President Bush today signed an executive order calling on federal agencies to streamline their handling of Freedom of Information Act requests and to appoint senior officials to monitor FOIA compliance. The order won praise from media organizations including The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the National Newspaper Association and the Newspaper Association of America.
The order, titled Improving Agency Disclosure of Information, directs agencies receiving FOIA requests to "respond courteously and appropriately" and to provide "citizen-centered ways to learn about the FOIA process."
It directs each agency to appoint a senior official -- at the assistant secretary or equivalent level -- to serve as chief FOIA officer. The officer will be responsible for FOIA compliance and monitoring.
The order also requires each agency to establish an FOIA requester service center which is to be "the first place that a FOIA requester can contact to seek information concerning the status of the person's FOIA request and appropriate information about the agency's FOIA response."
Under the order, each agency will be required within six months to review its FOIA operations and develop a plan for ensuring compliance with the law and the executive order. The order directs the attorney general to compile these agency plans and submit a report to the president within 10 months on implementation of the executive order.
RCFP issued a statement today calling the order a good start to making the government more accountable and open. The NNA and NAA jointly issued a statement commending the president for opening the door for better service to the public in dealing with FOIA requests.