FOIA 2013: the year in review

As 2013 winds down, we wanted to take a look back at the past year at a few of the major events of freedom of information in the U.S.

March 10 – 16: Sunshine Week celebrated nationwide
As part of Sunshine Week 2011, the 15th Annual National Freedom of Information Day Conference was held on March 15 at the Newseum in D.C.

July 4: 47th Anniversary of FOIA
The Freedom of Information Act turned 47 years old in 2013 after having been signed into law on July 4, 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson.

August 22: AINS’ Annual FUG Conference
AINS held its annual FOIAXpress Users Group Conference in Washington D.C. for FOIAXpress users from multiple government agencies. Mr. Richard Huff, former co-director of the OIP, spoke at the event and Delores Barber, Deputy Chief FOIA Officer of the Department of Homeland Security was presented with our Wayne R. Jewell Customer Appreciation Award.

June 3: DOJ OIP’s summary of FY 2012 Annual FOIA Reports released
The Office of Information Policy (OIP) compiled a summary of the Annual FOIA Reports for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, revealing some interesting trends. As a whole, the Federal Government:

  • Chart from DOJ OIP’s “Summary of Agency Chief FOIA Officer Reports for 2012”Received and processed more FOIA requests:  651,254 total requests received and 665,924 total requests processed, a 1.1% and 5.5% increase (respectively) over the total numbers reported at the end of FY 2011.
  • Reduced the government-wide FOIA request backlog:  The government’s overall FOIA request backlog was reduced by 14% from 83,490 requests at the end of FY 2011 to 71,790 at the close of FY 2012.
  • Maintained a high release rate of above 92% for the fourth straight year:  Of the 464,985 requests processed by agencies for a disclosure determination in FY 2012, a full or partial release of information was made in response to 93.4% of these requests, with 50.3% constituting a full release of records.
  • Improved average processing times:  The government overall improved the average processing times for simple (22.66 days), complex (82.35 days), and expedited track requests (40.2 days) compared to those reported for FY21011 ((23.65 days, 103.74 days, 55.22 days, respectively).

September 20: OGP’s second birthday
The Open Government Partnership examined its progress two years after being formally launched on September 20, 2011, when the eight founding governments, including the United States, endorsed an Open Government Declaration and announced their country action plans.

September 28: Eleventh Annual International “Right to Know Day” celebrated worldwide
To mark the occasion of the 11th International Right to Know Day, countries around the world held events such as conferences, debates, Twitter conversations, rallies, radio programs, roundtable discussions, and social media initiatives to open dialogues about the importance of freedom of information and transparency to the success of democracy.

October 1 to 16: Government shutdown closes FOIA offices
Most agencies had to reduce or halt FOIA operations during the shutdown. DOJ OIP requested thatagencies include shutdown days in their calculations of response times with the understanding that,because FOIA personnel were not able to work during that period, there would necessarily be an impact on processing times.

Happy Holidays to all from the AINS team!