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FOIA portal to open to the public by October, integrate with FOIA.gov

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This summer, agencies will have access to the backend of a one-stop governmentwide Freedom of Information Act request portal and it will be unveiled to the public before October 2012, according to Miriam Nisbet, director of the National Archives and Records Administration's office of government information services.

Nisbet testified March 21 before the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on technology, information policy, intergovernmental relations and procurement reform.

The portal--which is now under development by the Environmental Protection Agency, with support from the Commerce Department and NARA--will automate FOIA processing and reporting; store responses in a repository; enable the public to search, access and download previous FOIA responses; and automate reports on agencies' FOIA performance, said Andrew Battin, director of EPA's office of information collection.

The module will allow requesters to track where their request is in the response process, and provide an opportunity for dialogue if there are issues that need to be clarified between the FOIA staff and the requester, said Battin. The current FOIA process provides no opportunity for constructive dialogue, he said.

"[It will also provide] processing efficiencies, consistency in responses, having that repository for reuse so that we don't have to be answering questions from the beginning again...also providing referrals to other agencies as necessary," said Battin.

The Justice Department is also working with EPA to ensure there is integration between the forthcoming FOIA portal and DoJ's relatively new FOIA.gov portal, said Melanie Pustay, director of the Justice Department's office of information collection. The DOJ site also has some enhancements in its future.

"What we're working on now at the department is metadata tagging," said Pustay and also working "with GSA to have standardized ways to tag records before they're posted, to make the search process for them even that much more precise."

For more:
- go to the hearing page (prepared testimony and archived webcast available)

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