How FOIAXpress Can Facilitate Transparency in the Biden Administration

On Monday, a coalition of more than 40 civil society organizations submitted a joint letter to President Joe Biden calling for a commitment to transparency in the administration. In the letter, organizational leaders urged Biden to “update and improve their implementation of agency policies and public records statutes governing the release of information to the public, particularly the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).” The letter provided guidelines for the President’s administration to follow to meet transparency goals. If the President chooses to adopt the guidelines laid out in the letter, FOIAXpress will be able to support the initiatives. Here’s how:

 

“Direct Agencies to Proactively Disclose Records”

The first applicable guideline urges agencies to proactively disclose all “final opinions . . . made in the  adjudication of cases,” “statements of policy and interpretations which have been adopted by the agency,” and “instructions to staff that affect a member of the public.” FOIAXpress supports the proactive disclosure of records through our Public Access Link (PAL). PAL provides a public reading room in which any capacity of records can be made readily available to the public.

 

“Ensure Compliance with the Foreseeable Harm Standard”

The next applicable guideline urges agencies to comply with the “foreseeable harm standard” of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, which exempts agencies from disclosure when they can “reasonably foresee” that disclosure would “actually cause harm to an interest protected by the relevant FOIA exemption.” The foreseeable harm standard is a discretionary exemption that can often be disputed. We offer training, services, and legal expertise to help agencies determine when to apply the standard.

 

“Direct DOJ to Fully Leverage its Central Role in Agencies’ FOIA Implementation”

This guideline suggests that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Information Policy (OIP) become more involved in agency FOIA processes in various ways including: 1) “surveying agencies to assess and disseminate best practices for integrating technology (such as e-discovery software)”; 2) “ensuring compliance with the accessibility requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act”; and 3) “review all pending FOIA lawsuits.” FOIAXpress supports standardizing best practices for FOIA software. As the number one FOIA solution in North America, FOIAXpress offers the most robust FOIA solution on the market, with the option to implement PAL, our Electronic Document Review (EDR) module for e-discovery, and an AI Assistant module for automated pre-processing. Our system is also fully compliant with the Section 508.

 

“Issue New FOIA Guidance by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Update the National FOIA Portal”

This guideline suggests new guidance to be issued by OMB, including revision to the Uniform Freedom of Information Act Fee Schedule and Guidelines. Additionally, the guideline suggests enhancements to the National FOIA Portal (FOIA.gov), including “mechanisms for agencies to respond to requesters through the portal.” We are constantly updating and configuring FOIAXpress to comply with new agency standards and regulations. Moreover, FOIAXpress PAL integrates securely with FOIA.gov, and until the national portal gains the capability to allow correspondence between requesters and FOIA processors, agencies can fulfill that function through PAL.

 

 “Assess, Preserve, and Disclose the Key Records of the Previous Administration”

This guideline urges agencies to “determine the status of key records of the Trump administration, ensure their proper preservation, and disclose them.” Given the sheer amount of records in any administration, adhering to these guidelines is no small task. However, through FOIAXpress EDR, agencies can filter, deduplicate, rank, and sort responsive content in large volumes of emails, attachments, and files. FOIAXpress EDR enables agencies to quickly process millions of records in a short amount of time.

 


Further guidelines detailed in the letter include endorsing “legislative improvements for the public records laws,” embracing “major reforms of classification and declassification,” issuing “an executive order reforming the prepublication review system,” and more in the spirit of promoting transparency. Whether met with budgetary changes or changes to regulation, our flexible, affordable FOIA solution is ready to meet the needs of federal agencies. And through our myriad of FOIA services, including a bench to assist processing during a FOIA surge, we are more than equipped to help agencies meet any challenge head-on.

To learn how to implement FOIAXpress or any of our additional FOIA solutions and services, or to learn best practices for utilizing our solution in compliance with FOIA law and regulation, please email info@ains.com or request a demo today.