5E. HHS Excellence in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Initiative
As discussed in Section 3B of this report, a number of HHS operating components are working with program staff to increase proactive disclosures by identifying materials responsive to FOIA requests. As a result of these efforts, HHS has achieved major FOIA backlog reductions during 2010. One notable example is the FDA, which is actively participating in all aspects of the HHS FOIA initiative through tracking the number of incoming requests, number of processed requests, and number of pending/backlogged requests and providing weekly reports to HHS FOIA.
As a result of these efforts, FDA's FOIA backlog has decreased 11.3% since the end of FY10 (from 4691 pending requests to 4161). This brings the total reduction over the last four years to about 80%.
Currently, while most agency components are responding to most or all requests within the statutory timeframe of 20 days, there remain significant backlogs in the two components that receive the highest number of complex FOIA requests. The two components with the highest backlogs are continuing to review their procedures to identify strategies for backlog reduction. For example, additional staff training has been provided; workload queues have been rebalanced in order to respond to more requests within 20 days; and additional administrative support has been offered through headquarters (Division of Freedom of Information).
Going forward, FDA will continue to focus on the components with the largest backlogs. These components will continue to review SOPs and provide additional staff training. FDA will also continue to enhance transparency by posting high-profile records to the agency's internet website, which may have the effect of reducing the number of incoming FOIA requests. In addition, Division of Freedom of Information will continue to provide administrative support to assist components handling large volumes of FOIA requests. Finally, FDA is making enhancements to its existing FOIA tracking database that could assist with workload monitoring and backlog reduction.