Understanding the Office of Government Information Services (part 4/4)

“Information” World War II Posters, 1942 – 1945. National Archives Identifier 514625

In our previous blog posts “Understanding the Office of Government Information Services,” parts 1, 2 and 3,  we provided a basic overview of OGIS and highlighted our dispute resolution and compliance work. In this wrap-up post we’ll further explain the important work of the FOIA Advisory Committee and the Chief FOIA Officers Council. 

What is the FOIA Advisory Committee? 

The federal FOIA Advisory Committee, composed of 20 FOIA experts from inside and outside of government, advises the Archivist of the United States on FOIA matters. NARA established the Committee in 2014 in accordance with the U.S. Second Open Government National Action Plan and the Federal Advisory Committee Act to bring together perspectives from all parts of the FOIA community. Under its charter, the Committee fosters dialogue between the Administration and the requester community, solicits public comments, and develops consensus recommendations for improving FOIA administration and proactive disclosures. 

The FOIA Advisory Committee reports to the Archivist of the United States who chartered the Committee in May 2014. The Archivist has since renewed the Committee’s charter four additional times (May 2016, May 2018, May 2020, and April 2022). OGIS’s Director serves as the chairperson of the Committee, and OGIS staff provides administrative and logistical support. Full Committee meetings are open to the public, are held at least quarterly, and the Committee welcomes public comments. Since 2016, the Committee has made 51 wide-ranging recommendations for improving the FOIA process government wide. OGIS tracks these recommendations in an on-line dashboard. The roles of OGIS and the FOIA Advisory Committee complement each other as the FOIA statute directs OGIS to identify procedures and methods for improving FOIA compliance, and OGIS carries out many of the recommendations relevant to this mandate.

What is the Chief FOIA Officers Council?

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 created a new Chief FOIA Officers (CFO) Council within the executive branch to serve as a forum for collaboration across agencies and with the requester community to explore innovative ways to improve FOIA administration. The CFO Council is composed of the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget, the Director of OGIS, the Director of the Office of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice, agency Chief FOIA Officers, and any other federal officer or employee as designated by the co-chairs. The current Council  co-chairs are Alina Semo, Director of OGIS, and Bobak Talebian, Director of OIP, and meetings are open to the public.

The duties of the Council include:

  • developing recommendations for increasing FOIA compliance and efficiency;
  • disseminating information about agency experiences, ideas, best practices, and innovative approaches related to FOIA;
  • identifying, developing, and coordinating initiatives to increase transparency and compliance with FOIA; and
  • promoting the development and use of common performance measures for agency compliance with FOIA.

The Council has formed two committees (as a result of FOIA Advisory Committee recommendations) to address technology and inter-agency collaboration and innovation. For more information about the work of these Committees, we invite you to visit the CFO Council websites on both the OGIS and OIP websites.