Waiting for a FOIA response

An electronic street sign stating "long delays possible"

Flickr user Umayyr

More than three months ago, we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request┬áto the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for all of the enterprise data inventories and data inventory schedules that each agency was required to develop as part of President Obama’s open data executive order. A quick six calendar days after that, we got a response from OMB confirming that they had received our request.

Then we waited.

Under FOIA, agencies have 20 business days to respond with a “determination,” including a description of what they will disclose and withhold, an explanation of their withholding, and information about how the requester can appeal. We’re still waiting more than three months later.

Under the executive order, agencies were required to come up with a list of every data set that they hold. Agencies released parts of these lists as their public data listings, but they held back their entire enterprise data inventories, including information about the non-public data that agencies hold. We asked for these comprehensive documents, arguing that “without seeing the entire enterprise data inventories, it is impossible for the public to know what data is being collected and stored by the government and to debate whether or not that data should be made public.”

The deadline for a OMB’s response has come and gone and it is unclear what is causing the delay. We are frustrated that we haven’t heard back from OMB at all and, worse, our options to proceed are limited until we do.

We’ll be following up formally with OMB shortly and hope to, at least, find out why we have had to wait, and wait, for a response.