This morning Office of Information Policy Director Melanie Ann Pustay appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary in a hearing entitled “We the People: Fulfilling the Promise of Open Government Five Years After the OPEN Government Act.” Signed into law on December 31, 2007, the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National (OPEN) Government Act of 2007 represented the first time in over a decade that Congress had enacted amendments to the FOIA.
- Significant FOIA metrics from fiscal year 2012 Annual FOIA Reports, such as a 45% reduction in request backlogs in the last four years and improved timeliness in responding to requests,
- Examples of the success achieved by agencies in the five key areas addressed by Attorney General Holder’s FOIA Guidelines, as reported in agency 2013 Chief FOIA Officer Reports,
- Details on updates and improvements to FOIA.gov, most notably the inclusion of quarterly FOIA metrics from federal agencies, and
- Efforts undertaken by the Justice Department to encourage compliance with the FOIA by all agencies, and to ensure “that President Obama’s Memorandum on the FOIA and Attorney General Holder’s FOIA Guidelines are fully implemented.”
Director Pustay also detailed efforts undertaken by the Department and OIP to “inform and educate agency personnel on the legal requirements of the FOIA, including the provisions of the OPEN Government Act.” In addition to incorporating discussions of the OPEN Government Act changes into the 2009 edition of the U.S. Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, OIP also held three government-wide conferences to directly address the various aspects of the amendments, and issued a series of guidance articles in 2008 to address the changes in detail. These articles, available on our website, are:
- Congress Passes Amendments to the FOIA,
- 2008 Guidelines for Agency Preparation of Annual FOIA Reports,
- Department of Justice Issues New Annual FOIA Report Guidance,
- Treatment of Agency Records Maintained For an Agency By a Government Contractor for Purposes of Records Management,
- Question and Answer: Annual FOIA Report (Expedited Processing and Fee Waiver Requests),
- Segregating and Marking Documents for Release in Accordance with the OPEN Government Act,
- Assigning Tracking Numbers and Providing Status Information on Requests,
- New Limitations on Tolling the FOIA’s Response Time,
- New Limitations on Assessing Fees, and
- New Requirement to Route Misdirected FOIA Requests.
In ending her remarks before the Committee, Director Pustay noted that the Department of Justice, and OIP:
“[Are] fully committed to achieving the new era of open government that the President envisions. We have accomplished a great deal these past four years, but OIP will continue to work diligently to help achieve even greater transparency in the years ahead.”
Be sure to continue reading FOIA Post for more information on OIP’s activities during Sunshine Week 2013, and the Department’s continued efforts in to improve both transparency and understanding of the FOIA.
You can read the full text of Director Pustay’s testimony here.