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AINS Blog - FOIA and Case Management

Tuesday
Aug152017

Q&A Series with Fred Sadler

The new Trump Administration and its impact on FOIA professionals 

Join us for a question and answer series with Fred Sadler as he reveals his insight into our inquiries about the new Trump Administration and its impact on FOIA professionals, as well as challenges and trends as they relate to present-day FOIA. 

Frederick Sadler retired, after serving 40 years with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As the Director of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office, he was responsible for administration and implementation of FOIA and Privacy Act (PA) programs.

 

August 15, 2017

Question #1: How do you think the current hiring freeze has impacted FOI programs (or will in 2018), and the FOI officers responsible for handling requests?  

 

Answer: First, it’s interesting that the current administration has broken with tradition, and hasn’t issued a government-wide memo on the implementation and interpretation of the FOIA. Nearly all of the previous administrations, from Lyndon Johnson to Barak Obama, have provided their vision of FOIA and disclosure, by such means. (To view past FOI memos, go to the Justice Dept.’s archival website, https://www.justice.gov/oip/available-documents-oip and search under “Operation documents, Atty. General Memos on the FOIA”.)  

My observation is that FOIA doesn’t seem to be high on the current administration’s radar at this time, but there is no way of knowing whether a guidance memo will issue at a later date. In light of the freeze and pending budget reductions, it would certainly be helpful.

Resource Strain Impacts Output
Unfortunately, I agree that the hiring freeze has already begun to impact output (and therefore compliance) with the FOIA, both because of the restrictions on replacing departing staff, and because the signals are in place for budget reductions, which may already be limiting purchase of new technology or hiring contractors.  

And, as anyone working in the FOIA arena well knows, compliance with the FOIA is all about resources. If you lose a percentage of your staff, it logically follows that if we operate in the same manner as we have previously, then output will also decrease by that percentage. So the challenge may be to consider alternatives to the ways in which FOI offices have operated, and to maximize the use of technology.

If an agency has no other option than to include FOI positions in the freeze (or staffing reductions), even the requester community should expect that output will decrease. Clearly, that means that there is an increased potential for litigation, based on non-response or responding outside the statutory timeframes. This potential burn of FOI and general counsel resources could be used to support hiring contractors to work with the FOIA programs, but that is also in question if the 2018 budget results in substantial cuts.  

If Agency management is considering whether to provide needed funds for FOIA, the FOI officer should reference the 2006 FOIA Amendments change, which permits a plaintiff who “substantially prevails” in litigation to obtain attorney fees from an agency’s “allocated funds” (i.e., the agency’s already reduced budget).   

Not All Agencies Impacted by Freeze
The Executive Order (EO) issued Jan. 23, 2017 addressed the freeze (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/23/presidential-memorandum-regarding-hiring-freeze), and exempts some positions if an agency head deems the positions necessary to meet “national security and public safety responsibilities” (although the EO doesn’t define those functions).  

It seems logical that Defense and Homeland Security are impacted to a lesser extent than other federal programs, but the public safety reference isn’t comprehensively defined. That shortcoming has been partially addressed by OMB’s issuance of two additional memos, which provide additional information on exempted functions, but do not specifically reference FOI.  

  1. Who is, and is not, subject to the freeze (M-17-17, Jan. 25, 2017 at https://admin.govexec.com/media/gbc/docs/pdfs_edit/012517guidance.pdf
  2. Functions which are exempted from the freeze (M-17-18, Jan. 31, 2017, at https://cdn.govexec.com/media/gbc/docs/pdfs_edit/013117e3.pdf)  

Such exemptions to the hiring freeze in certain agencies might ensure that at least the current level of FOIA staffing would be maintained.

How Agencies are Preparing
Some agencies prepared internal instructions for HR and managers on implementing the freeze. DOD’s memo, for example, identified a range of exempted functions to include cybersecurity, deployments, weapons safety, security, etc., but again, doesn’t address FOIA. (See https://admin.govexec.com/media/gbc/docs/pdfs_edit/020217defensefreeze.pdf).

OMB issued additional memo #M-17-22, on April 12, 2017, “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce,” (see https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/memoranda/2017/M-17-22.pdf) instructing agencies to prepare Reform Plans for the next fiscal year.  

Again, the memo doesn’t reference FOIA specifically, but does provide for public input, and directs agencies to take into consideration “efficiency and effectiveness” and “customer service.” If the requester community were to utilize this opening to make a case for continued FOI support, it could potentially benefit the agency’s program, in my opinion. No matter where the government lands, there will be a huge competition for scarce resources. And, as those working in the FOIA arena well know, compliance with the FOIA is all about resources.

Stay tuned to this blog as more information unfolds in Fred’s commentary on how the freeze may impact you.


Friday
Aug112017

Put AINS’ eCase Platform on your shortlist of providers when you’re looking for a top-of-the-line, adaptive case management solution.

Gartner’s Critical Capabilities analysis provides a detailed evaluation of case management solutions from 13 BPM-platform-based Case Management Framework (CMF) providers.
Vendors are appraised against nine critical capabilities across four common use cases.

eCase was given a product score of 3.0 out of 5 in all four uses cases, and a rating of ‘Excellent’ for content interaction, case worker collaboration, and data capture and output management.

Download this complimentary report to:

  • Evaluate BPM-platform-based CMFs
  • Identify potential requirements for adaptive behavior in case work
  • Establish your own criteria when considering case management solutions

AINS® is a leading global provider of cloud-based, adaptive case management solutions. Since 1988, AINS has empowered organizations around the world to rethink how they work, and how they develop and deploy new technology, by providing innovative, agile software solutions and services.

View the full report to see how Gartner views AINS' eCase Platform in Case Management.

Thursday
Aug102017

Reserve your seat at the AINS’ FOIAXpress User Conference and Tech Summit 2017

Registration is now open for the 12th Annual FOIAXpress User Conference Transforming the Citizen Experience through Innovation – to be held on October 25, 2017 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC.

Join us for this one-day event, complimentary for Government FOIAXpress customers, to unlock your full product potential, while test-driving our newest enhancements and capabilities.  Every year AINS brings together hundreds of FOIA and Privacy professionals from across North America representing federal, state and local government agencies and institutions to learn, share and network with peers in the FOI community. 

This year’s agenda features a combination of key industry speakers, insightful panel discussions, and interactive breakout sessions to help attendees:

  • Get first word on the latest FOIAXpress product updates and enhancements aimed at creating better citizen collaboration, staying ahead of regulatory requirements and streamlining FOIA request processes.
  • Explore the most recent issues relating to present-day FOIA, including Capstonefrom the nation’s leading FOIA experts and government officials.
  • Engage in interactive workshops on a host of carefully selected topics for experience-level specific guidance you can implement immediately.
  • Network with peers from similar settings to discover their tips and best practice strategies for optimizing FOIAXpress to drive better performance.

If you’re a Chief FOIA Officer, FOIA Officer, FOIA Specialist, Senior IT Leader who uses FOIAXpress, or someone who’s looking to maximize the value of the solution, don’t miss this opportunity to learn and network.

For more information and to register for the FOIAXpress User Conference, please visit the conference website: http://info.ains.com/2017-FOIAXpress-User-Conference.html 

We look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday
Dec082016

AINS Customer Honored at the 2016 Coalition for Government Procurement Excellence in Partnership (EIP) Awards

Photo credit: Susan Hornyak Photography From left: Roger Waldron, President of the Coalition for Government Procurement; Mandana Massjouni, Director of Enterprise Applications and Innovation at EEOC; Bill Gormley, Chairman - The Coalition for Government Procurement

On November 16, 2016, AINS was honored to join its customer, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), at the Coalition for Government Procurement’s 2016 Excellence in Partnership (EIP) Award Dinner. Mandana Massjouni, Director of Enterprise Applications and Innovation at EEOC, was recognized as the winner of this year’s Government Savings Award.

The Coalition for Government Procurement presents the Government Savings Award to an individual for developing innovative solutions resulting in savings to the government and taxpayer through sound acquisition planning and development, and well-defined contracting requirements. AINS nominated Mandana based on her drive for developing cost-effective solutions and her uncompromising commitment to technical excellence.

As a Federal agency, EEOC is responsible for enforcing Federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee. In order to fulfill its mission, EEOC tracks, investigates and reports on discrimination charges submitted by the public. 

Initially, AINS worked with EEOC to implement FOIAXpress, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case management solution. Mandana recognized the benefits of the case management platform, realizing that AINS’ solutions could assist EEOC’s streamlining efforts way beyond FOIA request processing.

Photo credit: Susan Hornyak Photography 2016 Excellence in Partnership Trophies

Working with AINS, Mandana led the initiative to develop an integrated, public portal to allow individuals to submit and track discrimination complaints, easily access information about their discrimination cases, and perform quick and efficient self-screenings for discrimination coverage. Her innovative approach to leverage existing IT investments already made by EEOC in an enterprise case management system allowed the agency to accelerate the delivery time of the public portal, while ultimately saving the government and taxpayers money. 

Congratulations to Mandana and the entire EEOC team!  AINS is honored to recognize her for this achievement, and looks forward to continuing to develop solutions that support EEOC’s mission. 

 

Tuesday
Oct252016

FOIAXpress User Conference & Technology Summit 2016 Recap

This year, AINS marked the 11th annual FOIAXpress® User Conference & Technology Summit. We celebrated our 2016 event with the theme “Changing Landscape: Reshaping Citizen Engagement through Technology.” More than 250 FOIA and Privacy professionals were in attendance from across North America representing federal, state and local government agencies and institutions. This exclusive, one-day event was a great opportunity for all to learn, share and network with many of the best and brightest in the industry.  We had a jam packed agenda – with a combination of key industry speakers, interactive breakout sessions and best practice workshops designed to ensure our attendees walked away with at least one new idea to bring back to their organizations.  


Wayne R. Jewell Award winners from HUD celebrate their acheivement.The insightful speaking sessions offered a wide range of perspectives on the FOIA process as they were hosted by FOIA thought leaders and educators, FOIAXpress customers and power users, and our very own AINS product experts. Sessions ranged from the general to more issue-specific; touching on the impact of the new FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, how to maximize fee and tolling efficiency, and tips and tricks on how to improve agency use of FOIAXpress. 

AINS works with many wonderful agencies and FOIA departments. Every year at our annual conference, we pause to acknowledge one customer who has displayed an extraordinary working relationship with AINS and FOIA processing performance. This year, we recognized the entire Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Freedom of Information Act Office with the Wayne R. Jewell Customer Appreciation Award. HUD has been a FOIAXpress customer for more than 10 years and also utilizes AINS’ eCase case management platform to manage agency processes.

If you were unable to attend or would simply like to review them, speaker presentation slides are available on the FOIA Summit website.

 

AINS works with many wonderful agencies and FOIA departments. Every year at our annual conference, we pause to acknowledge one customer who has displayed an extraordinary working relationship with AINS and FOIA processing performance. This year, we recognized the entire Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Freedom of Information Act Office  with the Wayne R. Jewell Customer Appreciation Award. HUD has been a FOIAXpress customer for more than 10 years and also utilizes AINS’ eCase case management platform to manage agency processes.

 [DH1]Is this part of the Executive Secretariats office?