Freedom of Information Act:

State Department Request Processing

GGD-89-23: Published: Jan 23, 1989. Publicly Released: Mar 8, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of State's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request processing operations.

GAO found that State: (1) received 7,567 FOIA requests from 1985 through 1987; (2) took longer than 6 months to complete three-fourths of the requests; (3) reported a backlog of 3,700 requests; (4) recognized that its limited staff could not keep up with the work load and hired temporary employees, which helped reduce its backlog by over 50 percent; and (5) administratively closed 220 requests in a 1986 effort to reduce its backlog, but resumed processing the cases in 1988. GAO also found that: (1) although document search and retrieval frequently took less than an hour of actual staff time, 40 or more days often elapsed before reviewers actually completed requests due to limited staff and insufficient management controls; and (2) State took management initiatives to establish accountability in its review process, scheduled reviewers to provide greater work continuity, and created a performance rating system to evaluate reviewers.

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