On June 30, 2016, President Obama signed the bipartisan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Improvement Act of 2016 into law. This law locks into place many of the Administration’s FOIA policies and initiatives and solidifies the role of the National Archives’ Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) in resolving FOIA disputes between agencies and requesters and improving compliance with FOIA.
President Obama Signs S. 337 FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, June 30, 2016
- Codifies the Attorney General’s policy that agencies should release information unless “the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by an exemption” or “disclosure is prohibited by law;”
- Requires that agencies alert requesters to the availability of agency FOIA Public Liaisons and OGIS to help resolve disputes at several points in the FOIA process;
- Directs the creation of a centralized portal the public can use to file FOIA requests electronically;
- Establishes a Chief FOIA Officers Council to develop recommendations for increasing compliance and efficiency in responding to FOIA requests, and to identify, develop and coordinate initiatives for increasing transparency and compliance with FOIA’s requirements;
- Requires that agencies post electronically records that have been requested three or more times;
- Requires that agencies allow a minimum of 90 days for requesters to file FOIA appeals; and
- Limits the deliberative process privilege to records that are less than 25 years old.
In conjunction with the bill signing, the White House also announced additional initiatives to continue to improve transparency. As part of this effort, the White House asked the members of the FOIA Advisory Committee to look broadly at the challenges that agency FOIA programs will face in light of an ever-increasing volume of electronic records, and chart a course for how FOIA should operate in the future.
The National Archives launched the FOIA Advisory Committee to allow agency FOIA professionals and requesters to collaboratively develop recommendations to improve the administration of FOIA. As I shared with you in April, the first term of the FOIA Advisory Committee ended on a high note when the Committee unanimously voted to support its first recommendation to improve the FOIA process. The Committee’s development of a consensus recommendation is an important milestone because it shows how agencies and requesters can work together to improve the FOIA process.
The second term of the FOIA Advisory Committee will kick off on July 21 with a meeting in the National Archives’ William G. McGowan Theater. Please visit the Committee’s webpage for information about future meetings and the Committee’s work.
We welcome Congress’s bipartisan, bicameral work to advance transparency, and the President’s new initiatives.