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Highlights

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes that federal agencies must provide the public with access to government information, enabling them to learn about government operations and decisions. To help ensure proper implementation, the act requires that agencies annually report specific information about their FOIA operations, such as numbers of requests received and processed and median processing times. In addition, a recent Executive Order directs agencies to develop plans to improve their FOIA operations, including decreasing backlogs. GAO was asked to testify on the results of its study on FOIA processing and agencies' improvement plans. The draft report on the study is currently out for comment at the agencies involved (and is thus subject to change). For the study, GAO reviewed status and trends of FOIA processing at 25 major agencies as reflected in annual reports, as well as the extent to which improvement plans contain the elements emphasized by the Executive Order. To do so, GAO analyzed the 25 agencies' annual reports and improvement plans.

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