FOIA Advisory Committee Recommendations Recap

Research Archive GIF by US National Archives via GIPHY. From National Archives Identifier 12065.

The 2022-2024 FOIA Advisory Committee held its eighth public meeting last week, passing its first recommendation of the year that provides agencies with a model determination letter. The Committee voted 18-0 to pass the Modernization Subcommittee’s recommendation on a model determination letter as a best practice reference for agencies. In addition to that recommendation, No. 2024-01, the Committee discussed 12 other draft recommendations from its three subcommittees: Modernization, Resources, and Implementation. 

Before further discussion and votes at the next FOIA Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday, April 4, the Subcommittees will consider the feedback from the full Committee and the public, and, if necessary, revise, the draft recommendations. Included below are all the recommendations that were presented and discussed. 

In addition, public comments that meet our posting guidelines will be made available on our website and shared with the Committee. 

Modernization Draft Recommendations:

M-1. We recommend that the Office of Information Policy (OIP) issue guidance to federal agencies stating that agencies should proactively offer requesters the opportunity to discuss their request with an agency representative.

M-2. We recommend that the Office of Information Policy (OIP) issue guidance to federal agencies encouraging the option of providing requesters an interim response consisting of a small sample of documents found as the result of searches conducted and subsequently reviewed for partial or full withholding.

M-3. We recommend that federal agencies expand public engagement activities focused on improving all aspects of their FOIA process.

M-4. We recommend that the Archivist propose to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Information Policy (OIP), and other agency participants taking a leading role in future U.S. National Action Plans for Open Government that they include new and continuing commitments to improving FOIA administration.

M-5. We recommend that the Chief FOIA Officers Council Technology Committee and interested agencies publish requests for information (RFIs) on the subject of artificial intelligence (AI) tools and techniques as an aid to FOIA processing.

Resources Draft Recommendations (Staffing and Training):

R-1. We recommend that the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Information Policy (OIP), issue guidance to all Chief FOIA Officers outlining minimum requirements for training to agency staff, including non-FOIA professionals, outlining the requirements of Section (j)(2)(F) of the FOIA which states: “The Chief FOIA Officer shall offer training to agency staff regarding their responsibilities under this section.” Suggested guidance should include:

  • Mandatory annual FOIA training for non-FOIA professionals in the federal government; and
  • Mandatory FOIA training for all new employees, including non-FOIA professionals, within 60 days of onboarding

R-2. We recommend that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) add the 0306 Government Information Specialist (GIS) Job Series to the direct hiring authority list.

R-3. We recommend that the Chief FOIA Officers Council, through its Committee on Cross-Agency Collaboration and Innovation (COCACI) organize agencies to participate in a “talent pool” posting through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

R-4. We recommend that the Chief FOIA Officers Council, through its Committee on Cross-Agency Collaboration and Innovation (COCACI),create and maintain a database on its website of position descriptions in the Government Information Specialist (GIS) job series at various grades.

R-5. We recommend that the General Services Administration (GSA) create a labor category on the GSA schedule specifically for FOIA contractors to facilitate efficient procurement if an agency determines it needs contractor support.

Implementation Draft Recommendations:

I-1. We recommend that the Office of Government Information Services and the Office of Information Policy follow up with selected agencies and the government components in an effort to increase compliance with past recommendations of the FOIA Advisory Committee. Select examples of recommendations proposed for review: 

  • 2020-03-FOIA-released records in repositories/websites
  • 2020-11-Office of Information Policy guidance on use of e-discovery tools
  • 2020-17-Annual FOIA memo from agency leaders
  • 2020-22–Archivist of the United States promotion of AI use in FOIA
  • 2022-10-Searchable online FOIA logs

I-2. We recommend that the Office of Information Policy (OIP) should include one or more specific questions in annual Chief FOIA Officer reports requesting agencies to report on activities that they have implemented consistent with selected FOIA Advisory Committee recommendations.