3C. Freedom of Information Act Excellence
Throughout 2010, HHS achieved major FOIA backlog reductions. After several components launched backlog reduction projects, HHS’s total backlog decreased by over 53 percent. Across HHS, the major operating components continue to evaluate their FOIA processes and to look for areas to improve. Several offices are considering a joint collaboration involving information technology, and evaluating how it can be utilized to enhance FOIA request processing to make it faster, easier, and more user-friendly.
HHS has undertaken a number of initiatives in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) operations in line with the Open Government plan. For example, FOIA Officers and other officials have taken steps to inform HHS staff members of the President’s and the Attorney General’s policy concerning the presumption of openness through distribution of the memoranda and continued training in its application. One major effort was the first Department-wide FOIA conference, which included training for junior staff, and more advanced subjects and discussion for the HHS’ FOIA Officers and senior staff.
A number of HHS operating components report renewed efforts to instill the spirit of openness in their daily processing of FOIA requests. The FOIA offices are working with program staff to increase proactive disclosures by identifying materials responsive to FOIA requests. HHS now posts a variety of information that used to be available only by making a FOIA request, including Office of the Inspector General reports, audits, and testimony; various community health center information; and a broad variety of FDA reports and Advisory Committee Meeting minutes.