DHS leads agencies in slashing FOIA backlog

The Office of Information Policy published data on FOIA request processing from the annual reports of 100 agencies.

Federal agencies improved the number of Freedom of Information Act requests processed in fiscal 2015, according to data released by the Office of Information Policy.

OIP published data from the annual reports of 100 agencies on FOIA.gov on March 11. OIP is working on a summary of the data according to  a release, but offered these highlights, among others:

  • “The government overall reported processing a record high 769,903 FOIA requests, which is an increase of 19 percent from fiscal 2014, and the first time agencies have reported processing numbers over 700,000 requests.”
  • “As a result of these record high processing numbers, the government also reduced its backlog of pending FOIA requests by just over 35 percent.”

According to FOIA.gov, agencies received 713,168 requests in 2015, down 1,063 or .01 percent from 2014. The number of backlogged requests dropped from almost 160,000 to less than 103,000.

Here are some more key points, by department:

Homeland Security Department

The number of requests processed by the DHS in 2015 exceeded the 2014 amount by more than 110,000. This increase in response allowed it to reduce its backlog by more than 68,000, the largest reduction out of any department or agency.

The increase is largely due to improvements at  Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which processed almost its entire backlog, dropping from 56,863 in 2014 to 555 in 2015. The report said ICE increased its number of full-time FOIA employees from 49 to 168 in 2015.

Customs and Border Protection also contributed to this reduction, shrinking its backlog from 34,307 to 9,280. The agency added 18 full-time FOIA personnel, raising the number to 75.

State Department

The State Department went the other direction, falling behind and nearly doubling its backlog. It processed 14,000 of the nearly 29,000 requests it received, increasing its backlog to 20,626, more than doubling 2014’s result of 10,045. This occurred despite an increase in FOIA personnel from 127 to 180.

Department of Defense

The DoD’s backlog also rose by a little more than 1,000 requests. It processed about 3,000 fewer requests in 2015 than the previous year, with a total of about 56,500 requests processed. The DoD also has some of the oldest inquiries still pending, with requests for the Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency dating back to 2001 and 2002.

Department of Health and Human Services

HHS processed a large number of requests as well, at 45,186, reducing its backlog by almost 1,500. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Food and Drug Administration made up the bulk of cleared requests, with a little more than 28,000 and 10,000, respectively. HHS also had a high rate of full denials, granting full or partial information about 55 percent of the time

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