Looking Forward to the 2018-2020 FACA Final

April 2018 Freedom Of Information Act Advisory Committee

Freedom of Information Act Advisory Board Meeting, April 2018

I am pleased to announce the members I have selected for the 2018-2020 term of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee. I was happy to renew the Committee’s charter for an additional two-year term (2018-2020) so that members may continue to address FOIA’s greatest challenges. In response to our call for nominations in April 2018, I was pleased to see such a high level of interest in the Committee. We received nominations for a number of highly-qualified individuals, making it that much more difficult to select Committee members for this term.

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 and chart a path for how FOIA should operate in the future. In April 2018, the 2016-2018 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee presented me with a 31-page Final Report and Recommendations, and I have directed my staff to begin to implement these recommendations.

On September 6, 2018 the FOIA Advisory Committee, chaired by the Director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and supported administratively by OGIS staff, will kick off its third term with a meeting in the William G. McGowan Theater that will be open to the public. At this meeting, I anticipate that Committee members will start their work by brainstorming issues they would like to address during this term and form subcommittees. Subcommittees will be co-chaired by a government and a non-government representative, and the co-chairs will provide updates on the subcommittees’ work to fellow Committee members (and the public) during the Committee’s regular quarterly meetings. You can keep up with the Committee’s work by visiting the Committee’s webpage, or reading OGIS’s blog, FOIA Ombudsman.

Posted in Open Government, Transparency, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Preventing FOIA Disputes

In addition to providing services that help Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesters and Federal agencies in resolving disputes, one of the goals of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) is to prevent FOIA disputes from arising in the first place. In line with this goal, OGIS recently issued its first advisory opinion, providing agencies with useful advice on effective communication with requesters to help them navigate through the FOIA process and the resources available to them.

OGIS is the Federal FOIA Ombudsman. The office, created within the National Archives, opened its doors in 2009 to educate the public about FOIA, resolve FOIA disputes, and assess agency compliance with the statute. OGIS’s advisory opinion is based on its observations through its now robust mediation program. OGIS’s mediation program brings the office into contact with a broad range of Federal agencies and requesters at various points throughout the FOIA process. This unique lens enables OGIS to identify common causes of FOIA disputes and identify practices that can help avoid disputes.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 requires that agencies let requesters know about the availability of dispute resolution services from agency FOIA Public Liaisons and OGIS at several points in the FOIA process. After the law’s enactment OGIS’ caseload increased significantly.  A common trend noted among several cases was the need for better communication between the agency and the requester.

OGIS’s first advisory opinion takes the communication issues OGIS noted in its individual cases and gathers it together to provides agencies with advice to help better communicate with requesters about the FOIA process: how to preserve their administrative rights to challenge an agency’s decisions, the kinds of assistance they can expect from an agency FOIA Public Liaison and OGIS, and the next steps to take if they need additional assistance with a request. The advisory opinion also provides agencies with specific examples of language and format.

This advisory opinion is a starting point. OGIS intends to use its authority to issue advisory opinions to address the most common disputes, complaints, and trends it sees in its dispute resolution practice that are likely to lead to litigation. Over time, OGIS intends to build a body of advisory opinions, available for online consultation by both requesters and agencies that OGIS believes will help head off disputes before they fester or lead to litigation.

Posted in Leadership, Open Government, Transparency | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Way to Peace”

We were honored to partner with our friends of the State Records Management and Archives Department of Vietnam in the creation of the exhibit “Paris Peace Accords: The Way to Peace” which opened today in Hanoi. The exhibit uses textual records, film, photographs, and artifacts to tell the story leading to the negotiations which ended a war that divided the peoples of both countries.

Archivist David Ferriero at the opening of the “Paris Peace Accords: The Way to Peace” exhibit in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Alice Kamps

We contributed facsimiles from the records of the State and Defense Departments and the Presidential Libraries of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, including film footage.  A poignant letter to President Nixon by a child in 1970 urged him to “stop the war in Vietnam my cousin is in.  And I want the United States to settle down.”

As a veteran of the war myself, this was also a personal pilgrimage. It is my first time back in the country since early 1971 when I left Da Nang as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman. In my year there I came to appreciate the beauty of the country and the kindness of the people.  And the common desire to end the fighting. So, for me, it was an emotional and joyful return.

After almost 50 years I am tremendously proud of our new friends in Vietnam as we explore collaborative opportunities beyond this exhibit.  We have much to learn from each other as we share access to our records; we are in the same business–collecting and protecting the records of our countries and, most importantly, encouraging the use of those records to learn from our past.

Posted in Collaboration, Leadership, NARA Records, Special Events | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Celebrate July 4 with the National Archives!

This year, the National Archives celebrates the 242nd anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with special events in Washington, DC, and at Presidential Libraries nationwide.

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence, declaring the United States independent of Great Britain. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved. On August 2, 1776, delegates began to sign the engrossed Declaration of Independence penned by Timothy Matlack. For a detailed history of the founding document, be sure to read “The Declaration of Independence: A History” on Archives.gov.

As the trustees of our nation’s founding documents—the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights—the National Archives and Records Administration is a natural place to celebrate this national holiday.

For those of you in Washington, DC this July 4, stop by Constitution Avenue at 10 a.m. for a Declaration of Independence Reading Ceremony, then head inside for family activities from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also join us for celebrations at our Presidential Libraries around the nation, or join the Washington festivities through Facebook Live, which will broadcast the events live. Watch last year’s celebration for a taste of the festivities.

Learn more and find a celebration near you on our July 4 Celebration events page. Wherever you are on July 4th, share your celebrations on social media using the hashtag #ArchivesJuly4.

 Independence Day Records at NARA

We can often take our founding documents for granted. I encourage all of us to take time during our Independence Day celebrations to read these documents and to pause and remember the difficult choices our nation’s Founders made and the meaning of these documents today.

I wish you all a safe and happy Independence Day!

Posted in NARA Records, Special Events | Tagged , | Leave a comment

National Archives updates progress on ICE records disposition

The proposed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records schedule for records related to detainees held in ICE detention facilities (DAA-0567-2015-0013) has received significant attention in the media and by concerned individuals. Because of the ongoing interest in this schedule, NARA is providing this update on the status of the review.  The draft schedule includes files documenting cases of sexual abuse and assault of detainees, as well as detainee death investigation files. This schedule was proposed to NARA in October 2015 and posted to the Federal Register on July 14, 2017. The proposed schedule was a new request for disposition authority for unscheduled records, not a request to revise an existing records schedule.

All federal agencies propose series of records to NARA for review by NARA staff and approval by the Archivist of the United States. NARA considers each submission, or records schedule, carefully, typically meeting with agency subject matter experts, before recommending which records created are permanent and which are temporary. This determination is made by NARA through the records schedule review process. During this review, NARA determines whether records warrant preservation in the National Archives (permanent retention) and whether records lack permanent historical or other research value (temporary retention) in accordance with NARA’s appraisal policy.

NARA also reviews the retention periods proposed for temporary records to ensure the period protects the legal rights of the Government and private parties. Identified permanent records will be transferred to NARA and temporary records may be legally destroyed by agencies after a specified period of time. The opportunity for public input is mandated by law through the Federal register and is integral to the scheduling and appraisal process.

As part of the regular process of reviewing the submission from ICE, NARA received an unprecedented number of comments. Comments under review by NARA include three congressional letters with a total of 36 signatures (29 house members, 7 senators); a petition from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with 23,758 comments, a petition from UltraViolet with 1,475 signatures; written comments from 187 individuals and six organizations; and phone calls from seven individuals. Comments were received via request.schedule@nara.gov and postal mail, and gathered from other sources such as the main National Archives email address inquire@nara.gov, web inquiry forms, the National Archives Office of Inspector General, and from NARA employees who received comments directly from concerned citizens.

NARA staff have been reviewing these comments and working with ICE to address them and revise the schedule accordingly. In addition, the Archivist of the United States has directed NARA subject matter experts to conduct a comprehensive review of all ICE schedules that relate to deaths and assaults of detainees in ICE facilities.

After the public comments have been assessed and the comprehensive review is complete, NARA will require ICE to make all changes to the proposed schedule. Our plan is to publish a public notice via the Federal Register responding to all comments. We will make all reasonable efforts to notify interested individuals, such as media outlets that previously contacted us, the ACLU, and commenters who directly provided substantive comments.

Posted in Records Management | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

White House Transformation Plan

Last week President Trump released his plan to reform and reorganize the Federal government. I am pleased to announce that the President’s plan includes NARA’s reform proposal, “Transition to Electronic Government.” The Summary of Proposal states:

“This proposal would transition Federal agencies’ business processes and recordkeeping to a fully electronic environment, and end the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) acceptance of paper records by December 31, 2022. This would improve agencies’ efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness to citizens by converting paper-based processes to electronic workflows, expanding online services, and enhancing management of Government records, data, and information.”

The Government Reform Plan endorses NARA’s Strategic Plan goal to stop accepting paper records by December 31, 2022, and adds new expectations for Executive Branch agencies to support the transition to fully-electronic records management.

I am proud that NARA has an opportunity to contribute to the President’s plan, and I am encouraged that the Administration recognizes the importance of records management. Records management is an essential function of government, and the President’s plan allows NARA to leverage our records management policies, standards, and leadership to help streamline the Federal government.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the NARA staff for their contributions that have led up to today’s announcement. NARA’s reform proposal is the direct result of suggestions and contributions from NARA staff.

Our reform plan proposal was based on ideas contributed by staff in a staff survey, “Ideas to Improve NARA.” We also used the FY 2018—2022 Strategic Planning process to develop and refine these ideas, and collected staff feedback in a series of town halls, surveys, and participation in our internal collaboration network. The result is a reform plan that complements our Strategic Plan, puts records management at the forefront of other agencies’ reform agendas, and will help drive greater efficiency and effectiveness while making the Federal government more responsive to the American people.

Again, I want to thank our staff for their participation and contributions to this important moment for NARA. I encourage everyone to review the full report so that you can see the entire scope of the proposed changes and review NARA’s proposal.

 

Posted in Leadership, Records Management | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Improving the Administration of FOIA

Just last month the second term of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee wrapped up its two years of work by unanimously approving its Final Report and Recommendations. The Committee brings together FOIA requesters and agency FOIA professionals to develop consensus solutions to some of the greatest challenges in the administration of FOIA.

During this term, the Committee wrestled with several critical issues and issued recommendations aimed at promoting the proactive disclosure of records, improving agencies’ ability to identify responsive digital records, and reinforcing that FOIA is everyone’s responsibility, not just the responsibility of full-time FOIA professionals. The report also includes a number of best practices that will be published by the Office of Government and Information Services (OGIS) as part of the office’s statutory responsibility to identify procedures and methods to improve FOIA compliance.

David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, welcomes attendees to the final meeting of the 2016-2018 term of the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on April 17, 2018

David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, welcomes attendees to the final meeting of the 2016-2018 term of the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on April 17, 2018. National Archives photo by Jeff Reed

As the nation’s record keeper, we are tasked with identifying, protecting, preserving and making publicly available the historically valuable records of all three branches of government. We help agencies meet their Federal records management responsibilities through regulations, policies, training and oversight.  Strong records management is the backbone of an efficient, compliant FOIA program and smoother FOIA process. Our role in records management, combined with our role as the Federal FOIA Ombudsman, means that NARA has a critical role to play in pushing forward many of these recommendations. I also look forward to working with counterparts at other key agencies and entities to evaluate and find effective ways to move forward on the Committee’s report.

I look forward to working with OGIS to implement these recommendations. I am also looking forward to announcing the appointment of members to the Committee’s 2018-2020 Term later this summer, and seeing the challenges that the Committee tackles in its next term.

Posted in Leadership | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Making Access Happen through the Digital Public Library of America

Providing public access to Federal Government records is central to the mission of the National Archives. Open access to government records strengthens democracy by allowing Americans to claim their rights of citizenship, hold their government accountable, and understand their history so they can participate more effectively in their government.

Collaboration with stakeholders, the public, and private organizations to make historical records available has long been a priority for the National Archives. It is clear that collaboration is the path to the future, and nowhere is this more apparent than through the efforts of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to connect people to our nation’s shared history.

DPLA provides a single online access point for anyone, anywhere to search and access digital collections containing America’s cultural, historical and scientific heritage. This collaborative effort has united leaders and educators from various government agencies, libraries, archives and museums of all sizes working together to ensure that all people have access to information they need.

Screenshot of DPLA Browse by Topic page

We’ve been involved with DPLA from its earliest stages. In October 2010, I was in the meeting room at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study when DPLA was born. We hosted the first Plenary Session back in 2011, where more than 300 government leaders, librarians, technologists, makers, students, and many others gathered at the National Archives to share their visions for DPLA and open access.

DPLA has now grown to include more than 21 million records from over 3,000 cultural heritage institutions across the United States. The National Archives is the largest participating Content Hub: nearly 3.8 million NARA records are currently available on DPLA, making up 17.5% percent of the content.

The volume of records that we’ve been able to share over the years has allowed DPLA to test the scalability of their ingestion infrastructure. Testing with such a large data set provides the opportunity to see how large numbers of records affect search and retrieval algorithms. This is an important step, as the goal of DPLA is to provide users with the most accurate search results without overwhelming records from other institutions in their index. We are continuing to work together to share more of our data with DPLA.

The National Archives’ participation in DPLA over the years has been an opportunity to share our content more broadly, open new doors for research and discovery, and engage and connect with users from across the United States and around the world. I am especially proud of the work done collaboratively by the National Archives and participating institutions to expand access to information through DPLA. The ability to seamlessly search across the collections of major cultural, historical, and research institutions alongside the holdings of local museums and libraries improves democracy through education, and furthers the principles of open government.

Posted in Collaboration, Leadership, NARA Records, Open Government, Participation | Tagged , | 1 Comment

International Archives Day

On Saturday, June 9, the National Archives joins with archives around the world to celebrate International Archives Day, a commemoration of the day the International Council on Archives (ICA) was created in 1948. This day is dedicated to promoting the great work of archives and archivists in preserving and providing public access to our communities’ historical records and promoting access to government records for transparency and accountability.

The National Archives is an active participant in the ICA. I am proud to stand beside our colleagues in the worldwide archival profession as we share and learn from each other, address common issues, and promote the value of archives and their importance to our society and democracy.

On International Archives Day, archives all over the world host special events to show off their collections or the work that they do, and share stories with each other and with fans of archives worldwide. You can see an interactive world map of International Archives Day events on the International Council on Archives website, along with a special online exhibition highlighting the history and activities of the ICA from 1948 to 2018.

Join the National Archives in this worldwide celebration for a special event in Washington, DC this Saturday, June 9, 2018, from 10:00am to 5:30pm. There will be hands-on activities in the Boeing Learning Center exploring the work of the National Archives and some of the important records protected here. Peruse the National Archives Museum and see some of the ways that American Memory is protected for current and future generations. This event is free and open to the public.

You can learn more about the history of International Archives Day and the involvement of the National Archives on our Pieces of History blog. We look forward to welcoming you at the National Archives Museum on June 9.

Posted in Collaboration, Leadership, Participation, Special Events | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

18th Annual Archivist’s Achievement Awards

Today and every day we celebrate the dedication and hard work of our staff and colleagues at the National Archives. Since 1985, the first full week of May has been set aside as Public Service Recognition Week to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county, and local government employees. It provides a fitting time to not only celebrate the contributions of National Archives staff but also the contributions of the entire federal workforce.

This year, we decided to expand to a whole Public Service Recognition Month, allowing us both to participate in the nationwide events and to honor service to the American public with the due measure it deserves. Earlier this week, we celebrated with the 18th Annual Archivist’s Achievement Awards ceremony, which gives me the opportunity to thank our staff for their passion and dedication to serving NARA’s mission and the American people.

During the ceremony, we once again gave our customers a chance to sing the praises of our employees. Almost every day I receive comments praising the work of NARA staff. We were able to incorporate some of these statements into the awards program to hear directly from the people who benefit from the great work that we do:

We had 72 nominations for awards this year. This Archivist’s Achievement Awards ceremony is an opportunity to acknowledge our colleagues who dedicate their time and talents to make the National Archives a great place to work, and recognize colleagues who went above and beyond expectations and succeeded in ways not intended.

This past year, staff across the National Archives scanned many pages for the National Archives Catalog, provided great customer service to House and Senate staffs, moved lots of Obama Presidential Materials, digitized and made available hundreds of reels of World War I and World War II footage, cultivated public participation through social media, assisted Puerto Rico’s archives and cultural institutions in their post-hurricane recovery, modernized the General Records Schedule, and developed and produced the Declarations@NPRC newsletter, providing essential communications to the employee community. And these are just a few examples! You can learn more about these incredible accomplishments in the awards program.

The Archivist’s Awards Ceremony is important to me. This event honors the remarkable work that happens at this agency every single day. And it gives me the opportunity to highlight some of the amazing accomplishments and the chance to say thank you. As I said to the staff at the ceremony: you are the most dedicated group of people. You take tremendous pride in the work you do, and rightfully so. And I am proud of what you do each and every day.

Thank you for your service, and Happy Public Service Recognition Month.

 

Posted in Special Events | Tagged , , | 1 Comment