This page is designed to meet the requirements of the Open Government Directive of December 2009. We hope you will find the information helpful and welcome your comments at http://www.opm.gov/open/.
Staffing, Organizational Structure, and Processing of FOIA Requests
We have developed a decentralized FOIA processing system. The head FOIA office includes a FOIA Coordinator, the Chief FOIA Officer, and the FOIA Public Liaison. Additionally, each program office has a FOIA subject-matter expert who handles FOIA in a limited, part-time role. The FOIA staff at OPM totals 25 full-time equivalent employees.
In January 2010, as a part of the Agency's reorganization, the position of Chief FOIA Officer, which is held by the agency's CIO, was elevated. The CIO now reports directly to the agency head and is in daily contact with senior most executives who influence the response to FOIA requests. In addition, as part of the reorganization, the CIO established a records management unit led by a senior official with extensive Governmentwide experience in personnel records policy, thereby integrating the review of personnel records disclosures (a frequent type of request received by OPM) with broader management of the FOIA program. The change is expected to increase efficiencies in the review and processing of FOIA requests and in the management of the agency's records program.
The organizational changes build on improvements to the automation of OPM FOIA processes begun in fiscal year 2007 when we implemented an agencywide tool called the FOIA Tracking System for recording and managing FOIA requests. We use this technology to process requests, alert record owners of requests for records, and search functions in email and word processing tools to locate requested records. We also use technology to send responses and other correspondence by email to FOIA requesters and receive replies.
How We Need to Improve Our FOIA Processes
We have taken steps to identify and evaluate potential replacements for the FOIA Tracking System and modified the tracking system to address user feedback. The program currently lacks the comprehensive ability to generate acknowledgement letters, efficiently engage contract submitters in protecting their proprietary commercial information, categorize requestor status, and collect fees. Beyond adapting new software to better manage the system, we are considering creating a larger team comprising administrative support personnel and a FOIA subject-matter expert who would work directly with a Federal FOIA officer. This would create oversight from the main FOIA office on every FOIA request leaving the Agency.
We are taking several steps to improve timeliness in responding to FOIA requests and administrative appeals. For example, we have obtained contracting services of a full-time FOIA coordinator who carefully reviews incoming FOIA requests and works with requesters to perfect them. By working with requesters to perfect the requests, we have been able to increase our response efficiency. In addition, we send incoming requests to the office with all incoming material, allowing the subject-matter expert to respond more efficiently than in the past, when such information was not consistently provided to the expert.
Our FOIA program is committed to disclosing records with only the minimum necessary omissions (redactions) and is looking to improve proactive disclosure by asking our program offices to identify frequently requested material, which would be posted to our electronic reading room without disrespecting the privacy of individuals. We have begun to give public access to our "purchase card holders" and are looking to do the same with contracts. Once these materials have been identified, we will post them on an ongoing basis.
What We Have Already Done
The FOIA team has enlisted contract support over the last 15 months to simultaneously reduce the backlog of requests and to identify and correct problems that impede the processing of FOIA requests. This effort has yielded great success in significantly reducing the FOIA backlog. For example, in December 2008, we had a backlog of 168 cases; on March 1, 2010, we had only 33 such cases.
This page can be found on the web at the following url: http://www.opm.gov/efoia/OpenGovernment/index.asp