Tomorrow, March 21, from 2 pm – 4 pm the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing, "FOIA in the 21st Century: Using Technology to Improve Transparency in Government." The focus of the hearing is expected to be on a tool — the FOIA Portal — under development by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with assistance from the Department of Commerce and the National Archives and Records Administration, that would help federal agencies manage and track FOIA requests, make it easier to submit requests, and improve access to documents that have been released under the FOIA. The FOIA Portal, which leverages the existing infrastructure of Regulations.gov, is ultimately a shared solution that can reduce processing costs, support compliance with statutory deadlines, and improve customer service.
Several organizations devoted to openness and accountability joined in sending a letter in support of the FOIA Portal to Cass Sunstein, Administrator, Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who was originally scheduled to testify at the hearing. The letter explains how, in addition to offering the best hope for improving the administration’s compliance with the FOIA and affording the public the broadest access to government documents, the FOIA Portal could also be integrated with the Department of Justice's, FOIA.gov, a site intended to make it easy for the public to view and compare agency's annual FOIA statistics, to make more precise and granular reporting data available.