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Freedom of Information Act Importance to CDC Mission

CDC has one overriding goal: to protect the health of all Americans. At the core of this mission is information sharing – not just health information and disease study results, but information CDC gathers as part of a continuous process of putting information into action. As a science-based agency funded by U.S. taxpayers, CDC is committed to openness and accountability.

CDC makes its activities, programs, and data sets public in many different ways, ranging from scientific publications, to public health and clinical guidance recommendations, to web postings. CDC is subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which provides a standardized process for citizens to request documents in CDC’s possession. CDC strongly endorses both the letter and the spirit of this Act. In fact, CDC responds to approximately 1,000 FOIA requests a year and provides hundreds of thousands of pages of records to requestors.

Since 2007 CDC has tripled its dedicated FOIA staff. Nevertheless, CDC’s backlog of FOIA cases has been increasing for the last four years, mainly due to the increasing breadth and complexity of FOIA requests. For example, just the internal email portion of an “all info on Ebola” FOIA request included 10.6 million emails. All material covered by such requests must be carefully reviewed and, where necessary, redacted to remove FOIA-exempt information, such as any patient identifiers or materials which are related to national security. Additional information about the FOIA and the HHS FOI regulations can be found at the following web address: Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy and Freedom of Information Regulations .

A CDC FOIA study conducted in 2013 resulted in 20 proposed actions to speed and improve processing of CDC’s FOIA requests and reduce the backlog. These actions include increased staffing of the FOIA office, improved training of FOIA staff, major upgrades to CDC’s FOIA processing technology, a new performance management system, and a service contract to process over 1 million pages of information. All of these actions are complete or underway, and we continue to seek additional improvements.

CDC considers information sharing to be a cornerstone of its scientific mission: protecting the health of Americans 24/7.

Each FOIA office in HHS has a FOIA Requester Service Center that processes relevant FOIA requests.