The controversial idea of the “unitary executive” in which all executive power is vested in the President of the United States may be a coherent legal theory. But in reality, things don’t happen within the executive branch simply because the President commands them. In practice, what we have is a “fragmentary executive” the efficacy of which is entirely dependent on the competence and the good faith of thousands of officials who must consciously choose to implement the declared policies of the Administration.
With that in mind, it is noteworthy that the Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, reiterated and endorsed the President’s Freedom of Information Act policy in a memorandum (pdf) to senior Energy Department officials this month.
“All DOE employees have the responsibility to ensure the success of the agency’s FOIA program,” Secretary Chu wrote. “We can no longer use competing agency priorities and insufficient technological support as a basis for not responding to requests expeditiously. DOE employees should no longer view FOIA as an additional duty. It is your responsibility to ensure that FOIA requests are responded to in a timely manner.”
“I want to make it clear that DOE will adhere to the President’s and Attorney General’s guidance,” Secretary Chu concluded. See “Freedom of Information Act,” memorandum for heads of departmental elements from Energy Secretary Steven Chu, June 5, 2009 (thanks to nukewatch.org).