Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests keep growing. A lot. In order to keep up, the Chief FOIA Officers Council’s technology subcommittee recommends adding commercial, FOIA, and records management software to GSA’s Schedule program. (Federal News Network, August 2019)

According to Michael Sarich, the Veterans Health Administrations’ FOIA director and subcommittee co-chair, functionality and pricing for similar off-the-shelf FOIA software varies a great deal. He believes agencies may be experiencing difficulty implementing technological improvements in large part due to the exhaustive number of systems available.¬†Eric Stein, director of the State Department’s Office of Information Programs and the subcommittee’s other co-chair, said the subcommittee’s final report will review ways agencies can standardize redaction and case processing tools. (ibid)

The subcommittee views their recommendations as the first step for greater adoption of artificial intelligence tools. They expect these tools will become a “force multiplier” and allow the FOIA workforce to reduce case backlog requests. (ibid)

With over 800,000 FOIA requests in fiscal 2018 and only 4,500 FOIA officers to manage the requests, each FOIA officer holds responsibility for 200 FOIA requests per year. On top of that, FOIA fees cover only 1 percent of the half-billion dollars that agencies spent in 2016 processing FOIA requests, and the number of requests increases each year. (ibid)

The Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy continues to work on new FOIA guidance, as well. A June Supreme Court decision redefines the scope of information available under FOIA. Most important to private industry is the financial data piece: financial data shared with the government will not be subject to FOIA requests under the new guidelines. (ibid)

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