Freedom of Information Act Guide: Agency FOIA Review
REVIEW, PLAN, REPORT
Overall Nature of NEA's FOIA Operations
The National Endowment For the Arts processes its Freedom of Information Act requests through the Office of General Counsel. One employee, the FOIA Officer, currently handles all of the requests, which includes logging the information into a database, assessing the request and acquiring all documents relevant to the request, updating requestors on the progress of their request, and handling appeals.
The employee reviews outgoing responses to ensure complete coverage of all issues, proper coordination with the appropriate parties, and compliance with FOIA regulations and policies. Based on research, the NEA's FOIA Officer makes decisions regarding disclosure, denial, or other disposition of legal requests.
Last year, the National Endowment of the Arts received approximately 64 requests, the majority of which related to sample grant applications for prospective grant applicants. Other frequently requested information relates to our annual budget, agency credit card holders, copies of administrative directives, grants database information, and occasionally correspondence with Members of Congress.
The NEA has averaged approximately 76 FOIA requests over the last three years.
FOIA requests are received via email, fax and regular mail, and are immediately logged into a database. The majority of requests are for information relating to sample grant applications, and those requests take, on average, five business days to complete.
Affirmative Disclosure under subsection (a)(2)
In 1996, the FOIA was amended to require agencies to post on their websites frequently requested records, policy statements, staff manuals, instructions to staff, and final agency opinions.
Following the amendment, the NEA created a FOIA webpage in 1996 that discloses the FOIA and Privacy Act guidelines. The webpage describes the process by which a FOIA request is submitted, displays a sample FOIA request letter for requestors to follow as a guide, posts FOIA annual reports, and serves as an electronic reading room.
In addition to the documents provided pursuant to FOIA requests, articles and other information on the Arts Endowment and the arts are available on the Internet at the Agency's website, http://www.arts.gov.
The availability of substantial information online has drastically reduced the Endowment's formal FOIA caseload, from 697 requests in 1996, prior to the launching of the website, to 64 requests in the 2005 reporting period. The Endowment views this as a positive demonstration of the effectiveness of our website.
POTENTIAL IMPROVEMENT AREAS
Proactive Disclosure of Information
We plan to discuss this possibility with our Webmaster. We also need to discuss with the Office of Information and Privacy the need to contact organizations whose applications are selected for permission to publish this information on the web.
We anticipate this review to be completed by December 31, 2006.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency