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About Agency Backlog and Processing Time Data

The monthly statistics displayed in this tool were compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, which administers the FOIA Project. The data are based on request-by-request records from select federal agencies’ own databases that TRAC obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

TRAC requested information on the processing of FOIA requests from more than 20 of the agencies most frequently sued under FOIA. Not all agencies have complied with the FOIA requests. For a list of agencies that received FOIAs in this effort, and results on how they responded to the first round of requests, see this report.

The FOIA request letter that is sent to each agency asks for a listing of each FOIA request the agency has in its current workload, along with the dates of receipt and disposition and the particular track (regular, expedited, etc.) to which the request has been assigned. After the initial request, a new letter is sent at the end of each quarter in order to obtain updated data. Each agency’s timeline reflects how many updates the agency has subsequently furnished. Here is a sample copy of one of these FOIA requests.

Once the data have been received, TRAC checks for completeness and compares basic counts against reports published by the agency. When significant discrepancies are found, the agency is contacted to resolve them before the data can be compiled and added to the chart. TRAC also follows up with the agency if no data are received, if categories of cases are omitted, or if other problems are encountered.

Don’t Find the Agency You Are Looking For?

If an agency you would like to see is not listed, you can help us add that agency’s FOIA backlog and processing times to the chart by signing up to “adopt” that agency. To find out how you or your organization can help expand FOIAproject’s coverage, please contact us using the form at the bottom of this page.

Terminology and Methods

  • Closed Requests: number of FOIA requests closed during a given month.
  • Pending Requests: number of FOIA requests open at the end of a given month.
  • Ave. Days for Closed Requests: average calendar days between receipt and closure dates for requests closed in a given month.
  • Ave. Days for Pending Requests: average calendar days between day of receipt and the last day of the month for requests pending at the end of a given month.

Note: Requests pending on October 1, 2012 had to be estimated. TRAC encountered difficulties in obtaining complete lists of requests pending on October 1, 2012 — the start of our tracking period. To approximate this missing information, we assumed that their distribution for a given agency resembled the distribution of pending days that could be observed for FOIA requests pending as of October 1, 2013 at that same agency. As a result, this will represent an underestimate for those agencies that had cases that were open for more than a year prior to the start of our tracking period.

In the case of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the data we received excludes requests for a person’s individual file(s). We have asked the agency to provide information on these requests as well.

If you have questions, comments or concerns, or want to volunteer to “Adopt an Agency” so that it can be included in these data, please contact us using the form below:

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