OMB has issued guidance to agencies on actions to take to ensure interoperability with the governmentwide FOIA portal, which was required under a 2016 law to allow requests to be made to any agency from a single site.
“Agencies’ diverse missions, operations, and resources affect the volume, subject, and complexity of the FOIA requests they receive and process, as well as the agency-specific systems developed for supporting agency FOIA operations. This precludes a “one-size-fits-all” solution for the Portal. For example, some agencies with very low volumes of requests use simple, non-automated solutions, such as spreadsheets, that fully satisfy their FOIA management needs. By contrast, those agencies with high volumes of requests require automated case management systems,” says memo M-19-10
It says that agencies can become interoperable with the portal either by accepting a FOIA request directly to their current platforms via a structured application programming interface or by accepting one via a formal, structured e-mail to a designated e¬mail inbox.
“Unless granted an exception by OMB and DOJ, agencies with automated case management systems will be required to achieve full interoperability with the National FOIA Portal by accepting requests through a structured API. Any agency seeking an exception must make such a request in writing through the agency’s Chief FOIA Officer, and OMB and DOJ will evaluate such requests on a case-by-case basis. Agencies with non-automated solutions will be required to achieve full interoperability by accepting FOIA requests through the National FOIA Portal via a formal, structured e-mail to a designated e-mail inbox,” it says.
By May 10, CFO Act agencies must provide to OMB a plan for how they intend to achieve full interoperability. Those plans “should provide for interoperability via formal, structured e-mail as soon as technically feasible, and for those agencies with an automated case management system, full API interoperability within two fiscal years, unless granted an exception. No exceptions will be granted beyond August 2023.”
Also, effective immediately and on an ongoing basis, agencies are required to: maintain and regularly update their respective FOIA.gov accounts as needed to reflect any changes to their respective agency FOIA programs or contacts; and annually certify the accuracy of their FOIA.gov information to DOJ during the annual FOIA report clearance process. “OMB and DOJ may require additional FOIA information and data collections from agencies as enhancements are made to the Portal to improve the efficiency of FOIA processes and operations government-wide, and will communicate these requirements to agencies as applicable,” it adds.