48 Years after Creation of Freedom of Information Act, State Dept., Defense Dept. and VA Get Failing Grades

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been an important tool since 1966 for citizens and the media to learn what goes on inside the executive branch of government. But many cabinet-level departments have done a very poor job of facilitating or responding to FOIA requests, according to one government watchdog group.


The Center for Effective Government used three criteria in judging how well federal offices handle public inquiries under the law. They involved the processing of requests, the creation of rules that explain why some information isn’t released, and the development of user-friendly websites specific to FOIA requests.


Among the 15 federal agencies reviewed using the criteria, not a single one received an A grade.


The highest score was a B, which went to the Social Security Administration for exceptional processing of FOIA requests. But it got low marks for its rules and website.


The Department of Justice (DOJ) came in second with a B- for good rules and website, but poor performance for actually releasing information.


That was it for the B’s.


There were only two C’s: the Environmental Protection Agency got a C+ (strong rules and website, so-so job of processing requests) and the Department of Agriculture received a “C” (mediocre job across the board).


Four agencies got D’s: the Department of Transportation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Health and Human Services (whose grade was a D-).


Then there were the flunkies.


The Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Homeland Security, and State received F’s as did the National Archives and Records Administration and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


The State Department had the distinction of earning the lowest overall score of any agency (37%).

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Making the Grade: Access to Information Scorecard 2014 (Center for Effective Government)

Access to Information Scorecard 2014: Agency Summaries (Center for Effective Government)

National Security Increasingly Cited in Freedom of Information Act Denials; EPA Suspected of Selective Obstruction (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

VA Accused of Destroying Documents Sought by Freedom of Information Request (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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