OGIS’s agency assessments are based on direct observation and review of USPS’s FOIA case files, analysis of applicable data and documents, and interviews with agency employees and officials. Our agency assessment reports are intended to provide sufficient detail about the FOIA program’s processes to understand its operations and provide actionable recommendations. These recommendations are based on our knowledge of FOIA practices across the government.

The USPS FOIA program is decentralized, which creates management challenges and limits the value of investments in technology. Every year USPS receives requests for records that could be located at approximately 30,000 field offices, mostly post offices and mail processing centers throughout the country, including in U.S. territories. Requests for headquarters records are handled by the FOIA Requester Service Center in Washington, D.C., while the FOIA Requester Service Center staff in St. Louis administers requests for records in field offices.

Due in part to strong management controls that the FOIA office has in place and other innovative efforts, USPS reduced its backlog by 82 percent from 144 requests at the end of FY 2014 to 25 requests at the end of FY 2017. USPS responded to simple requests in an average of 10 working days in FY 2017 and responses to complex requests averaged 95 working days. Our findings indicate that creating and implementing the use of templates and standard language that FOIA processors in the field can use to respond to requests – as planned by USPS – will improve the consistency of responses to requesters and promote greater understanding of the process.

We hope you will download our report to learn more!

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