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FOIA Frequently Asked Questions

Who can file a FOIA request...? 

“Any person” as defined at 5 U.S. C. 551 (2), can file a FOIA request which would include U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, universities, businesses, state and local government, and non-federal or non-federal representatives from media outlets. See the DA&M Memo dated March 4, 2021 for further guidance for Stars and Stripes news representatives. 

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 Who is subject to the FOIA and what type of information can be requested?

The FOIAs scope includes federal executive branch departments, agencies, and offices, federal regulatory agencies, and federal corporations. Congress, the federal courts, and parts of the executive office of the president are not subject to the FOIA. State and local governments are likewise not subject to the federal FOIA, but most states have their own equivalent access laws for state documents. If you desire to request documents under the state's FOIA regulations, an internet search engine is a good starting point.

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What is an Agency Record?

Includes all documents and records created or obtained by a U.S. Government agency that are in the agency’s possession and control at the time a FOIA request is received.

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Does the Agency have to create a record or answer questions? 

No.  To be subject to the FOIA, a record must exist and be in the DoD possession and control when the DoD Component searches for it.  The agency is not obligated to create, compile, answer questions, or render opinions to satisfy a FOIA request.

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How long will it take for my request to be processed?

Requests are processed in order by date of receipt and according to their complexity. These are called complex and simple queuing tracks. Whenever possible, an initial determination to release or deny a record is made within 20 working days after receipt of the perfected request by the official who is designated to respond. However, due to the hundreds of requests received annually, the agency may need additional time to answer your request. Under certain conditions, expedited access may be granted if there is a compelling need, such as a threat to life and safety, if a person engaged in disseminating information has an urgency to inform the public on actual or alleged federal Government activity, an imminent loss of substantial due process rights, or a humanitarian need.

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Do I have to pay for a FOIA request?  Fees are defined in 32 C.F.R. 286 and  OMB Guidelines for FOIA Fees and Fees at a glance

FOIA allows fees to be charged to certain types of requesters.  FOIA requires that requesters be placed into one of the below categories:

Commercial Requesters who seek information for a use or purpose that furthers their commercial, trade, or profit interest are considered commercial requesters. Commercial requesters pay all fees for search, review and duplication.

Educational Institutions of education, including preschools, elementary or secondary schools and institutions of higher learning, qualify as educational institutions. The records must be sought in furtherance of scholarly research. Educational requesters pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest. The first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

Non-Commercial Scientific A non-commercial scientific institution is operated solely for conducting scientific research. The records must be sought in furtherance of scientific research. Like educational requesters, these requesters pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest. The first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

News Media A representative of the news media is a person actively gathering news for an entity organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. News media pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest. Again, the first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

Other Requesters Requesters who do not qualify in another category are considered other requesters, and normally make requests for agency records for their personal use. Other requesters receive two hours search, all review costs, and the first 100 pages at no cost. All requesters should state a willingness to pay fees regardless of the fee category; however, this does not mean you will be charged fees.

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What are the reasons for not releasing a record?

1. A reasonable search of files failed to identify responsive records.
2. The requests were transferred to another DoD component, or to another federal agency.
3. The request was withdrawn by the requester.
4. The requester was unwilling to pay fees associated with a request; the requester is past due in the payment of fees from a previous FOIA request; or the requester disagrees with the fee estimate.
5. A record has not been described with sufficient particularity to enable the DoD component to locate it by conducting a reasonable search.
6. The requester has failed to comply with procedural requirements, other than fee-related, imposed by regulations.
7. The information requested is not a record within the meaning of the FOIA and this regulation.

8. The request is a duplicate request (e.g. a requester asks for the same information more than once). This includes identical requests received via different means (e.g. electronic mail, facsimile, mail, courier) at the same or different times.

9.  Any other reason a requester does not comply with published rules other than those outlined above.

10. The record is denied in whole or in part in accordance with procedures set forth in the FOIA.

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What are the FOIA Exemptions and Exclusions?

The Freedom of Information Act provides that the agency will provide access to identifiable documents within its possession unless one of nine exemptions or three exclusions applies. The exact language of the law and its exemptions can be found in the DoD FOIA Manual

Nine Exemptions:
Exemption One: Classified national defense and foreign relations information.
Exemption Two: Internal agency personnel rules and practices.
Exemption Three: Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.
Exemption Four: Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential.
Exemption Five: Inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that are protected by legal privileges.  (Safety Investigation Privilege)
Exemption Six: Personnel, medical, financial, and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
Exemption Seven: Certain types of information compiled for law enforcement purposes.
Exemption Eight: Records that are contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of any agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.
Exemption Nine: Geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells. 
Three Exclusions:
 (c)(1) Exclusion: Subject of a criminal investigation or proceeding is unaware of the existence of records concerning the pending investigation or proceeding and disclosure of such records would interfere with the investigation or proceeding.
(c)(2) Exclusion: Informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency and the individual's status as an informant is not known.
(c)(3) Exclusion: Existence of FBI foreign intelligence, counterintelligence or international terrorism records are classified fact.

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For assistance with or to discuss any aspect of your request:

Contact our office at 757-444-3520 ext. 6055 or the Navy’s FOIA Public Liaison, Mr. Christopher Julka at christopher.a.julka@navy.mil; donfoiapublicliaison@navy.mil  or 703-697-0031.  Additionally, you may contact the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives and Records Administration to inquire about the FOIA mediation services.  The contact information for OGIS is:  Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, OGIS, College Park, Maryland, 20740-6004, email: ogis@nara.gov or 877-684-6448.

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What should I do if my request is denied?

Whenever a FOIA request is denied, either in whole or in part you have a right to appeal this determination in writing within 90 days from the date of the denial letter to the designee of the Secretary of the navy under the FOIA statute. Address your appeal to the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Code 14), 1322 Patterson Ave., S.E., Ste. 3000, Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5066.

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Contact Info: 757-444-3520 Ext: 6055 | POC: SAFE-FOIA@navy.mil