Today we present an interview with Carmen Collins, FOIA/Privacy Act (PA) Program Manager at the U.S. Cyber Command (USCC) at the Department of Defense and a member of the FOIA Advisory Committee. This is part of a series of posts on the Committee, whose members are FOIA experts from inside and outside of government who are appointed by the Archivist of the United States.
What prompted you to seek appointment to the FOIA Advisory Committee?
As a federal government employee my mission is to serve the public to the best of my ability. I strongly believe that federal agency records, except for those records (or portions of those records) that are protected from disclosure, must be accessible and understandable to the public. Information provides knowledge which equals an enrichment in the public’s capacity to know and exercise their rights. Being part of this Committee aligns perfectly with my goals and objectives as a FOIA Program Manager.
This Committee is a particularly important medium for engagement and information exchange between the government and requester community that can [result in] recommendations that will affect the large efforts and goals, and highlight the value of all stakeholders’ contributions. It truly is a great privilege to be part of such an amazing, smart and driven group of individuals that are willing to work together for the same cause.
What do you hope to accomplish from being a member of a FOIA advisory group?
I hope that I can provide valuable input or ideas based on my experience that add richness and authenticity to the projects/objectives the Committee embarks on during this term. I am very ready and excited to work alongside my colleagues at other agencies and the requester community. This Committee was created to “foster dialog between the Administration and the requester community, solicit public comments, and develop consensus recommendations for improving FOIA administration and proactive disclosures.” I am confident that our Committee will provide viable solutions/recommendations that will affect some of FOIA’s biggest problems relating to technology, resources and the workforce.
Tell us about your favorite FOIA experience.
I have had several favorite FOIA experiences in my career, it is hard to pick just one. But I do know that all those experiences center around open communication with the requester community, by narrowing the scope of their request and providing them with the exact information they want for their personal, professional, or educational needs. There have been many times that I’ve had phone/e-mail conversations with requesters that result in very insightful and productive exchanges. I find that I learn a lot from the requesters and their needs, which is knowledge I use to inspire me and reminds me why I am passionate about my work.