DOJ OIP Director Discusses FOIA Challenges and FOIA Portal

On October 15th, Federal Computer Week (FCW) magazine published an article detailing an interview between FCW journalist Chase Gunter and Melanie Pustay, director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy.

During the interview, FCW focuses most of its questions on the challenges surrounding FOIA, including the recently-implemented FOIA portal. According to Pustay, the biggest challenge facing agencies and FOIA offices continues to be the increasingly-high volume of FOIA requests. Despite efforts to manage the constant circulation of FOIA requests, such complex records as email records, which Pustay exclaims are more difficult to process due to retrieval and de-duping, are notorious for causing backups and delays in responding to requests.

The FOIA portal is one of the latest solutions dedicated to improving the process.

“We’ve been real pleased with the portal, with its operation,” says Pustay. “Probably one of the key things it’s doing is helping people get to the right agency when they make a request. It helps identify records that are already available by the agency. It also helps set expectations for the time it might [take] to process a request at that agency.”

The portal has proven to be the most efficient at the beginning of the FOIA request process. Customized forms direct requesters to provide all request information to the agency upfront, which drastically reduces turnaround time. Despite these improvements, some agencies are still unable to submit FOIA requests through the portal. Pustay emphasizes that eventually, as technological enhancements are implemented within each agency, all agencies will be supported.

Click here to access FCW’s article and Gunter’s interview.