Section III: Steps Taken to Increase Proactive Disclosures

Both the President and Attorney General focused on the need for agencies to work proactively to post information online without waiting for individual requests to be received.

Describe here the steps your agency has taken both to increase the amount of material that is available on your agency website, and the usability of such information, including providing examples of proactive disclosures that have been made during this past reporting period (i.e., from March 2013 to March 2014). In doing so, answer the questions listed below and describe any additional steps taken by your agency to make and improve proactive disclosures of information.

Posting Material:

  1. Do your FOIA professionals have a system in place to identify records for proactive disclosures?


  2. If so, describe the system that is in place.

    Identifying records for proactive disclosures is an ongoing effort in the ACF FOIA office. In 2013, we approached our database consultant about developing a query for most requested records. In the meantime, we manually searched the previous two years of requests in the database to identify frequently requested records. The two most commonly-requested categories of records are the scores and comments received by unsuccessful grant applications (requested by the applicants themselves) and copies of successful grant applications (requested by unsuccessful or would-be applicants). A third category of interest is documents concerning the monitoring and evaluation of Head Start grantees.

    Within the CDC, it usually follows the rule of three. The CDC FOIA office provides many documents of interest to the general public and/or potential requesters on our website. CDC program staff has comprehensive websites which may answer many questions that potential requesters may have.

    Within the CMS, the CMS FOIA Officer reviews information collected in the CMS SWIFT FOIA tracking system to identify categories of frequently requested records. Subsequently, the FOIA Officer works closely with program managers to identify and proactively post records for which there is an anticipated high public interest. DFOI reviews every FOIA request prior to logging and assignment on a daily basis. During that process, DFOI also identifies requests for records that should be proactively posted under the requirements of the FOIA and/or the memorandum from President Obama. DFOI then works with the OpDiv office that maintains those records in order to have them proactively posted. The various components may also determine based on their own processing of requests that certain records should be proactively posted.

    Within the HRSA nearly all the FOIA requests received concern grants and, to a lesser extent, contracts awarded by this agency. Depending on a given health center’s location or the size of the contract, there might be three or four requests for the same award, but never more. The second most common request is for copies of the notes and or summary reports from the grant or contract reviewers.

    Within the NIH, it identifies records for proactive disclosure in a number of different ways including:

    • The NIH FOIA Officer reviews the log of incoming FOIA requests weekly and identifies frequently requested documents and topics that appear to be of interest.
    • The NIH FOIA Officer attends weekly meetings with the NIH Associate Director for Communications and Public Liaison and other communications professionals. At these meetings, recent media issues are discussed as well as upcoming events. Those for which we anticipate great interest are targeted for proactive disclosures.
    • NIH tracks the number of report downloads from the REPORT site (which contains detailed information regarding awarded research grants) and posts the most frequently requested in the past three months on the site.
    • NIH also analyzes REPORTER queries posed by users to identify candidates for new standard reports.
    • All NIH Institutes and Centers (IC) meet with senior administrative and program leadership on a regular basis (weekly/monthly) to identify material that should be shared with the public.
    • The National Institute on Drug Abuse Office of Science Policy and Communications holds two regular weekly meetings: a Web Content meeting at which they identify and redesign pages for easier readability and access; and a Research Dissemination meeting during which they choose ongoing initiatives to promote to the public using newer technologies and strategies.
    • NIDA highlights documents with foreseeable high traffic. Those receiving many views are evaluated for translation into Spanish.
    • The IC Communications Offices monitor correspondence from the public and various stakeholders for topics of general interest.

    The SAMHSA FOIA office has implemented a system to track certain grant applications that are considered repetitive requests. In addition, in some cases, SAMHSA have been able to reduce the response time to less than 20 days with turnaround response time.

    Within ASPR, documents for posting are identified in the ASPR Executive Secretariat and ASPR Public Affairs clearance processes; all documents of interest to stakeholders and cleared for public release are posted on our Public Health Emergency website (,

  3. Provide examples of material that your agency has posted this past reporting period, including links to where this material can be found online.

    During the past reporting period, several OpDivs and StaffDivs have posted several materials online.

    Within the ACF, the Office of Head Start posted documents concerning the monitoring and evaluation of Head Start grantees.

    Within the ASPR, every ASPR document cleared for public release in the past year has been posted to, such as reports following NBSB public meetings (, other meetings and stakeholder events, program-specific information, and grant and contract award announcements.

    Within the ASPE posted over 99 reports, which can be found at The ASPE project officers submit their reports to post online, in a timely manner at the

    Within the ASFR material is posted at, which includes information on the HHS budget, financial reports and grant information. For example: the HHS Operating Plans (current and archived), HHS Budget and Performance, the Agency Financial Report, and Grant Award Information (TAGGS).

    Within the CDC, performance metrics are posted monthly and cover a four-year period.

    The CMS FOIA Officer and the CMS Office of Acquisitions and Grants Management developed and implemented a policy to conduct a proactive pre-disclosure notification process at the time of contract award if it is believed that the awarded contract will be subject of high public interest or visibility. CMS plans to proactively post the awarded contracts at:

    Within the FDA, component offices continue to create web pages for specific issues of heightened consumer or media interest, to better inform the Agency’s constituency without requiring the submission of a FOIA request. For example, FDA has posted extensive information in the last year on such subjects as:

    The FDA also continues to post the following records, among others:

    • Weekly Enforcement reports
    • Recall information
    • Advisory Committee packages and transcripts
    • Budget records
    • Import Refusals
    • International Arrangements
    • Product Approvals
    • Press Releases
    • Tobacco Retailer Letters
    • Clinical Investigator Correspondence
    • Warning Letters and responses
    • Agendas, rosters, background packages, and minutes of Advisory Committee Meetings
    • Inspection records and firm responses
    • Inspection databases
    • Field Work Plans
    • Sample results
    • FDA Track Updates (which includes tracking of FOIA metrics)
    • New regulations and guidance for the Center for Tobacco Products
    • Post-Approval studies
    • Consumer Advisories and Alerts for blood products and vaccines

    Within the NIH, it posted a voluminous amount of material during this past reporting period. A few select examples include:

    The OMHA has posted claim receipts on In addition, OMHA updates its website and provides information on its forms as well as the appeals process.

Making Posted Material More Useful:

  1. Beyond posting new material, is your agency taking steps to make the posted information more useful to the public, especially to the community of individuals who regularly access your agency’s website, such as soliciting feedback on the content and presentation of posted material, improving search capabilities on the site, posting material in open formats, making information available through mobile applications, providing explanatory material, etc.?

    In 2012 and 2013, ACF established a web team tasked with working with program offices to ensure that web content is informative and easy to use and the FOIA office works with requesters individually. The ACF FOIA office contacts requesters before sending links to ensure that they are comfortable using the site and pre-screens the links before sending them to ensure that they function in a user-friendly manner.

    The CMS administers Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) program in partnership with state governments, and private health insurance programs including Health Insurance Marketplaces, and provides information for health professionals, regional governments, and consumers. The Medicare program is the nation’s largest health insurer, handling more than 1 billion claims per year. Medicare and Medicaid together provide health care insurance for over 100 million Americans. CMS provides access to program information through its websites and an electronic newsroom. The public can “join the mailing list” at:

    The IHS continues to ensure that the FOIA program’s website is easily read and accessible under Section 508 of the American Disability Act. During the reporting period, the IHS website has undergone many improvements and kept in line with those changes (not specific to Section 508 accessibility only). In-line with those changes, the IHS FOIA website was continuously tested to be sure that it was still accessible and that documents were complete and easily accessed under the format that they were posted. In addition to the appropriate IT staff, we continue to “test” the links each quarter and respond quickly to feedback from others about the ease of our site. If problems arise, FOIA staff was quick to provide a remedy for the problem by working with IT staff to have it corrected as soon as possible.

    The NIH routinely monitors web activity and feedback sites in an effort to improve communication with the public.

    The OMHA website provides visitors with an email address to provide feedback, comments, or questions about material posted.

    The SAMHSA has made strides in making a variety of information available to the public. On the SAMHSA website, you are able to locate a selection of both current and achieved information. Some of that information is relevant to grants; Block Grant information is available, information concerning a host of Campaigns at SAMHSA, information on over 4o subject matter areas including publications, press releases, newsletters multimedia and social media topics and data and outcome information.

  2. If so, provide examples of such improvements.

    The ACF uses Blogs, Facebook and Twitter to communicate with its community and to highlight information being made available through the web and other resources CMS: The public can access the CMS Electronic Newsroom and stay connected via social media at:

    In November 2013, FDA launched the first phase of its mobile-friendly website. This phase includes information such as recalls, Consumer Updates, Safety Alerts, Medwatch Safety Alerts and the Online Voluntary Reporting Form, and the latest news and FDA Voice Blog posts.

    The ASPR strives continually to ensure accessibility including those with special needs and have undergone an extensive review of web content based on Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and departmental guidance. Within ASPR further improvements have been made to the ASPR website in order to improve not only the speed of posting but the availability of content. For example, Public Health Emergency (PHE) website at and Medical Counter Measures (MCM) website at provide links for questions and comments to be submitted to the agency; Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter feeds available through encourage public comment and this website as well as allow visitors to subscribe to RSS feeds. Contact information to include phone numbers and emails are available on the website. Visitors are able to report emergencies and non-emergencies with links to the specific agencies website. Through, private industry and academia can request meetings regarding products that they are developing of potential interest to federal officials. The PHE website also contains a blog that allows comments from the public.

    Within the CMS, the public can access the CMS Electronic Newsroom and stay connected via social media at:

    Within the FDA, in November 2013, the FDA launched the first phase of its mobile-friendly website. This phase includes information such as recalls, Consumer Updates, Safety Alerts, Medwatch Safety Alerts and the Online Voluntary Reporting Form, and the latest news and FDA Voice Blog posts.

    Within the IHS, after posting the PowerPoint presentations on FOIA and Privacy Act, requesters were able to be more specific in their requests. IHS believes that this was the main reason that we received less Privacy Act requests in the IHS FOIA Office.

    Within the NIH, several efforts have been made which shows improvement in making records available online.

    • NIH launched the NIH Director’s Blog to highlight new discoveries in biology and medicine. The Blog accepts comments.
    • NIH transitioned to a new search engine for which provides more functionality for users and provides improved search results.
    • NIH redesigned the Health Information Portal at to guide visitors to the most relevant health information resources across NIH. The new portal highlights NIH resources in a clear, use-friendly format, has a greatly improved search and helps consumers easily find the information they need to improve their health and prevent disease.
    • The NIH REPORT site which contains information about awarded research grants was updated to provide more information such as:
      • Direct and Indirect costs for most awards for FY 2012 and later. These can be accessed through two tools, REPORTER and the “Awards by Location:
      • The ability for users to create a custom hit list or portfolio of NIH-sponsored projects.
      • The ability for users to target their searches to organizations that are domestic for-profits, research institutes, independent hospitals, higher education institutions, or other non-profits.
      • Search results for awarded grants now captures press releases, news articles and other materials related to that grant.
    • NIH launched a mobile version of Circles for REPORTER, a tool that allows users to explore a list of projects based on the terms and concepts associated with those projects.
    • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) added a section entitled “NIDA TV” to its web site which allows quick and easy access to videos produced by NIDA highlighting its science.
    • NIDA redesigned its Teens site based on testing with that audience. This resulted in an upgrade of the popular teen web site to a responsive design model that automatically adjusts to fit the viewer’s screen for better viewing through smartphones and tablets.
    • The National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) improved the search capabilities of its web site to include an email ink for user feedback.
    • NICHD also developed a detailed A-Z topics page to provide an alphabetical topic search.
    • The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) added information in Asian languages to its health information and created a webpage linking to all the new material: NIAMS also added a means to search solely on Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese materials to its shopping cart to make the information easy to find.
    • The National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) launched its Innovative Questions (IQ) Initiative, the next step in the implementation of NINR’s Strategic Plan: IQ is an interactive, collaborative initiative designed to stimulate a dialogue among the scientific community, professional organizations, and the public.
    • The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) expanded the “Director’s Corner” of its website to include audio and video interview segments, adding new formats to provide portable content, create stronger connections with readers/listeners, and take advantage of the growing distribution channels for audio/video.

    Within the SAMHSA these improvements and information is evident and easily accessible at the SAMHSA website at

  3. Did your agency use any means to publicize or highlight important proactive disclosures for public awareness? If so, was social media utilized?

    Yes. OpDivs such as ACF, CDC, CMS, FDA, and NIH and StaffDivs, such as ASPR has made proactive disclosures for public awareness.

    The ASPR utilizes traditional media, stakeholder email alerts, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to disseminate information to the public and works with other federal and state agencies to make public information available as quickly as possible. ASPR also works with government and non-government partners to leverage social and traditional media to cross promote and highlight some of the most important web content.

    Within the ACF, the goal of posting successful grant applications online has been elusive due to funding issues. ACF is committed to full compliance with the provisions of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requiring that federal Departments/Agencies’ Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) is accessible to people with disabilities. Ensuring this compliance in posting grant applications submitted by small non-profit organizations requires a substantial commitment of resources at a time when federal resources are limited. The ACF FOIA staff continues to work within ACF and its parent organization, the Office of the Secretary, to resolve the problem.

    Within the CDC, many CDC programs offer websites which contain information of interest to requesters. Yes, for example, FDA pushes links to its posted content on its Facebook page,!/FDA?rf=108255272529974.

    Within the CMS, it posts major news announcements, including proactive disclosures, for public awareness at the CMS Electronic Newsroom website. The CMS continued efforts to engage the entire agency, not just the FOIA Office, in responding to the Administration’s Openness and Transparency Initiative. The CMS Administrator continued to require all Center and Office Directors to identify three categories of frequently requested records for posting to the CMS Web site in an effort to provide greater access to agency information. As a result, CMS created numerous internet links and has high value datasets on the website ( The CMS websites provide access to tens of thousands of documents and are used by a significant number of users from the public each year. The Medicare 1-800 number, the Medicare & You publication, and the Medicare Compare Web sites at provide information that is received and used by about 50 million Medicare beneficiaries or their representatives every year. Hundreds of thousands of providers, and tens of thousands of researchers, use information resources and systems provided through For example, the existing CMS Web site contains easy to find information on CMS regulations. This feature generates tens of thousands of searches every year. The CMS Administrator implemented a strategic goal (Improving Access to Frequently Requested Information under the Freedom of Information Act) that all CMS Centers and Offices must meet. The Administrator instructed CMS senior staff to take affirmative steps to make appropriate information publicly available and avert the need for the public to submit FOIA requests. To compliment this effort, CMS unveiled the CMS Data Navigator (, an easy-to-use, menu-driven search tool that makes the data and information resources of the CMS more easily available. Members of the public can use the Data Navigator to find data and information products for specific CMS programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, or on specific health care topics or settings-of-care. The Data Navigator displays search results by data type making it easier to locate specific types of information (e.g., data files, publications, statistical reports, etc.). In addition, members of the public can submit questions on specific CMS-related topics at: and/or submit email inquiries to the CMS Data Navigator mailbox at:

    The FDA pushes links to its posted content on its Facebook page,!/FDA?rf=108255272529974.

    The NIH uses various means to publicize and highlight important pro-active disclosures including the following social media tools: Twitter, Facebook, Podcasts, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Vine.

  4. Has your agency encountered challenges that make it difficult to post records you otherwise would like to post? If so, please briefly explain what those challenges are.

    Yes. Within the Office of the Secretary, a majority of the request received and responsive records are for records regarding Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) complaints or violations. These responsive records contain Personal Identifiable Information (PII) of private individuals. Therefore, due to the sensitive nature contained in these records, it is a challenge to post to the HHS, Office of the Secretary FOIA website.

    Within the CDC, it experiences challenges with posting records due to Section 508 compliance.

    Within the FDA, budget constraints continue to limit the number of records that can be posted. For example, the cost of making older, paper-copy records compliant with Section 508 of the ADA can be prohibitive.

    Within the NIH, there are privacy concerns that preclude the posting of certain datasets containing research results involving human subjects. The cost of making certain materials 508 compliant is also a deterrent.

    Within the SAMHSA, the most immediate challenge that SAMHSA has encountered in posting information on the website, where the cost in converting documents that are required to be 508 compliant

  5. Describe any other steps taken to increase proactive disclosures at your agency.

    Proactive disclosure is emphasized within the Office of the Secretary and OpDivs to all staff and components during FOIA training.

    Within the ACF, proactive disclosures represent an important topic in all FOIA training, especially with program office leadership.

    Within the FDA, proactive disclosure is discussed at FOIA training sessions and FOIA Council meetings and planned postings are coordinated between Centers and the Office of Public Affairs. (The FOIA Council is a group of FOIA professionals at FDA that meet approximately once per month to discuss agency-wide FOIA issues and other disclosure-related issues. Each FDA component has at least one representative on the Council.)

    • FDA has increased its Twitter feeds, with each center having its own Twitter feed.
    • The FDA provides the public with the ability to subscribe to RSS feed notices or sign up to receive automated emails for updates to over 100 different web pages/databases ( For example, there are over 67,000 users subscribed to FDA’s Warning Letter webpage. When the Warning Letter page is updated (at least weekly), those subscribers receive an automated email, confirming that the web pages have been updated, with a link to the page.

    Within the IHS, the FOIA staff continues to work closely with program offices at the Headquarters and Area level in order to educate the staff about that program and the documents that they maintain. The HIS FOIA staff can provide the requester with the most information possible based on the suggestions of informaiton that may be readily reeleasable or that information that the programs may suggest we withhold based on one of the nine FOIA exemptions. By eduating the FOIA staff on the different programs within this operating division, it ensures that all requesters will be provided with the fullest possible release in the spirit of transparency.

    Within the NIH, the NIH Associate Director for Communications and Public Liaison meets bi-monthly with the Communication Directors of each of the NIH ICs. Ongoing and new communication initiatives as well as current and future events for which public and/or media interest is anticipated are discussed at these meetings. Those discussions include identifying information and records for proactive disclosure.

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