GovExec: Modernize FOIA to Increase its Sunshine Effect

Each March is the annual observance of Sunshine Week, which brings awareness to the public’s right to access government records. In an opinion piece for media outlet Government Executive, Dena Kozanas, associate general counsel and chief privacy official at MITRE and former chief FOIA officer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, advises on how the federal government should modernize the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to offer greater trust in our government.

In 2023, the average processing time among all agencies for a simple FOIA request ranged from one day to 636 days. Kozanas advocates that FOIA should be updated to create a uniform compliance framework for all agencies subject to the law, similar to how the National Institute of Standards and Technology offers a standardized cybersecurity and privacy compliance framework. The loosely coined FOIA Compliance Framework would provide uniformity and consistency among the entirety of the federal government to enhance FOIA’s transparency mandate.

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