Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Act / Privacy Act

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a Federal Law that establishes the public's right to request existing records from Federal Government agencies. The FOIA provides for prompt, maximum release of DoD records to the public unless such requested records are specifically exempt from mandatory public disclosure under the FOIA. Only the Secretary of the Army and the Initial Denial Authorities (IDAs) may deny a request for Army records.

The Privacy Act of 1974, establishes a Code of Fair Information Practice that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies. A system of records is a group of records under the control of an agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifier assigned to the individual. The Privacy Act requires that agencies give the public notice of their systems of records by publication in the Federal Register. The Privacy Act prohibits the disclosure of information from a system of records absent the written consent of the subject individual, unless the disclosure is pursuant to one of twelve statutory exceptions. The Act also provides individuals with a means by which to seek access to and amendment of their records, and sets forth various agency record-keeping requirements.


FOIA Regulations

Army Regulation 25-55 (pdf), The Department of the Army Freedom of Information Act Program, 1 November 1997.

Department of Defense 5400.7-R (pdf), Department of Defense Freedom of Information Act Program, September 1998.

Department of Defense Freedom of Information Act Handbook (pdf)

Privacy Act Regulations

Army Regulation 340-21 (pdf), The Army Privacy Program, 5 July 1985

Privacy PII Training  Provides basic training in Privacy and protecting Personal Identifying Information.

This list provides materials and numerous handouts regarding Privacy Act and Personal Identifying Information (PII).

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the commonly asked questions regarding the Freedom of Information Act.

Question 1  Who can file a FOIA request?
Question 2  What is a record?
Question 3  Can we ask questions under the FOIA?
Question 4  How Do I File a FOIA request?
Question 5  What are reasons for not releasing a record?
Question 6 
What are FOIA exemptions?  
Question 7 
What is denial?  
Question 8 
Do I have to pay for a FOIA request?

Question 1
Any person can file a FOIA request, including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, universities, businesses and state and local governments. Federal employees may, as private citizens, request records under the FOIA. These requests must be prepared at their own expense and on their own time. They may not use Government equipment, supplies, or postage.
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Question 2
 A record is the product of data compilation such as all books, papers, maps and photographs, machine readable materials, inclusive of those in electronic form or format, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal Law in connection with the transaction of public business and in Army possession and control at the time the FOIA request is made.
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Question 3
The FOIA does not require Federal Agencies to answer questions, render opinions, or provide subjective evaluations. Requesters must ask for existing records, such as those mentioned above.
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Question 4
FOIA requests must be submitted in writing to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord FOIA Office.  Label your request "Freedom of Information Act Request" within the request letter and on the envelope, and address the request to the Military Command or installation likely to have the information you seek. You can use this form to request your information.  Requests to this installation should be addressed as follows:

Department of the Army

DHR/Administrative Services Division

ATTN:  FOIA/PA Officer

P.O. Box 339500, Mail Stop 85

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA  98433-9500

Email:  usarmy.jblm.imcom.list.dhr-asd-foia-pa@mail.mil

If you do not know the location of the information you are seeking, you may contact the Department of the Army Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts Office, 7701 Telegraph Road, Alexandria, VA 22315-3905, phone (703) 428-6508.

In your request, you must state your willingness to pay applicable fees. If you seek a fee waiver, provide a justification for such a waiver.

Describe the specific records you are requesting in enough detail so that they can be located with a reasonable amount of effort. Generally a record is reasonably described when the description contains sufficient file-related information (type of documents, title, subject area, date of creation, originator, etc.); or the request contains enough event-related information (date and circumstances surrounding the event the record covers) to permit the conduct of an organized, non-random search.
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Question 5
There are seven reasons why the Army may not release a record requested under FOIA.

1. The request is transferred to another Army Component or Federal Agency.
2. The Army component determines through knowledge of its files and reasonable search efforts that it neither controls nor otherwise possesses the requested record.
3. A record has not been described with sufficient detail to enable the Army Component to locate it by conducting a reasonable search.
4. The requestor has failed unreasonably to comply with procedural requirements, including payment of fees, imposed by the FOIA and AR 25-55.
5. The request is withdrawn by the requestor.
6. The information requested is not a record within the meaning of the FOIA and AR 25-55.
7. The record is denied in whole or part in accordance with procedures set forth in the FOIA and AR 25-55. (see FOIA exemptions below).

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Question 6
The following types of records may be withheld by the IDA in whole or in part from public disclosure under the FOIA, unless otherwise prescribed by law.

1. Records currently and properly classified in the interest of national defense or foreign policy.
2. Records related solely to internal personnel rules and practices of DoD or any of its components whose release would allow the circumvention of these records thereby substantially hindering the effective performance of a significant function of the DoD component.
3. Records that a statute (or law) specifically exempts from disclosure by terms that permit no discretion on the issue, or in accordance with criteria established by that statute for withholding or referring to particular types of matters to be withheld.
4. Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a private source which would cause substantial competitive harm to the source if disclosed.
5. Internal advice, recommendations, and subjective evaluations, as contrasted with factual matters, that are reflected in records pertaining to the decision-making process of an agency and records pertaining to the attorney-client privilege.
6. Records which, if released, would result in a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
7. Records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes.
8. Records for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.
9. Records containing geological and geophysical information and data (including maps) concerning wells.

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Question 7
When information is withheld, whether partially or fully, this constitutes a denial under FOIA. A request may be denied for one or more of the aforementioned exemptions. When this happens, you will be notified in writing by an Initial Denial Authority (IDA) and given appeal rights. IDAs are denial authorities for records that fall under their functional areas. If your request is denied partially you will receive information that has portions deleted. Redacted or sanitized records have the denied information removed from where it was originally located within the document. There are usually two methods for sanitizing a document; one is to blacken out the denied information, and the other is to completely remove it.
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Question 8
The FOIA allows fees to be charged to requesters based upon their fee category. Any fees for previous FOIA requests must be paid in full prior to processing new requests.

Waivers or reductions in fees may be given if disclosing the information is in the public interest. Public interest is defined as information which significantly enhances the public's knowledge of the operations and activities of the Army. The FOIA requires that requesters be placed into one of the below fee categories:

       Commercial. Requesters who seek fee 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 Institution. 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 Institution. A non-commercial scientific institution is operated solely for conducting scientific research. The records must be sought in furtherance of scientific research, the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry. 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 publicize 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" Requester: 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 submit a willingness to pay fees statement regardless of the fee category, however, this does not mean you will be charged fees. Except for commercial requesters whose fees total more than $15, waivers are always considered. Fee waivers may be granted when the disclosure of the records is in the public interest and the records are likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. The following factors are weighed in making a fee waiver determination:


       The subject of the request.

       The informative value of the information to be disclosed.

       The contribution to an understanding of the subject by the general public likely to result from the disclosure.

       The significance of the contribution to the public understanding.


DD2086 - Record of Freedom of Information (FOI) Processing Cost Form (used to compute FOIA costs). (pdf)

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