Modernize the Freedom of Information Act (US0029)
Action Plan: United States Second Action Plan 2013-2015
Action Plan Cycle: 2013
Lead Institution: Department of Justice (DOJ), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), General Services Administration (GSA)
Support Institution(s): NA
Policy AreasAccess to Information, Anti Corruption and Integrity, Capacity Building, Regulation, Right to Information
3. Modernize the Freedom of Information Act
The Obama Administration has already made important progress to improve the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) process by simplifying the process of filing requests at many agencies, by
proactively disclosing information in the public interest in advance of requests, by speeding up
processing times, by greatly reducing FOIA backlogs, and by publishing more data on FOIA compliance.
There is still much more that the Administration can do and the United States is committed to further
modernizing FOIA processes through the following initiatives:
Improve the Customer Experience through a Consolidated Online FOIA Service. More than
100 Federal agencies are subject to FOIA. For the average requester, this can mean significant
energy spent searching for the right agency and navigating the unique process for submitting a
request to that agency. The Administration will launch a consolidated request portal that allows
the public to submit a request to any Federal agency from a single website and includes
additional tools to improve the customer experience. The U.S. Government will establish a FOIA
task force that will review current practices, seek public input, and determine the best way to
implement this consolidated FOIA service.
- Develop Common FOIA Regulations and Practices for Federal Agencies. Certain steps in the
FOIA process are generally shared across Federal agencies. Standardizing these common
aspects through a core FOIA regulation and common set of practices would make it easier for
requesters to understand and navigate the FOIA process and easier for the Government to keep
regulations up to date. The Administration will initiate an interagency process to determine the
feasibility and the potential content of a core FOIA regulation that is both applicable to all
agencies and retains flexibility for agency-specific requirements.
-Improve Internal Agency FOIA Processes. Over the past few years, several agencies have
analyzed existing FOIA practices and used this information to make dramatic improvements in
their backlogs and processing times, as well as to increase the proactive release of information
in the public interest. The U.S. Government will scale these targeted efforts to improve the
efficiency of agencies with the biggest backlogs, and to share lessons learned to further improve
internal agency FOIA processes.
-Establish a FOIA Modernization Advisory Committee. Improvements to FOIA administration must take into account the views and interests of both requesters and the Government. The United States will establish a formal FOIA Advisory Committee, comprised of government and non-governmental members of the FOIA community, to foster dialog between the Administration and the requester community, solicit public comments, and develop consensus recommendations for improving FOIA administration and proactive disclosures.
Improve FOIA Training Across Government to Increase Efficiency. In order to efficiently and effectively respond to FOIA requests, every Federal employee — not just those in an agency’s FOIA office — should fully understand the FOIA process. The Administration will make standard e-learning training resources available for FOIA professionals and other Federal employees and encourage their use.