The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) generally provides that any person, including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, universities, businesses, and state and local governments has the right to federal records, enforceable in court, except to the extent that such records (or portions of them) are protected from public disclosure by one of nine exemptions. FOIA requests can be made for any reason, with no showing of relevancy required, and FOIA requesters are under no requirement to explain or justify their requests. The FOIA does not require federal agencies to answer questions, render opinions, or provide subjective evaluations. These exemptions may be withheld by the Initial Denial Authority in whole or in part under the FOIA, unless prescribed by law. Under Army Regulation 25-55, The Army Freedom of Information Act Program, an Initial Denial Authority (IDA) must make initial determinations to release or withhold records under the FOIA. If the request is initially denied in whole or in part under one or more of the exemptions or denied for some other reason, the requester has the right to appeal within sixty (60) days through the agency/IDA that denied the records. That agency/IDA will then forward the appeal package to the Army Office of General Counsel.
The relationship between the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act
A Privacy Act request is submitted in accordance with Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 5400.11, May 8, 2007 Privacy Program, and DOD Regulation 5400.11-R, May 14, 2007 and the Army Privacy Program, Army Regulation 340-21
for access pertaining to an individual, for personal information, and/or for information contained in a system of record. If all or any portion of the requested material is to be denied. A Privacy Act request in accordance with the Army Privacy Program, Army Regulation 340-21 for access to records will be processed also as a Freedom of Information Act request. If all or any portion of the requested material is to be denied, it must be considered under the substantive provisions of both the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act. Any withholding of information must be justified by asserting a legally applicable exemption in each Act.
The principles of government openness and accountability underlying the FOIA are inherent in the democratic ideal: The basic purpose of the FOIA is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society.
The Freedom of Information Act, which is known by its legal cite as 5 U.S.C. § 552, along with the DoD Regulation, governs how requests will be processed within the DoD. DoD Regulation 5400.7-R, "Department of Defense Freedom of Information Act Program," can be found at Part 286 of Chapter 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The U.S. Army Installation Management Command administers the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)/Privacy Act (PA) Programs in compliance with 5 USC 552 (as amended), 32 CFR 518, DoD Directive 5400.7, and AR 25-55, and Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 5400.11, May 8, 2007, Privacy Program, and DOD Regulation 5400.11-R, May 14, 2007, DOD Privacy Program and Army Regulation 340-21, the Army Privacy Program.
How to make a Perfected FOIA/Privacy Act Request:
- You will need to cite the FOIA authority (i.e., Title 5, U.S.C. 552, The Freedom of Information Act) and describe the specific records you are requesting in enough detail (i.e., type of document, title, subject area, date of creation, contract number, originator, etc.) (See Sample letter or the request contains enough event-related information (i.e., date and circumstances surrounding the event the record covers) to permit the conduct of an organized, non-random search so that records can be located with a reasonable amount of effort and you must declare the requester's category for assessment of Fees. All requesters must indicate a willingness to pay fees regardless of the fee category associated with the processing of your request even though you may request a waiver with your explanation for a waiver of fees.
- In order to protect your privacy as well as the privacy of others, whenever you request information about yourself, you will be asked to provide either a notarized statement, or a statement signed under penalty of perjury stating that you are the person that you say you are.
- Requesters must ask for existing records. Only records or portions of records will be disclosed unless that disclosure harms an interest protected by one of the nine FOIA exemptions.
- In accordance with the FOIA, the FOIA Officer do not answer questions; render opinions; or provide subjective evaluations; to research records for you; to analyze data; or create a record in order to respond to your request. The purpose of FOIA is to provide records.
- When the FOIA Officer determines your FOIA request is perfected, she or he will send you a letter by mail or an electronic response e.g. email acknowledging the request (if you provide an email address). If you do not provide all necessary information, the FOIA officer will advise you of what additional required information is needed before further processing your request. At this point, your request is considered non-perfected or not a valid request.
- After phase of acknowledgement of your perfected request is accomplished, your records are requested. Once records are received and reviewed by the FOIA officer, she or he may determine that your request must be referred to another Federal Agency if the record(s)you seek originated with that agency.
Where to Submit my Request?
Each federal agency is responsible for meeting the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)/Privacy requirement for their agency's records. Requesters, who have questions concerning the status of their request, or the agency’s response, should refer to the US Army FOIA Requester Service Centers List. This listing will assist you in determining where best to submit your FOIA request.
All Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) FOIA request submissions in addition to garrison operations and management of Army installation support activities must go through the U.S. Army Installation Management Command Freedom of Information Act Requester Service Center at firstname.lastname@example.org
for acceptance of your FOIA request.
There are several ways to submit a FOIA/Privacy Act request. You may mail your inquiry or send it by eMail. Email requests are permitted unless a signature is required, such as a request for records subject to the Privacy Act. Email requests should include the notation "Freedom of Information Act Request" in the subject. Mark your request and envelope "FOIA." Include your complete postal service mailing address on your request.
Mail your written request to:
U.S. Army Installation Management Command
2405 Gun Shed
Attn: Freedom of Information Act Office
Fort Sam Houston, Texas 78234
Submit FOIA eMail Request to:
After your original submission, if you have questions or want to know an update, please submit a FOIA status requests
to addresses below:
When can I expect a response to my request?
Normally, you can expect a response to your FOIA request within 20 days (except for Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal Holidays) from the date the FOIA office receives it. If special situations exist, the FOIA office will contact you with an estimated completion date and explain the reason for the delay. The HQ IMCOM FOIA Office work requests on a first-in, first-out basis
FOIA Requester Service Center Hours of Operation:
The Installation Management Command FOIA Requester Service Center Hours of Operation are 0800-1630 Central Time, Monday-Friday. FOIA/PA telephone numbers are: (210) 466-0433.
Other Important Information
To assist you with your request, we have provided information on the authority, procedures, rules and regulations pertinent to the Command's processing of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy requests. Also provided are resource links to various sites, which you may find helpful in understanding and interpreting the Acts.