Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Handbook
The DoD FOIA Handbook has been revised and is available on the Defense Freedom of Information Policy Office site at FOIA Handbook
This handbook tells you how to obtain information from the Air Force and the different ways to do so. It explains how to submit a FOIA request, where to send it, what types of information and records are available, and gives you our average response times. We also list categories of records that the law exempts from release and procedures for appealing those decisions.
The Air Force provides information and records through various programs and channels:
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an option you may want to use when the releasability of a record is in doubt. The FOIA provides public access to releasable records. It does not require agencies to do research, conduct surveys, compile or analyze data, or to answer questions.
Some of the types of records available through FOIA include the Roswell Report, program element descriptive summaries, contract information, courts-martial, histories, environmental impact statements, training materials, and organizational charts.
FOIA Reading Rooms are available for viewing records on site, if desired, at each FOIA office throughout the Air Force. You can access electronic reading room records from Air Force Link or DefenseLINK.
The Air Force FOIA policy Regulation 5400.7_AFMAN 33-302 and Annual Reports are available electronically, as well as a list of our key FOIA offices.
The four basic guidelines for submitting a FOIA request. (Reference DoD 5400.7-R_AFMAN 33-302, paragraph C1.4.2):
(1) Indicate that it is a FOIA request.
(2) Clearly identify the record(s) being sought and be specific on the type of documents. Avoid terms such as "requesting any and all documents" since this type of request generally requires clarification and responsive documents can include excessive costs for search and releasable documents.
NOTE: Recommend asking for "all releasable information" in your request. This allows the FOIA office to redact or remove information generally exempted under the FOIA program and process your request quicker. FOIA provides access to records and "is not" a forum for answering questions.
(3) Indicate a willingness to pay fees associated with the processing the request or, in the alternative, why a waiver may be appropriate (see DoD 5400.7-R_AFMAN 33-302, section C6.1.4., Fee Waivers). State an actual dollar amount versus a willingness to pay reasonable costs. This avoids guessing what is considered reasonable and you can be contacted should processing costs exceed your limit.
(4) Include a complete mailing address and consider providing a telephone number and/or e-mail address. Should questions arise you will be contacted.
The request is considered properly received or perfected, when the above conditions have been met and the request arrives at the FOIA office of the Component or agency in possession of the records. FOIA requests are processed within 20 work days unless there are unusual circumstances that may justify delay whereby the requester will be contacted.
How to Make a FOIA Request. Effective 30 March 2009: The Air Force has established a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) website for submitting request online to our Requester Service Centers (RSC). Click on the following AF eFOIA Public Access Link (PAL): https://www.efoia.af.mil/palMain.aspx. Once there, we recommend you review all the links listed on the left side as they have been designed to provide information and guidance.
For mailing/faxing contact the FOIA Requester Service Center where the record is located, describe the records you want as specifically as possible and let us know how much you're willing to pay. Furnish any facts or clues about the time, place, persons, events, subjects, or other details of the information or records you want. That will help us decide where to search and determine what records pertain to your request. It can also save you and the government time and money and you may get what you want faster. Mark your request and envelope "FOIA."
If you are seeking records on yourself, this is a Privacy Act request. You will need to provide proof of identity. At this time, all Privacy Act request must be submitted by mailing/faxing directly to the appropriate Requester Service Center.
NOTE: Air Force-affiliated requesters, to include military and civilian employees, should not use government equipment, supplies, stationery, postage, telephones, or official mail channels to make FOIA requests. Requests should be made through personal e-mail or postal service.
Where to Send a FOIA Request. For fastest response times, the Air Force has decentralized its FOIA program. If you want to submit a FOIA inquiry online click here. No single office handles all FOIA requests. If you prefer not to submit on line you can mail/fax your request to the particular base or activity that has the records you want. If you don't know which Air Force activity has the records you want, mail/fax your request to: SAF/AAII, 1000 Air Force Pentagon, Washington, DC 20330-1000; efax: email@example.com
FOIA Costs. The FOIA allows fee charges based on the requester's category. There are three categories: commercial (pay search, review, and reproduction fees); educational, non-commercial scientific institution, and news media (pay reproduction fees; first 100 pages provided at no cost); and others (pay search and reproduction fees; first two hours search and 100 pages provided at no cost). The FOIA also allows waivers or reductions in fees if disclosing the information is in the public interest.
Please note the costs/fees are updated in accordance with 32 CFR Part 286.29 at http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/dfoipo/docs/foiafees.pdf
The Debt Collection Act authorizes federal agencies to charge interest. Interest charged is simple interest (computed on the original principal only) at the rate in effect at the time the debt became overdue. The debt remains fixed for the duration of the debt. The current value fund rate (CVFR) is posted at www.fms.treas.gov/cvfr.
Response Time. Normally, you can expect a response to your FOIA request within 20 business days from the date the proper FOIA office receives it. If special situations exist, the FOIA office will contact you with an estimated completion date and explain the reason for delay. The Air Force works requests on a first-in, first-out basis.
Appeals. You may file an administrative appeal with the Air Force if records responsive to your request are withheld in full or partially denied or if your request for expedited processing or a fee waiver is denied. Your appeal must be received within sixty (60) calendar days from the date of your final response letter. You may submit an appeal online or by mail to the FOIA Requester Service Center that provided you with the final decision on your initial request. Details on the appeal process can be found in the Air Force FOIA Regulation, paragraph C126.96.36.199. Please be specific about why you are submitting the appeal and provide any additional information, if possible.
FOIA Exemptions. The FOIA provides access to federal agency records (or parts of those records) except those protected from release by nine specific exemptions. These are the reasons some Air Force records may not be released:
(2) Internal personnel rules and practices
(3) Exempt by other statute
(4) Commercial information that would cause competitive harm
(5) Predecisional, deliberative information
(6) Invasion of personal privacy
(7) Compiled for law enforcement purposes
(8) Records for the use of any agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions
(9) Records containing geological and geophysical information (including maps) concerning wells
You have the right to appeal all denial decisions within 60 days. Send appeals to the Secretary of the Air Force through the office that initially denied you the information.
Other channels for requesting information, other than FOIA, include:
Public Affairs: accepts requests from news media organizations. Contact that office with questions or requests for records. Their address is: Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Public Affairs, 1690 Air Force Pentagon, Washington DC 20330-1690, telephone: (703) 695-0640.
Mandatory Declassification Review: Executive Order 12958 allows you to request declassification of classified records. Contact: HAF/AAII, 1000 Air Force Pentagon, Washington DC 20330-1000, telephone: (703) 695-2226.
Many offices create records with no release restrictions and will provide them, on request, without citing FOIA. Many are electronically available via the World Wide Web. Examples are biographies, fact sheets, Air Force publications, and historical records. You may locate many of the records you want by using the search tool at Air Force Link. Other search tools include the DoD Resource Locator/Government Information Locator Service (GILS) and Privacy Act Systems of Records Notices. The National Personnel Records Center keeps copies of personnel records on former military and civilian personnel.