The Chief FOIA Officers (CFO) Council met on October 4th to discuss the Final Report and Recommendations issued by the 2016-2018 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee and related guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy (OIP). What follows are a few highlights from the presentation:
Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero welcomed everyone to the William G. McGowan Theater, explained the important role with which Congress has tasked the CFO Council, and urged attendees to carefully examine the FOIA Advisory Committee’s April 2018 Final Report and Recommendations.
The Archivist also encouraged everyone to review the list of best practices identified in the Final Report to see if there are any strategies that may be useful for agencies to incorporate into their respective FOIA programs.
CFO Council Co-Chair and OGIS Director Alina M. Semo announced that the FOIA Advisory Committee’s first of seven 2018 recommendations to the Archivist has been implemented with the establishment of a CFO Council Technology Subcommittee. The Subcommittee will be co-chaired by Eric Stein, Department of State, and Michael Sarich, Veterans Health Administration, and already has six members, although Ms. Semo encouraged additional volunteers to join the Subcommittee. A kick-off meeting is planned for November at the Department of State.
Ms. Semo also announced that the 2018-2020 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee is underway. The first meeting, on September 6, 2018, included lots of brainstorming and participation from all Committee members. Ultimately, the Committee decided to form three subcommittees: Records Management, Vision, and Time/Volume, each of which will be co-chaired by a government and non-government member.
CFO Council Co-Chair and OIP Director Melanie Ann Pustay announced the recent release of deadlines for submission of agencies’ Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Annual FOIA Reports, FY 2019 Quarterly FOIA Reports, and 2019 Chief FOIA Officer Reports. She also announced upcoming Annual FOIA Report Refresher Training to be held on October 9, 2018. In addition, Ms. Pustay noted that OIP recently published its training schedule for FY 2019.
Ms. Semo then presented the FOIA Advisory Committee’s suggested best practices from the 2018 Final Report and Recommendations, organized by ease of implementation. Overarching topics included improving the management of the FOIA process, enhancing career development for FOIA professionals, using technology to improve the FOIA process, and increasing accessibility of documents released under FOIA.
OIP Director Pustay followed with a presentation focused on four areas of OIP guidance that complemented the FOIA Advisory Committee’s more than 35 best practices, broken down into four broad categories: good communication with requesters, robust case management, proactive disclosures, and enhanced technology.
Congress has tasked the CFO Council with: (a) developing recommendations for increasing agency compliance and efficiency, including the development and use of common performance measures; (b) disseminating information about agency experiences, ideas, best practices and innovative approaches; and (c) identifying, developing and coordinating initiatives to increase transparency and compliance with the FOIA. That is why the CFO Council serves as a natural and ideal forum for discussion of the work of the FOIA Advisory Committee.
Keep an eye out on the FOIA Ombudsman blog for future updates on the work of the CFO Council Technology Subcommittee, and for news of future CFO Council meetings.