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Q&A Series with Fred Sadler

Blog: eCase Case Management Blog

Frederick Sadler retired after serving 40 years with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As the Director of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office, he was responsible for administration and implementation of FOIA and Privacy Act (PA) programs.


Question #3: Do you think that any of the requirements in the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 will be rescinded or abolished by the current administration, to give the FOI officers a little slack? 

The short Answer: No
I think that it’s very difficult to turn the clock back and impose restrictions on release. So, for the biggest issue in the 2016 statutory revision – codifying the foreseeable harm test, and limiting the protections on certain records redacted under Exemption 5 for internal, deliberative materials – I don’t envision a change.

However, with the protections lost under Exemption 2 in the Supreme Court decision Milner v. Department of the Navy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see changes along the lines of what the Department of Defense was able to obtain, but that’s only going to happen if there is sufficient support in Congress. At this point, there hasn’t been any indication that this is a priority.


508 Compliance Makes it Harder on FOI Officers
Most of the 2016 Amendment changes are administrative (Annual Report requirements, Chief FOIA officer responsibilities, etc.), but the “rule of 3,” which requires posting released records to an agency internet site, has been and will continue to be, a subject of debate. The real issue is compliance with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires remediation of every document prior to posting, is that it can be both time consuming, and expensive.  
FOIA officers are not IT experts and don’t usually have the training needed to make IT changes. And even if they had such tech-knowledge and the responsibility for implementation, it probably would result in slowing responses. The Department of Justice has raised this issue with the Chief FOIA Officers Council, and they are looking at options.  


508 by the Numbers
In one case that I worked on, a 42,000 page document had to be contracted out, in order to comply, so that it could be posted on-line. The least costly bid was over $90,000 for the single record. That’s not a cost that most agencies can sustain. Without additional funding to contract such work out, some agencies have had to make 508 compliance an adjunct duty for existing IT staff.   


Are you an agency with experience on 508 compliance and are seeing a strain on FOIA Officers?


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