In the wake of the GSA Travel Scandal, bills have made it through both the Senate and the House that drastically limit government travel to conferences. While oversight of government travel to conferences is definitely a needed thing, a drastic limitation of travel to conferences is something that will have a drastic effect on agency FOIA Operations.
Most agency FOIA Operations are already having difficulty training employees in the complexities of government access rules. Anyone who has dealt with the issues concerning the FOIA, Privacy Act and other disclosure and records laws knows just how difficult applying these laws to the real world can be. Having training opportunities, be it through the Department of Justice, the American Society of Access Professionals, individual agency training at offsites, or other third party educators allow agencies to train their employees, work through these issues and provide better customer service. Agencies who do not provide FOIA training to employees often find themselves in conflict with not only requesters but other agencies involved in either FOIA processing or litigation. The cost of not having FOIA training cannot be measured in dollars and is a necessary requirement of any successful FOIA Operation.
I urge all of my readers to contact their Senators and Representatives in Congress and ask them that they reconsider their support of the bills as currently written banning and/or severely limiting travel.
Update: The budget crunch has already affected training outside of Washington, D.C. as the Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy has cancelled its Aug. 14-15 training that was scheduled to be held in Seattle, Washington.