Freedom of Information Act Support to the Secretary of Defense

Freedom of Information Act Support to the Secretary of Defense

Client: Office of the Executive Secretariat, Office of the Secretary of Defense

The 1966 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is fundamental to the President’s and Department of Defense’s commitment to openness and transparency. FOIA establishes the right, enforceable in court, of the public to obtain access to records from Federal government agencies. Certain documents, or parts of documents, are exempt from release under FOIA based on a set of established criteria, such as their classification for national security reasons. While many Defense Department components maintain their own FOIA review offices, the contract FOIA team supporting the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (Policy), offers a unique and highly efficient solution for reviewing FOIA cases.

Policy’s FOIA review process aligns functionally under the Office of the Secretary of Defense FOIA Office and is augmented by ANSER’s team of FOIA-trained contractors who pre-screen and manage Policy’s FOIA workload in preparation for government review and determination by Policy subject matter experts and leaders. This highly skilled team similarly manages Policy’s Mandatory Declassification Review process when responding to public requests for access to classified records. Established by Executive Order 13526 and similar to FOIA, the Declassification Review process is specific to classified documents and compels agencies to declassify records that no longer meet the standards of classification. FOIA and Declassification Review requests come from many different sources including journalists, academics, and members of Congress.

The ANSER team provides invaluable support to Policy by managing all aspects of the FOIA Declassification Review process leading up to final government review and determination of each case. This support includes receiving, reviewing, tasking, and staffing each case and working directly with Policy’s action officers and leaders.  The ANSER team vastly increases Policy’s FOIA Declassification Review throughput – both in speed and volume of cases – by taking on all of the FOIA Declassification Review process and staffing. This enables action officers and leaders to spend more time on urgent mission work while still applying subject matter expertise on FOIA and Declassification Reviews.

The ANSER team also manages Policy’s high volume and often short-fused Security Reviews of pre-publication books, articles, academic papers, and congressional testimonies. These materials are often written by individuals in the both the public and private sector and because they deal with US defense matters they must, by law, undergo a Defense Department security review prior to publication. The ANSER team staffs these Security Reviews in a similar fashion to FOIA and Declassification Review requests, working with Policy government staff for final determination.

A Policy Chief of Staff recently commented that the FOIA Declassification/Security Review team is a ‘Best Practice’ solution that improves Policy’s ability to implement the President’s direction for transparency and responsiveness to the public without imposing a large administrative burden on case management. As a result of the excellent work of the Team, Policy government action officers and leaders are able to promptly and securely determine cases while maintaining a high-operational tempo and managing Policy’s other mission priorities.

ANSER Projects, Joint Operations