Last updated: 10:30 AM ET, Fri July 22 2016

TSA Can Improve FOIA Response According to OGIS

Airlines & Airports | Transportation Security Administration | Patrick Clarke | July 22, 2016

TSA Can Improve FOIA Response According to OGIS

Photo courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) has released a review of the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program.

Opened in 2009, OGIS effectively serves as an ombudsman between federal agencies and FOIA requests. 

In its recent investigation of the TSA's compliance with FOIA, the office found that the agency's FOIA request backlog expanded by almost 70 percent between fiscal year 2013 and fiscal year 2014, climbing from 546 requests to 924 requests despite the number of incoming requests decreasing by 5.5 percent during those two years. 

OGIS attributed the increase in backlogged requests to a whopping 58 percent decrease in processing, with the agency going from 851 requests processed in fiscal year 2013 to just 491 requests processed in fiscal year 2014.

TSA has made multiple changes to its FOIA program recently —  including the implementation of a triage system and an intake process to assist the office in responding more quickly to simple requests — but OGIS notes that the agency "has room for improvement in processing complex requests."

READ MORE: Congressional Report Says TSA Misconduct Threatens Safety of Air Travelers

In addition to improving its tracking and processing system, OGIS highlights timeliness as one of the TSA's biggest issues: "Failure to respond has been a factor in nine of the 10 FOIA lawsuits filed against TSA since 2009, costing the agency $238,020 in litigation-related expenses," the review states.

READ MORE: Can Airports Really Dump TSA If They Want?

OGIS's recommendations for the TSA include closely monitoring its backlog, setting data-driven goals designed to reduce the backlog and ultimatley improve the agency's timeliness.

What's more, the office encourages the agency to explore the possibility of using the same tracking and processing system and haivng the TSA FOIA branch proactively alert requesters to the status of their requests.

"We hope this report and our recommendations will assist TSA in fulfilling its FOIA responsibilities," said OGIS director James Holzer. "We note that TSA has already begun implementing some of our recommendations."

Holzer said the office will follow up on the status of its recommendations in approximately four months' time.


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