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Improving FOIA

FOIA directs OGIS to recommend “policy changes to Congress and the President to improve the administration” of FOIA. Since late 2009, OGIS has reviewed FOIA policies, procedures and compliance across the executive branch, and has compiled suggested ways to improve FOIA. OGIS tracks those recommendations here.

We also invite others to suggest improvements to FOIA — email us at ogis@nara.gov to share your own ideas to make FOIA work better.

OGIS Recommendations to Improve the FOIA Process, 2012 - 2014

OGIS Letter to the President with Recommendations for Improving the Freedom of Information Act, March 10, 2014 

OGIS Policy Recommendations for Improving Freedom of Information Act Procedures, March 13, 2013

April 2012: Policy Recommendations to Congress and the President including:

  1. Providing assistance for requesters seeking their own records under the Privacy Act
  2. Creating a Privacy Act routine use to streamline the way in which agencies share information with OGIS
  3. Encouraging agency participation with the government-wide FOIA Module (also discussed in “FOIA Portal Moving from Idea to Reality”)
  4. Facilitating the coordination of inter-agency communication for government-wide FOIA requests
  5. Recommending dispute-resolution skills training for FOIA professionals

March 2012: Improving the Freedom of Information Act including recommendations addressing:

  1. Agency-wide FOIA training
  2. Standardizing agency web pages
  3. Top-down agency FOIA support
  4. Professionalizing the FOIA career track

August 2011: Working With OGIS, recommendations for agencies and requesters on how to best use OGIS’s services

Recommendations for requesting records, including:

Recommendations for agencies in processing FOIA requests, including:

  1. The importance of good communication including using plain language and avoiding ‘government-speak’ and acronyms in “Hold the alphabet soup, please” and “More on Plain Writing” (July 2011)
  2. The importance of good customer service throughout the FOIA process which was the focus of the OGIS Report FY2011 (March 2012) as well as “Best Practices: Communication and Customer Service” (October 2010)
  3. Working with requesters on the scope of a request in “Scoping Out a Successful FOIA Request.” (April 2012)
  4. Involving all related branches of an agency to work as a team: “A New Gameplan: Teamwork Really Works!” (January 2012)
  5. Improving the sometimes mystifying process of referring records discussed in “OGIStance: What’s up with referrals these days?”  (May 2011) and in “What’s Up with Referrals? Redux” (December 2011)
  6. Recommending that agencies provide the most efficient customer service available discussed in “OGIStance: “We’re from the government and we’re here to help!” (June 2011)
  7. When an agency can pass along costs of FOIA processing to requesters in “Paying the FOIA Bills” (August 2011)
  8. Tips for working with complex database requests addressed in “Agency Best Practices: FOIA and Database Requests” (March 2012)
  9. Tips for FOIA Public Liaisons in “That’s Not My Job … Or Is It?” (November 2011)
  10. Avoiding pitfalls that can lead to litigation in “How to Invite a FOIA Lawsuit” (February 2012)
  11. General Best Practices on all aspects of FOIA law and policy from across the executive branch (March 2011)