OGIS Publishes Issue Assessment on FOIA Performance Measures for Non-FOIA Professionals

 This post was written by Brittany Parris, an Archivist with the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, who conducted the assessment while on temporary assignment to OGIS as part of the National Archives and Records Administration Cross-training Program.

We are happy to share our latest assessment, which examines FOIA performance measures for non-FOIA professionals and fulfills a recommendation from the 2016-2018 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee.  Agency employee performance work plans and appraisals generally do not include FOIA-specific performance measures for non-FOIA professionals even though they may be called upon at any time to help search for records or otherwise support the FOIA Process.

In 2016, the Department of Justice emphasized to Federal agencies the importance of FOIA performance standards for all employees: “As the number of FOIA requests received across the government continues to rise, all agencies are encouraged to include appropriate FOIA- and Open Government-Related performance standards for all employees who have any role in administering these key programs. By doing so, they can help ensure that the principle that ‘FOIA is everyone’s responsibility’ will be fully recognized.”

The assessment has three key findings and four recommendations. 

Key Findings

  1. Agencies largely communicate FOIA responsibilities to employees, including non-FOIA professionals. (Recommendation 1)
  2. Agency implementation of FOIA performance measures for non-FOIA professionals varies. Barriers include competing priorities and limited resources. (Recommendations 2 & 3)
  3. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementation. Agencies that have implemented some degree of performance measures for non-FOIA professionals have used model performance standards and example appraisal elements; created new measures; and/or used a blended approach. (Recommendation 4)

OGIS Recommendations

  1. Agencies should continue to highlight efforts and successes surrounding efforts to inform non-FOIA professionals of their obligations under FOIA.
  2. Agencies should involve all key stakeholders in implementing performance measures; keep communication open; evaluate steps taken; and encourage inter-agency sharing of lessons learned.
  3. Agencies should formally recognize that FOIA is everyone’s responsibility, and create, implement, and/or refine performance measures that address the FOIA responsibilities of employees who have no explicit FOIA duties.
  4. Agencies should be flexible; review existing examples for performance standards and appraisal elements; and modify as applicable.

We look forward to future agency efforts to implement such performance measures and sincerely appreciate the contributions of the many agency FOIA professionals who participated and helped make the assessment possible. If you have questions or have additional guidance to offer, please contact OGIS and we will connect you with FOIA professionals at other agencies.