A new webpage cataloging Office of Government information Services (OGIS) recommendations and best practices, a model for analyzing FOIA programs and technology, and an update on an interactive search tool on FOIA.gov were among the matters discussed at the April 25, 2023, meeting of the Chief FOIA Officers Council.
Missed the meeting? Catch up by watching on YouTube – or read our recap, below.
OGIS Director Alina M. Semo, co-chair of the Council, announced a webpage that catalogs recommendations and suggested best practices OGIS has made in assessing agency FOIA programs.
Also announced: a FOIA Reference Model from MITRE that provides a standardized vocabulary for business and technical stakeholders to describe FOIA needs that can be used to analyze both FOIA programs and FOIA technology products. And a white paper defines and describes the model and outlines the model’s uses.
Office of Information Policy (OIP) Director Bobak Talebian, co-chair of the Council, announced progress on an interactive search tool on FOIA.gov, which will launch later this year and will use machine learning to generate search results using publicly available FOIA logs and frequently requested records
A recap of other matters announced or discussed at the April 25th meeting:
- OGIS has released new quarterly reporting that includes the office’s work as a whole. Learn more in this FOIA Ombudsman blog post.
- OGIS has updated the FOIA Advisory Committee Recommendations Dashboard specific to a proposed Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency cross-cutting project on access to records in digital and electronic form (Rec. 2020-18); and Department of Homeland Security access to A-Files/immigration records (Rec. 2022-14)
- OIP reported that agencies have finalized their fiscal year 2022 data. All data is available at www.foia.gov/data.html. Agencies have also posted their 2023 Chief FOIA Officer Reports and OIP will soon publish its Summary of Agency Annual FOIA Reports, along with its Summary and Assessment of Agency Chief FOIA Officer Reports. Agencies continue to report quarterly FOIA data on key metrics throughout the year, available at www.foia.gov/quarterly. Quarter 2 data will be published in April 2023.
- In regard to the 2023 Chief FOIA Officer Reports, agencies responded to new questions on topics including: incorporation of FOIA into agency’s core mission; confirmation in response letters that agency considered foreseeable harm; frequency of Glomar/”Neither confirm nor deny” responses; use of data in managing workloads; use of technology to automate record processing; interoperability with FOIA.gov; impact of litigation on FOIA administration; and frequency of unusual circumstances
- On March 13, 2023, OIP issued guidance on working with a presumption of openness. This guidance addresses: applying a presumption of openness in general; discretionary releases; applying the foreseeable harm standard, using practical and efficient means for conducting analysis on a case-by-case basis; and the importance of regular communication with requesters
- OIP has updated its Self-Assessment Toolkit, fulfilling a commitment in the Fifth U.S. Open Government National Action Plan. This update contains new modules for proactive disclosures and administrative appeals, plus additional milestones on the use of technology and requirements of the Attorney General’s 2022 FOIA Guidelines. In addition, fillable spreadsheets facilitate easier completion and tracking of milestone action items
The Council’s Committee on Cross-Agency Collaboration and Innovation (COCACI) subcommittees also provided updates at the Chief FOIA Officers Council meeting.
- COCACI’s Government Information Specialist (GIS) Subcommittee is examining recruitment strategies; hiring and retention strategies; uniform pay scale assignments; key competencies for FOIA professionals; and FOIA professional certification testing.
- The Subcommittee’s recent progress includes surveying government FOIA professionals regarding perspectives and needs relating to professional development opportunities, availability and quality of agencies’ training and FOIA knowledge management, job series classification and grading, resources allocation, among other related topics; reviewing survey responses to GIS Subcommittee questions; and developing agency FOIA executive interview questions.
- COCACI’s Pandemic and Virtual Subcommittee’s recent progress includes surveying FOIA professionals regarding transition from the in-office work environment to a telework/remote environment, availability of and desire for remote positions, relocating files, and best practices for transitioning during a pandemic.
- COCACI’s Resources Subcommittee surveyed FOIA professionals in 2022 to solicit opinions about the FOIA resource needs and consolidated and analyzed survey responses to develop useful sessions for a planned FOIA Community Best Practices Workshop, anticipated to occur as early as Fall 2023. Planned topics include strategic thinking when building a FOIA program; solutions and limitations using FOIA technology; and staffing strategies when FOIA personnel are needed.
Finally, OIP discussed its work, in collaboration with OGIS, with the Office of Shared Services & Performance Improvement at the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Business Standards Council (BSC) to develop shared FOIA Business Standards in line with the Federal Integrated Business Framework (FIBF). OIP used MITRE’s FOIA Reference Model to create the standards, and the FOIA Business Standards Working Group is now drafting the functions, activities, and business capabilities of the standards. These will be circulated for CFO Council feedback in the next few weeks and the FIBF components will then be made available for public comment.