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AINS Blog - FOIA and Case Management

Entries in FOIA (33)

Monday
Aug212017

Top 5 Reasons to Attend the FOIAXpress User Conference

 

The FOIAXpress User Conference & Tech Summit is the one event of the year that features key industry experts, interactive education sessions and networking opportunities focused on helping our customers and get the most from their FOIAXpress software.

If you are a government FOIAXpress product user, or a FOIA government professional who needs the most up-to-date information, the 12th Annual FOIAXpress User Conference and Tech Summit is a must-attend event – here’s why:  

  1. 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.
  2. Celebrate 12 years with us! - Join hundreds of FOIA professionals as we deliver our most innovative event yet, packed with fun and celebration with this year’s winner of the coveted Wayne R Jewell recognizing outstanding customer achievement.
  3. Hear from top FOIA Experts - Learn from key industry experts and top government officials about the most recent issues, opportunities and challenges relating to present-day FOIA.
  4. Engage in interactive workshops on a host of carefully selected topics for experience-level specific guidance you can implement immediately.
  5. Exchange ideas and network with your peers from similar settings to discover their tips and best practice strategies for optimizing FOIAXpress to drive better performance.

Who Should Attend
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.

Get Your Boss on Board
We know you get it: You’ll learn things and make connections at AINS’ FOIAXpress User Conference that will unlock your full product potential and make you more effective. But, convincing your manager may be another story, so we’ve prepared this
justification letter to help you.

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!


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.

 

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.


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 Capstone and 18F, from 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!

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?

Friday
Jul012016

Celebrating 50 Years of FOIA

This Independence Day marks the anniversary of another freedom – the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). On July 4, 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson signed FOIA into law. A year later, the act went into effect giving private citizens a “right to know” by providing a streamlined means to request government records.
 
Pro or con, to redact or release – it’s time to acknowledge the hardworking people who have kept the doors of democracy open for fifty years. On this golden anniversary, AINS salutes Access Professionals across the public sector. Those front-line staffers who responded to 769,903 FOIA Requests in 2015. Professionals who rose to the occasion to manage a 30% increase in requests since 2008. These are the unsung heroes that protect our liberty one piece of paper at a time.
 
“FOIA offices have an important task. They are a vital part of democracy by keeping the government transparent. They serve the government, their agency and citizens.” said Moe Goswami, CEO of AINS Inc. the maker of FOIAXpress®, the leading eFOIA solution for the Federal Government.
 
In 2016, the fifty year law is taking center stage. Savvier citizens have come to expect transparency; they demand a greater level of accountability and access to a broader range of government information and records – from standard reports to video, emails, social media and new forms of communication.

“FOIA is only going to get more complicated. Social media and technology are changing the way people interact; more content is going digital. They (FOIA Offices) are going to need greater levels of support and expertise in order to meet the growing demand” said Goswami. “Despite a greater burden on the FOIA community, it is positive that FOIA is growing. A transparent government is the cornerstone of our democracy.”
 
So, this July 4th, raise a sparkler for the Access Professional. To the analyst, lawyer, public information director and Chief FOIA Officer who respond to media requests, citizen questions and uphold the First Amendment. To the people who search, redact and respond on demand – walking the tightrope between disclosing too much and safeguarding our nation. These quiet champions deserve a nod for keeping the lines of communication open for half a century.
Happy July 4th!

 

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