Yesterday the Department of Justice welcomed members of the public and FOIA professionals from around the government to the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy Building in order to commemorate Sunshine Week 2013 and the fourth anniversary of the issuance of Attorney General Holder’s FOIA Guidelines. The annual event celebrates the accomplishments of federal agencies in implementing the ideals of the President’s FOIA Memorandum and answering the call of the Attorney General to promote a culture of openness in the administration of the FOIA.
Office of Information Policy Director Melanie Ann Pustay was the keynote speaker and highlighted many of the accomplishments achieved by federal agencies over the past year including:
- Processing more requests than were received,
- Improving average response times for requests,
- Reducing the overall government backlog of pending requests, and
- Releasing records in full or in part in over 93 percent of requests where records were processed for disclosure.
Noting that these achievements were “more than just improved statistics,” Director Pustay remarked that:
“They represent hundreds of thousands of individuals, organizations, students, reporters, and public interest groups, all of whom have received more information, more quickly to help them in their research, or their work, or simply to increase their understanding of the workings of our government. This is exactly what the Freedom of Information Act is designed to do and agencies are making concrete improvements in administering this important law.”
The Director also noted efforts spearheaded by OIP to improve FOIA administration across the government, including posting the first chapter of the 2013 edition of the Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act and new quarterly reporting requirements for federal agencies, with quarterly data appearing on FOIA.gov.
Joining Director Pustay onstage were representatives from the General Services Administration, Small Business Administration, the Department of Education, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Office of Personnel Management. These representatives highlighted the efforts and success of their agencies in implementing the five key areas addressed by Attorney General Holder’s FOIA guidelines. Agency Annual FOIA Reports and Chief FOIA Officer Reports contain additional information about the efforts and activities of these, and all federal agencies, and are available on the OIP website and FOIA.gov.
While acknowledging that “there is more work to be done and further improvements to be made,” Director Pustay emphasized that Sunshine Week is “an opportunity to reflect upon our accomplishments thus far and to share the lessons we have learned as we continue to focus on our shared mission of strengthening FOIA administration across the government.”
Be sure to continue reading FOIA Post for more information on OIP’s activities during Sunshine Week 2013 and the Department’s continued efforts to improve both transparency and understanding of the FOIA.
Read the full text of Director Pustay’s remarks here.