Wednesday, March 28, 2018

2017 Freedom of Information Report

The Department of Defense recently published its Fiscal Year 2017 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Annual Report, a report that DoD prominently displays on the cover page as costing $583 thousand to prepare. That's only the beginning of the cost to administer FOIA requests in the Department. Department-wide, Defense spent nearly $81 million to respond to 54 thousand requests, an average of $1,500 per request. Is that a wise expenditure of Government funds? Depends on who you ask, we suppose.

Turning to a couple of procurement focused agencies within DoD, the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) and the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), the report shows that they received 239 and 113 FOIA requests respectively. That must be very demeaning. Together they couldn't even muster up half a percent. The Army had the most requests (25,666) followed by the Navy (10,143), DLA (5,675) and the Air Force (4,594). The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA) received the fewest requests (11).

Of the 54 thousand requests processed, about 20 thousand were considered full grants and another 15 thousand were partial grants/partial denials. Interestingly, a high percentage of denials by DCMA and DCAA were because the requests pertained to non-Agency records. That could mean a requester was trying to elicit proprietary information about a contractor, perhaps. A fair number of requests were denied on national security grounds.

Overall, it took agencies an average of 16 days to process a "simple" request and 156 days to process "complex" requests. DCMA and DCAA beat this average. It took both Agencies six days to process simple requests and 83 and 26 days respectively to process complex requests.

The report also details FOIA personnel and costs to process requests. DCMA spent $487 thousand to process its 239 requests while DCAA spent  $198 thousand to process its 113 requests. That's an average of $2,038 and $1,752 per request, well above the $1,500 average for all of DoD. Perhaps they're higher because they don't enjoy the economies of scale.

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