The backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests at DHS has started increasing again after the department succeeded in cutting it by two-thirds over 2014-2015, GAO has said.
DHS had reduced the backlog to about 35,400 through department-wide steps such as including sending monthly emails to its components on backlog statistics and conducting oversight as well as actions by the components themselves. However, since then the number has risen, reaching nearly 54,000 last year.
“One reason DHS was struggling to consistently reduce its backlogs is that it lacked documented, comprehensive plans that would provide a more reliable, sustainable approach to addressing backlogs and describe how it will implement best practices for reducing backlogs over time,” a report said.
DHS cited challenges including the increased numbers and complexity of requests received and the volume of responsive records for those requests. However, GAO said that “until it develops a plan to implement best practices to reduce its backlogs, DHS will likely continue to struggle to reduce the backlogs to a manageable level.”
It added that some immigration-related requests still are being processed twice by two different DHS components, an issue GAO first pointed out in 2014 and that is included in its most recent report on reducing duplication in federal agencies.