America Needs a New FOIA Overseer: Is it You?


The office in charge of monitoring governmentwide FOIA compliance and policy is looking for a new leader.

The federal government needs a new Freedom of Information Act champion.

Following the November retirement of Office of Government Information Services Director Miriam Nisbet, the office in charge of monitoring governmentwide FOIA compliance and policy is looking for a permanent replacement.

The job was posted today, and it’s of critical importance to both how the government releases information and records as well as how federal agencies share information with the public.  

In fact, there may be no more important a position in all of government when it comes to creating and overseeing FOIA policies.

“OGIS is responsible for reviewing FOIA policies, procedures and compliance within federal agencies and resolving disputes between federal agencies and FOIA requesters,” the posting states. “OGIS is also charged with recommending policy changes to improve the administration of the FOIA to the Congress and the president. The OGIS director chairs the FOIA Advisory Committee, a deliberative committee established by the U.S. Open Government Action Plan and governed by the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.”

Acting Director Nikki Gramian has taken on the role since Nesbit stepped down, but now the National Archives and Records Administration wants to open competition for the permanent position.

And for good reason: OGIS’ recommendations on FOIA policies and its resolutions on disputes between FOIA requesters and administrative agencies set the tone for how transparent the government is.

All told, federal agencies received more than 704,000 FOIA requests in 2013 -- the most recent year for which data are available. The often-tangled process for responding to public records requests has increasingly come under scrutiny. Last year, the number of backlogged FOIA requests -- requests still in the pipeline after 20 days -- ticked up to more than 95,000.

The General Services Administration's 18F digital team has been working with agencies to improve the FOIA process, including by redesigning online forms used to request information. 

The full job posting lists all the duties of the OGIS director position. Qualified applicants must be U.S. citizens with a top secret security clearance and entry into the Senior Executive Service.

And hey, the compensation isn’t too bad: Up to $168,000 per year, in sunny and always warm, never snowy Washington, D.C.

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