VIII. COMPARISONS WITH PREVIOUS YEAR(S).
A. Comparison of numbers of requests received:235,042 in FY00 vs. 230,492 in FY99, a 2% increase
B. Comparison of number of requests processed:235,090 in FY00 vs. 223,644 in FY99, a 5% increase
C. Comparison of median numbers of days requests were pending as of end of fiscal year:Varies by component.
D. Other statistics significant to component:BOP (processed over 78,000 requests for records from inmates through informal on-site access procedures whereby inmates can obtain copies of documents pertaining to themselves); INS (granted 3567 more requests in FY00, a 5.3% increase in full grants).
E. Other narrative statements describing component efforts to improve timeliness of FOIA performance and to make records available to the public (e.g., backlog-reduction efforts; specification of average number of hours per processed request; training activities; public availability of new categories of records):
For the Department of Justice overall:
The Department has improved customer service, reduced backlogs within most component offices, and promoted greater use of automation. Although the Department continues to devote its resources to FOIA administration and backlog-reduction initiatives, there was a modest increase in the Department's overall backlog in FY00, but not in the number of requests (which decreased). Most individual components of the Department have eliminated or reduced existing backlogs. To facilitate greater access to electronic records, the Department continues to post records on its FOIA Web sites, and productivity overall has improved through use of automation technology.
For individual components:
The Bureau of Prisons implemented the capability to allow individuals to make FOIA requests via the Internet this year. This has allowed a more timely response to individuals making simple FOIA requests, by eliminating the mailing time in receiving the request and, in many instances, allowing for an electronic response. BOP implemented a new database, which will allow it to track requests more efficiently.
Civil Rights Division
The Civil Rights Division has experienced a reduction in its backlog and a reduction in the number of incoming FOIA requests. The Division has posted extensive information on its Web site, particularly records regarding Division activity in the area of disability rights. The Division has been able to reduce the number of contractors it hires to process FOIA requests. The backlog has continued to decline, as well as the median processing time in most tracks. Categories that have not improved in turn-around time have remained steady. Also, in FY00, the FOIA/PA Branch focused its resources on closing all requests involving voluminous amounts of records. This effort succeeded in closing the largest matters. The FOIA/PA Branch has conducted training sessions with program sections to improve responsiveness.
DEA is currently in the process of implementing an electronic redaction program.
In the last 2 years, INS has allocated funding for overtime. Also, INS has continued to "remote" cases to FOIA/PA field offices that have no backlogs. In March, INS opened a FOIA/PA office at its National Records Center in Lee's Summit, Missouri. This office has been helpful in assisting other field offices with scanning and processing of FOIA requests.
Despite INS's efforts, its backlog has continued to increase. INS has been meeting with the staff of the Executive Associate Commissioner, Field Operations in order to develop a 5-year strategic plan for centralizing the program in an effort to reduce the backlog. Eliminating the backlog is a high priority for INS.
OPR continues to emphasize 2 main areas to reduce its backlog. First, FOIA personnel focus on the processing of large, complex requests to remove those requests from the FOIA/PA backlog. Second, there is a continued emphasis placed on the processing of requests that require minimal work. These requests include full releases, no records, referrals, and Glomar responses. By placing an emphasis on these requests concurrently with complex requests, OPR attempts to prevent these requests from becoming part of the FOIA/PA backlog.
OPR's FOIA/PA backlog was fairly constant through much of FY00. The backlog rose slightly during the last couple of months of the fiscal year due to resources being diverted for litigation purposes, competing priorities, an increase in the number of new requests, and the physical move of OPR to new office space. During FY00, OPR also experienced the departures of its FOIA Officer and a FOIA paralegal. Even with these distractions, OPR has managed to keep the median number of days to process requests under 20 business days and has decreased the median number of days for requests that remain pending from 45 to 34 days.
The Tax Division's FOIA Unit's FY00 efforts resulted in a zero-backlog performance against a 50% increase in the number of requests from FY99. This performance was made possible by using a semi-automated FOIA case processing system; adopting record-retention practices to better serve frequent requesters; assessing incoming requests more closely; drafting tailored responses for especially complex requests; and, most importantly, giving FOIA personnel the freedom to create and experiment with new processing techniques that improve response time, while also enhancing the quality of responses for all customers.
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