Essential or extravagant: Considering FOIA budgets, costs and fees

Source: A.J. Wagner, Government Information Quarterly, In Press – Corrected Proof, Available online 14 September 2017
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From the abstract:
This study seeks to square the competing arguments of the Freedom of Information Act’s necessity versus its financial burden by analyzing more than 500 FOIA annual reports, representing 93% of all cabinet- level data from 1975 until 2015.

FOIA expenses account for less than 1% of agency budgets, and while costs per request have increased over time, the small proportion of FOIA expense versus general budgets has remained stagnant.

• A database of cabinet-level FOIA annual reports from 1975 to 2015 is analyzed.
• There are no federal requirements or close scrutiny of FOIA funding and budgets.
• Fees collected have accounted for only 3.2% of FOIA costs.
• Departments have accrued $6.3 billion in FOIA costs since 1975, or $386 per request.
• FOIA costs have amounted to 0.011% of general departmental budgets.