More FOIA requests, more processing…and a longer backlog

The Justice Department’s FOIA report for 2011 paints a maddening picture: as the agency works to process more requests than ever before, the line just keeps on growing…

Federal agencies processed more than 631,000 requests for government records under the Freedom of Information Act in fiscal 2011, 5 percent more than the year before. But the number of backlogged requests government-wide nonetheless shot up from less than 70,000 to more than 83,000.

The growing backlog is due in part to a significant increase in the number of FOIA requests sent to agencies in 2011. Submissions went from 597,000 in 2010 to 644,000 in 2011, an 8 percent increase. While the government as a whole dedicated 9 percent more full-time staff to FOIA processing and spent almost $20 million more on FOIA-related activities than the year before, backlogged requests nonetheless grew by 20 percent.

The figures come from the Justice Department’s 2011 summary of annual FOIA reports, a compilation of data contained in each agency’s yearly performance report under the 1966 open government law.

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