The Chief FOIA Officers Council (CFOC) met on November 9 to discuss a variety of topics of interest to Chief FOIA Officers and FOIA professionals. Deputy Archivist of the United States, Debra Steidel Wall, and Associate Attorney General of the United States, Vanita Gupta, offered opening remarks to the attendees. You can view the entire meeting on the National Archives YouTube channel. Below is a recap of the meeting.
- Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Information Services at the U.S. State Department, Eric Stein, provided a brief overview of two artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning pilots launched at the State Department in the last year. One was on declassification review and the second on processing FOIA requests.
- Department of Justice Director of the Office of Information Policy, Bobby Talebian, shared reminders about upcoming FOIA annual reporting deadlines, guidelines for 2024 Chief FOIA Officer Reports, and talked about the recently issued OIP guidance on Standing Operating Procedures for FOIA offices. In addition, Talebian demonstrated the new advanced search tool on FOIA.gov.
- Director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), Alina M. Semo, provided updates from OGIS on fiscal year 2023 statistics, Universal Electronic Records Management requirements for federal agencies, and information on new digitization regulations. Last she encouraged attendees to register for the next FOIA Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday, December 7, 2023.
- The CFOC Committee on Cross-Agency Collaboration and Innovation (COCACI) provided several updates from its subcommittees. Highlights include:
- The Government Information Specialist (GIS) Professionalization Subcommittee is working on a White Paper with recommendations for agencies to improve professionalization and standardization of qualification for FOIA professionals. They will also be hosting a listening session with FOIA professionals and hiring managers to discuss the White Paper’s recommendations later in 2024.
- The Resources Subcommittee held a virtual Best Practices Workshop in late October with more than 400 attendees. Three panels discussed FOIA resource challenges and potential solutions and were specifically focused on How to Build – or Rebuild – a Successful Agency Information Program; FOIA Technology – Where it can help, where does it fall short?; and Innovative FOIA Staffing Opportunities.
- The Pandemic/Virtual Subcommittee has surveyed FOIA professionals regarding transition from the in-office work environment to a telework/remote environment, availability of and desire for remote positions, and relocating files, and best practices for transitioning during a pandemic. They are reviewing survey responses and will share a best practices and lessons learned guide in 2024.
- The FOIA Toolkit Workshop Group was established in fiscal year 2023 with a goal to draft a guide for FOIA professionals to better recruit, develop, and retain FOIA talent. The working group is currently reviewing 40 FOIA position descriptions from seven agencies and years’ worth of USAJOBs data on FOIA recruitment. The working group will publish the toolkit in May 2024.
- The CFOC Technology Committee noted their work on FOIA and AI as it relates to searching records, socializing recent AI concepts and principles, and aid in how AI applies to FOIA moving forward. In addition, planning is underway for the 2024 NexGen Tech Showcase which will focus on advancements in the FOIA arena. More information will be forthcoming in the spring.
The CFOC wrapped up the meeting with public comments.