CBP has 97% backlog in FOIA request
Out of the 41,381 FOIA requests received in fiscal year 2013 by the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP), 40,259 of those requests remained unprocessed. In simple mathematics, that is a 97 percent backlog approaching fiscal year 2014.
FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act is the law that makes federal government information accessible to the public, while CBP is the largest law enforcement organization that protects America from terrorism, unlawful immigration and drug trade.
Obama says process FOIA promptly
Given these numbers, the Obama Administration failed to accomplish its Jan. 21, 2009 FOIA Memorandum directing agencies to “act promptly” and make timely release of information, in its effort to create a new era of open government that is committed to accountability and transparency.
CBP also failed to quickly comply with good results, to the directives issued by Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009, mandating all agencies, especially those with high volume of requests or huge backlogs, to review their policies to respond to requests more promptly. The Attorney General stated that, “Long delays should not be viewed as an inevitable and insurmountable consequence of high demand.”
CBP needs help in FOIA request
The Obama “open government” policy increased the FOIA requests at CBP since 2009; however, the said agency appeared to have been overwhelmed with the high volume of demands.
FOIA.gov revealed that CBP had:
- 14,804 requests with three percent backlog in 2009,
- 18,948 requests with four percent backlog in 2010,
- 32,107 requests with 16 percent backlog in 2011,
- 33,243 request with 35 percent backlog in 2012, and
- 41,381 requests with 97 percent backlog in 2013.
“It surely doesn’t look good from the surface,” says Armi Edera, a government manager in California. “This could indicate internal, structural, budgetary and personnel deficiencies, which I am pretty sure CBP has addressed by now,” added Edera.
DHS addresses backlog remediation issue
CBP is the largest component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
DHS released its Annual Report on February 2014 to the Attorney General spotlighting several steps to reduce the FOIA backlog, including the deployment of new electronic technology, comprehensive staff training, redesigning existing website and hiring of additional personnel. It also mentioned, in particular, that CBP is focused on implementing new processes to reduce the backlog issue.
“You have to understand that the government is usually slower in process than most private corporations in implementing structure and remediation. Everything has to go through a legal process and we simply are too big and multi-departmentalized to expect the usual business speed of commerce, but it will be done,” says Edera.
© 2014 Joe Quintana