OGIS Director Testifies Before House Subcommittee

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OGIS Director Alina M. Semo recently testified before a House Subcommittee about eight OGIS assessments at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). OGIS, mandated by Congress to review and identify ways to improve FOIA compliance, reviewed FOIA programs at seven DHS components between September 2015 and February 2018. OGIS also assessed DHS’s compliance with the responsibilities for Chief FOIA Officers as mandated in the FOIA statute.

The House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Management, and Accountability is interested in FOIA performance at DHS and invited Director Semo–along with representatives from DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO)–to testify about OGIS’s findings and recommendations on October 17, 2019. In assessing seven DHS FOIA programs, OGIS surveyed nearly 500 FOIA professionals and reviewed a sampling totaling more than 1,500 requests that had been processed in the most recent fiscal year preceding each assessment. OGIS’s findings and recommendations center on management, technology and communication.

The hearing, titled “The Public’s Right to Know: FOIA at the Department of Homeland Security,” provided OGIS the opportunity to highlight some of the work the Office has done since launching its compliance program in late 2014. Read Director Semo’s testimony here and watch her opening statement here. Watch the full Subcommittee hearing here.

Joining Director Semo in testifying was James Holzer, DHS’s Deputy Chief FOIA Officer and former OGIS Director; Tammy Meckley, Associate Director, Immigration Records and Identity Services Directorate at USCIS; and Vijay D-Souza, Director of Information Technology and Cybersecurity at GAO.