The DHS FOIA Efficiency Act of 2015 would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop an automated online system for processing information requests submitted under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It would also require DHS to issue an updated regulation implementing FOIA. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA1), issued a press release wherein he said, “DHS has an abysmal record when it comes to FOIA requests.” The bill has been reported by committee and may head to a House vote next.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jun 25, 2015.
(This measure has not been amended since it was reported to the House of Representatives on June 11, 2015. The summary of that version is repeated here.)
DHS FOIA Efficiency Act of 2015
(Sec. 2) Directs the Chief FOIA Officer of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS):
within 90 days after enactment of this Act, to issue an updated regulation implementing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and to identify the total annual implementation costs; to develop guidance on reporting standards related to costs of processing FOIA requests; within 120 days after enactment of this Act, to identify unnecessary and duplicative actions taken by DHS in processing such requests; to eliminate such actions within 12 months after identifying them; and within 90 days after enactment of this Act, to develop a plan to automate the processing of requests and to issue guidance to the relevant DHS components regarding the goal of reducing the backlog in processing requests by 50% between FY2015 and FY2018. Requires the regulation implementing FOIA to include: (1) public guidance on procedures to be followed when making requests for DHS rules, opinions, orders, records, or proceedings; (2) updated guidance to the DHS components for processing such requests, which may include information on automated processing; and (3) detailed information on fees and costs associated with, and on the appeals process for, requests.
Directs the Chief FOIA Officer to include: (1) in each semiannual privacy report submitted under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the total costs to DHS of meeting FOIA requirements and assessments of progress made toward meeting backlog goals, of whether DHS has adequate staffing and other resources to address such goals, and of progress made toward automating the processing of requests; and (2) in the second semiannual privacy report for FY2016, a description of any cost savings identified from, and the plan developed for, automating the processing of requests.
(Sec. 3) Directs the Chief FOIA Officer to provide such plan, upon completion, to DHS components and seek written feedback regarding the extent to which each component will adopt the plan, the associated costs, and the projected time lines.