Survey Says! OGIS Publishes RMSA Report

Enlist in 472nd Engineers. (National Archives ID: 512490)

We are pleased to announce the publication of our latest report, “Assessing Freedom of Information Act Compliance through the 2019 National Archives and Records Administration’s Records Management Self-Assessment.”

The 2019 Records Management Self-Assessment (RMSA)—administered by the Office of the Chief Records Officer (CRO) for the United States Government to agency records officers in 2020 —included five survey questions regarding FOIA administration. Key results highlighted in our report include:

  •  A majority of respondents (59 percent) reported that their agencies manually de-duplicate records responsive to FOIA requests.
  •  A majority of respondents (77 percent) reported that their agency records officers or records management staff have received formal or informal FOIA training. (Relates to FOIA Advisory Committee Recommendations Nos. 2020-04 and 2020-05)
  •  A significant majority of respondents (83 percent) reported that their agency FOIA Officers are responsible for reviewing responses to FOIA requests and a majority (59 percent) reported that their General Counsel offices are responsible for doing so.
  •  A majority of respondents (55 percent) reported that agency IT Offices/Web managers are responsible for ensuring that records posted to FOIA reading rooms comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended. About half (49 percent) of the respondents indicated that the responsibility rests with the FOIA office. (Relates to FOIA Advisory Committee Recommendation Nos. 2018-05 and 2018-06)

One result requires further follow-up which OGIS is undertaking in a separate assessment:

  • Eighty-four percent of respondents reported that their agencies make information access guides available on their FOIA websites to help requesters better understand the FOIA process and the records they maintain. Forty-nine percent reported their agency makes descriptions of major information available on their FOIA websites. A majority of the respondents reported not having  indices to all major agency information systems or record locator information on their FOIA websites. (Relates to FOIA Advisory Committee Recommendation No. 2020-01)

The National Archives administered the survey between January 13, 2020, and May 15, 2020. The current survey – the 2020 RMSA – is now open through March 19, 2021. Please contact your agency’s records manager to remind them to respond if they have not done so already!

Strong records management programs contribute to the effective and efficient operations of agency programs — including FOIA programs — by making available the information and records needed for decision making, operating, and fulfilling statutory and regulatory requirements. The success of an agency’s FOIA program depends, in significant part, on the strength of its records management program.

We are grateful for the CRO’s inclusion of FOIA questions in the RMSA, and look forward to continuing our successful partnership beyond the RMSA. As reflected in the FOIA Advisory Committee Recommendations Dashboard, OGIS and CRO are collaborating with the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP) to develop FOIA and records management briefing materials for incoming senior leaders following changes in administration or leadership, as well as online training in federal records management for FOIA professionals.