level, agency implementation of the FOIA continues to be impeded by scarce agency resources.We hope the input from our survey will help guide the administration as it continues the difficulttask of making the FOIA work for the public, the statute’s intended beneficiary.
To ascertain the perspective of agency FOIA professionals as to how well the FOIA hasbeen working in the Obama administration and to identify the most critical limitations, CREWprepared an on-line survey that was distributed to the membership listserv of ASAP. Surveyquestions ranged from how well the FOIA is working both at the agency level and government-wide to what respondents view as the biggest impediments in implementing the FOIA. CREWalso attempted to gauge the success of some of the most touted reforms, including the creation of agency chief FOIA officers and the attorney general’s FOIA memorandum adopting a policy of disclosure.CREW received 363 partial responses and 259 completed questionnaires. At least 92%of respondents identified themselves as current or former FOIA professionals. Respondentsgenerally had a wealth of FOIA experience: 82% have been on the job for more than three years,and nearly 30% have been FOIA professionals for over 12 years, meaning a majority haveworked in at least two different administrations with differing FOIA policies and regulations.Respondents are from 34 different states, and at least 30 different federal agencies ordepartments. At least 94 respondents work at the Department of Defense, the most representedagency. Some work at much smaller agencies, such as the Idaho National Laboratory and theCooperation for National and Community Service, while others are at large cabinet-levelagencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Commerce.Following the survey, CREW hosted a roundtable discussion for all interested surveyrespondents. Moderated by Miriam Nisbet, Director of the Office of Government InformationServices (OGIS) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the discussionfocused on areas of the survey that had elicited the most comment. Feedback from thatdiscussion is included below.
1. How Well The FOIA Works.
CREW asked how well the FOIA generally works at respondents’ agencies and acrossthe government as a whole. Overall, respondents described the FOIA as working “well” or“average”
at their agencies and across the government, while also believing their particularagencies perform slightly better than the rest of the government. 58% described the FOIA asworking “well” or “very well” at their agencies, while only 30% gave the same high marks to thegovernment as a whole.
Response choices were: very well, well, average, poorly, very poorly, NA/don’t know.