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A Reference Model for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

By David Bloom , Eliot Wilczek

The FOIA Reference Model (FRM) is an end-to-end business specification that provides a standardized “vocabulary” for business and technical stakeholders to describe FOIA needs that can be used to analyze FOIA programs and technology solutions.

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The purpose of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is to enable an informed citizenry by providing the public with access to information that sheds light on a federal agency’s activities and performance of its statutory duties. Complying with the law means agencies must establish FOIA programs that can sustainably support complex operations at scale and consistently meet challenging deadlines. Currently, each agency supports and manages its own FOIA operation, and while the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy (DOJ/OIP) provides agencies with FOIA guidance and legal interpretation, there exists no standard for describing the business functionality and data needed to operate a FOIA system.

MITRE addressed this gap with the creation of the FOIA Reference Model (FRM) version 1.0, an end-to-end business specification, comprising process and data models, activity definitions, common services, agile-like user stories, and other systems engineering constructs. Our aim was to define a superset of capabilities that serves as a standard and consistent “vocabulary” for business and technical stakeholders to describe FOIA needs. The model, which addresses both operational and analytical FOIA capabilities, strives to be an idealized, yet realistic, view of FOIA needs. Given the unique needs, sizes, and complexities of each agency’s FOIA program, the FRM’s defined capabilities are intended to be evaluated holistically and applied by agencies selectively. The development of the FOIA Reference Model was funded by MITRE’s independent research and development program.

To download the editable ancillary Excel and Visio files click  here .