October 1, 2012
National Archives Joins Federal Agencies to Launch New Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Online System
New one-stop spot to access, track, and query FOIA requests
Washington, DC…The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the Department of Commerce (DOC), have partnered to develop an online system aimed at expanding public access to information requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
FOIAonline (http://FOIAonline.Regulations.gov), formerly known as the FOIA Module, is available as of today (October 1). It offers the public one place to submit FOIA requests, track their progress, communicate with the processing agency, search other requests, access previously released responsive documents and file appeals with participating agencies.
For agencies, FOIAonline provides a secure website to receive and store requests, assign and process requests, post responses, generate metrics, manage records electronically, create management reports and electronically generate the annual report required from each agency by FOIA.
EPA began looking at the feasibility of a FOIA portal in 2010 with the idea of leveraging Regulations.gov, the Federal rulemaking portal that allows people to comment on Federal regulations and other agency regulatory actions. EPA administers Regulations.gov, which launched in 2002 and now has 38 partner agencies that govern and financially support the program. By leveraging the infrastructure of Regulations.gov, FOIAonline avoided many start-up costs, resulting in a total of $1.3 million to launch and an estimated cost avoidance of $200 million over the next five years if broadly adopted.
Representatives from NARA and Commerce, along with EPA, worked with and received input from both agency FOIA professional and requester communities.
In a March 19, 2012, letter to Cass Sunstein, then Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Policy, Office of Management and Budget, a group of organizations from the requester community supported the FOIA portal (now FOIAonline).
The group said it “offers the best hope for improving the Administration’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act and affording the public the broadest access to government documents.”
Six Federal agencies now have partnered to develop and deploy FOIAonline along with EPA, including Commerce, NARA, the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, and the Merit Systems Protection Board, each of which will deploy on its own schedule.
FOIAonline can be accessed at http://FOIAonline.Regulations.gov. While you can send requests to the participating agencies now, the data available in the system are initially minimal and variable by agency. The partner agencies will continue to enhance the system and they welcome other agencies’ participation.
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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.
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