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A Model FOIA Reg

Like this 19th-century California claim map, good FOIA regulations help lead the way.  (ARC Identifier 595794)

Like this 19th-century California claim map, good FOIA regulations help lead the way. (ARC Identifier 595794)

As we’ve written before, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires agencies to have regulations that specify a fee schedule, designate agency components to receive requests and provide for expedited processing. Beyond those requirements, regulations should be a GPS, of sorts, to help both agency FOIA professionals and requesters navigate the FOIA process.

Our parent agency, the National Archives and Records Administration, recently updated its FOIA regulation and the Federal Register published the proposed rule on August 5. We’re pleased that the NARA team that worked on the revisions asked OGIS for our input.

NARA is not a typical Federal agency. Like other agencies, it has operational records created in day-to-day operations; but it also has archival holdings.  The different types of records are managed and retrieved differently and also have different fee schedules. The regulation reflects that uniqueness. However, there’s a lot in the proposed regulation that can serve as a guide for agencies pondering updating their FOIA regulations. In fact, we think the NARA regulation could be a model for other agency FOIA regulations.

Items we particularly like about NARA’s FOIA regulation:

  • It’s written in requester-friendly, plain language.
  • It specifically lays out how the agency processes a FOIA request.
  • It addresses estimated dates of completion, which are required by the FOIA itself, including how NARA determines such estimates.
  • It provides requesters with avenues for requesting assistance during the FOIA process from the agency FOIA Public Liaison to OGIS.
  • It details how to file an appeal.

Interested in commenting on NARA’s FOIA regulation? You’ve got until October 4, 2013 to submit comments through the Federal erulemaking portal, by email, fax, mail—even hand delivery or courier. Follow the instructions at the beginning at the Federal Register notice rule to submit a comment.