11.19.14

McCaul on GAO report: DHS’s FOIA Backlog Unacceptable

Media Contact: Lauren Claffey; April Ward (202) 226-8477

Today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) processing of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, requested the GAO review, which found DHS has an outstanding number of backlogged FOIA requests due to mismanagement and duplicative efforts between components of the department.

“It is not acceptable for DHS’s FOIA requests to go unanswered,” Chairman McCaul said. “The American people deserve a transparent and efficient department where efforts are not duplicative and taxpayer dollars are effectively and efficiently used. I hope DHS takes immediate action to correct this unproductive process and provide the information requested by and for the American people.”

In 2011, DHS established a goal to reduce the backlog of FOIA requests by 15 percent. However, GAO found that not much progress has been made and at the end of fiscal year 2013, nearly half of all reported backlogged federal FOIA requests belonged to DHS.

Furthermore, GAO found DHS’s FOIA processing has been mismanaged. For example, the report found that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) improperly closed 11,000 FOIA cases and in 2012 a manager found a stack of boxes with 12,000 FOIA requests that CBP never processed.

The GAO report recommends DHS eliminate duplicative processing and direct components to implement recommended and required FOIA system capabilities.

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