The first set of recommendations for improving FOIA policy from the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) were finally delivered to Congress last week, more than a year after the recommendations were first sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for clearance. The release came after several testy exchanges with the Senate Judiciary Committee about the status of the recommendations.
OGIS was created by Congress in the OPEN Government Act of 2007 to serve dual purposes of mediating disputes between requesters and agencies and making recommendations for improving FOIA processing. The office, which is located within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), operates on a budget of about a million dollars per year and has a staff of only seven people. According to their March 2012 report, since the office was set up OGIS has helped more than 12,000 FOIA requesters.
While nothing in the substance of the recommendations is particularly ground-breaking or surprising, they are solid recommendations. If acted upon, they will help the young agency do its job better, and make it easier for the public to access government information in a more timely fashion. We hope Congress stays engaged on this issue, and hope future sets of OGIS recommendations will be easier to get out into the open.