On March 8, 2018, the Department of Justice issued a press release announcing the launch of its newly redesigned website, FOIA.gov, which is the first iteration of the new National FOIA portal. This portal is the result of work done by the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Justice Office of Information and Policy and Chief Information Office, and General Services Administration’s 18f team. Work on the portal began after the 2016 FOIA Improvement Act directed the establishment of a consolidated online request portal that would allow the public to submit requests in one place to any agency.
When you access the new portal, there is a message that notes that the website is the first iteration and requests that feedback be sent to National.FOIAPortal@usdoj.gov. Although the site is designed to make submitting a FOIA request easier, it does try to encourage users to look at the provided tips before making a request. Most importantly, the site stresses the need to perform research first, particularly on agency websites, to make sure that the information sought is not already available. There is also a link to a breakdown of agencies by topic available on USA.gov, which will help users find the correct agency to direct requests to.
At the moment, not every agency allows for submission of requests through the new portal. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency is currently not accepting requests through the portal. However, the portal will provide users with information on how to submit FOIA requests to those agencies that are currently not accepting requests through the portal. For the EPA, requests can be submitted through an older online submission form, and a link to the form will appear on the portal. However, there are agencies involved in environmental law that allow submission through the portal including: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Council on Environmental Quality, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Bureau of Land Management. For each agency that allows submission through the portal, there is information about the average processing time for both simple and complex requests in 2016. There is also information about who to contact regarding FOIA requests at that agency.