One size does NOT fit all for federal FOIA processing

When one takes a look at the Federal Freedom of Information Act, (link) it is abundantly clear that the authors of the legislation understood that, when it comes to FOIA, “one size does not fit all”.

This becomes especially clear when examining the Act with regards to the instructions for each agency to define what a “reasonable” description is for the records they maintain. In addition, OMB guidelines allow each agency to establish their own fee structure to recover some of the costs related their search for responsive records.

This concept of “one size does not fit all” is also true when it comes to deploying FOIA case processing software.  Because of the inherent variables from agency to agency, AINS has built FOIAXpress (the leading FOIA case processing software used by over 200 Federal departments, agencies and sub-agencies) to be completely configurable. The robust configuration capabilities of FOIAXpress are essential for enabling each agency to deploy their FOIA case processing software in a manner that reflects their own unique needs and requirements. Some of these critical areas include setting up security roles and groups, letter/email templates, and the FOIA document file cabinet.

As Congress contemplates the language for HR 1211 (the 2013 Freedom of Information Act) it is vitally important that any centralized, government-wide portal embrace the concept of open standards and interoperability so the Portal can connect with existing FOIA case processing solutions.  This approach leverages and protects the Federal government’s existing investment in FOIA technology.  A single, closed FOIA portal connected to a single, monolithic FOIA case processing solution is highly restrictive for agencies and a giant step backwards for all those concerned about freedom of information, transparency, and open government. In the case of FOIA processing, one size does not fit all.