OGIS’s latest agency compliance assessment delivers six findings and 10 recommendations for improving FOIA compliance and administration at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, such as in nuclear medicine.
NRC requested that OGIS review its FOIA program as part of its efforts to improve it. OGIS assessments include an analysis of FOIA data; a review of written materials such as FOIA regulations, standard operating procedures, management reports, Chief FOIA Officer reports and agency FOIA case files; direct observations; and interviews with agency employees and officials with responsibility for FOIA administration.
NRC’s FOIA program differs from others across the government in a unique way. Two laws pertaining to the agency’s budget have affected spending for FOIA: the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 and the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act. The latter of these laws imposes budget limitations regardless of the FOIA backlog or the number of requests the agency receives, according to the agency’s Director of Governance and Enterprise Management Services Division.
Among our management recommendations is that NRC should reform its FOIA administrative appeals process to conform with guidance from the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy. We also recommend that NRC update its FOIA regulations, FOIA Management Directive, and FOIA Desk Guide to ensure they are plainly written and reflect current statutory requirements and processes.
In the area of technology, we recommend that NRC assess its FOIA technology and records management needs to develop a more seamless approach to processing FOIA requests. Our assessment also recommends that NRC review and update its communications with requesters, including acknowledgement and response letters and the FOIA website to ensure they are up-to-date, written in plain language and include all relevant information so that requesters can more easily understand the agency’s FOIA process and actions on requests.
To learn more about the NRC FOIA program and our recommendations, please download the report.
We will follow up with the NRC in 120 days to learn what steps it has taken in response to our recommendations.
If you are an agency FOIA professional or official interested in having OGIS assess your FOIA program or any aspect of it, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add you to our Fiscal Year 2021 calendar.