FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

1. What is the FOIA?

The FOIA is a Federal law that establishes the public's right to request existing records from Federal government organizations.

2. Who can make a FOIA Request?

Any "person" can file a FOIA request, including U.S. Citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, universities, businesses, and state, local and territorial governments. Fugitives from justice, foreign governments and international governmental organizations or their representatives may not make FOIA requests.

3. What is the FOIA Reading Room?

The FOIA Reading Room is an electronically based system encompassing previously released FOIA documents and documents of which the FOIA office has concluded is of interest to certain parts of the public.

4. If I choose to place a FOIA request, can I expect my identity to be protected?

No, not as a general rule. Yet, your personal information such as your home address and phone number or items which particularly identify you such as your birth date and social security number are protected.

5. How do I make a FOIA request?

You may complete the attached FOIA request form and mail, fax or e-mail to the Exchange's FOIA office. You may also prepare a letter, e-mail or fax your request. Please be certain your request states it is a request under FOIA.

FOIA Request Form

Mail to:
The Exchange
General Counsel Office – FOIA
3911 South Walton Walker Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75236-1598

or

FAX to: 214-465-2912

or

E-mail to: schreurste@aafes.com

6. What type of information do I need to supply when making a FOIA request?

Your request should be clearly stated, in writing, requesting documents or records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Please describe the records you are seeking as specifically as possible. You may wish to include details regarding time, place, persons, events, subjects, or any information which will assist the FOIA office in the locality of the records requested. This will assist in providing you a quicker response and eliminate some or all of the fees.

Please provide your contact information if available; include your physical or mail address, daytime telephone number, and e-mail address.

7. What if I am unhappy with the processing or the time it is taking to get my request completed?

The Exchange FOIA office will do everything possible to assist your needs. In the event your are dissatisfied or have issues for which cannot be resolved with our office, you have the right to obtain dispute resolution services from the Office of Government Information Services (OPIS) at https://ogis.archives.gov or from the Exchange's FOIA Public Liaison, Ms. Alecia Bolling through usarmy.belvoir.hqda-oaa-aha.mbx.rmda-foia@mail.mil.

8. When and how do I file a FOIA appeal?

Any adverse determinations provided to you under FOIA may be appealed. This includes the withholding of documents or information, the denial of a fee waiver request, the denial of a request for expedition, a no-records declaration, or if you believe the Exchange did an inadequate search.

If you choose to appeal, please include the final response letter and a reason why you are appealing. Appeals are mailed to the following address.

Secretary of the Army
Office of the General Counsel
THRU: HQ Exchange
Attn: GC-C
P.O. Box 650060
Dallas, TX
75265-0060

All FOIA appeals are processed and completed by the Secretary of the Army. The Exchange has no control over the conclusion of the Secretary of Army's time or determination of appeals. You should contact the Secretary of the Army to inquire about your appeal.

9. Will I be charged a fee?

FOIA fees are based on whether you are a commercial entity, an educational or non-commercial scientific institution, a member of the news media or a personal requester. There is no obligation to pay if the total fees are less than $25.00.

Fees are based upon DoD regulations and OMB FOIA fee guidance.

  • Commercial: Search, Review, and duplication charges exist at a rate of $48.00/hour or $0.15/page.
  • Educational and Non-commercial Scientific Institutions: There are no fees due for searching or reviewing. Requesters classified under this status will receive the first 100 pages of documents (if released in hard copy format) free of charge. Each additional hard copy format released will be at a rate of $0.15/page.
  • Representatives of the News Media: Individuals classified under this category will receive all searching and reviewing free of charge. The first 100 pages disclosed in hard copy format will be released at no charge. Each additional hard-copy page released will be at a rate of $0.15/page.
  • All Other Requesters: If you do not fall within the previously addressed categories, you will be classified under this category. You will receive the first 2 hours of search time at no charge. Each additional hour will be charged at a rate of $48.00/hour. There is no cost for review. The first 100 pages of documents released in a hard-copy format free will be provided at no cost. Each additional hard-copy page will be at a rate of $0.15/page.

The Exchange may request that you complete justification for proof of classifying you under Educational, Non-commercial Scientific Institutions or News Media.

Other Fees can include:

  • $5.00/each: Disclosure on a CD-ROM
  • $50.00/per page: Certification of Authenticity of Domestic Business Records or Notarization of any released document.
  • $3.50/each: Duplication of microfiche
  • $2.50/each: Duplication of technical drawings, blueprints, etc.
  • Mail Fees: You will be responsible for the cost to the Exchange if you request that documents be mailed by express or overnight delivery.

FOIA fees are due within 30 days of the invoice date. Pursuant to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidelines, outstanding invoices (over 30 days) will be subject to interest beginning at the time the invoice is processed. Late invoices will be subject to additional fees and penalties. See Title 31, U.S.C. §3717, Debt Collection Act of 1982. Invoices not paid may be turned over to the Exchange accounting collection authority in which case individual tax offsets may occur.

10. I am broke. How can I get the records for free?

FOIA allows requesters to submit a fee waiver to see if they can obtain the processing of the request free of charge. Being broke or out of work is not justification for us to approve such a waiver.

Requesters must show that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest, is likely to contribute to public understanding of the operations and activities of the Exchange, and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. Requesters must submit documentation showing how they will use their editorial skills and qualifications in enhancing this understanding instead of confusing the public, how the public will benefit, and how they plan to disseminate the requested information into the public domain.

11. I need the records as quickly as possible. Can I get my request expedited?

The Exchange FOIA office is very concerned that requests are processed as expediently as possible.

When a FOIA requester asks for expedited processing, they must show "exceptional need or urgency" in obtaining the requested records. Examples include; the requester demonstrating that an individual's life or personal safety would be jeopardized by the failure to process the request immediately, substantial due process rights of the requester would be impaired by the failure to process their request immediately, or for media requesters the urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Exchange (or Federal Government) activities exit.

12. Are Congressional records subject to FOIA?

FOIA applies only to records of the Federal executive branch. Records created by Congress are not subject to FOIA. Requesters cannot submit FOIA requests to Congress to obtain records.

13. Are court records subject to FOIA?

FOIA does not cover the judicial or legislative branches of the Federal government and thus FOIA's cannot be used to obtain such records. State and local court records are also not covered by FOIA.

14. What type of records can be requested through FOIA?

A record is the product(s) of data compilation, such as books, papers, maps, photographs, machine readable materials, video surveillance, e-mails, electronic documents made or received by the Exchange and under Exchange control at the time of the FOIA request.

Records do not consist of individual personal notes, records originating with a company such as shared calendars, records originating with Congress.

15. How do FOIA and the Privacy Act of 1974 interact?

Both contain provisions granting a right of access to Federal records.

FOIA applies to "any person". The Privacy Act only applies to U.S. Citizens and aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Records that are created or maintained by the Exchange and under the Exchange control are covered under the FOIA. Records of items or collections of information about individuals which are maintained in a system of records and retrievable by a personal identifier are covered under the Privacy Act.

When the Exchange receives a Privacy Act request for records, the request may be processed under both the Privacy Act and FOIA. When this happens information may only be withheld if it is exempt under both acts, unless the information falls into an exemption. Otherwise the information will be released.

16. What is a Vaughn Index? Am I entitled to One?

A Vaughn Index is a document that is prepared for FOIA litigation in order to justify each withholding of information under a FOIA exemption. A requester whose FOIA request is pending in an administrative stage of processing is not entitled to a Vaughn index.

17. How come I did not get what I requested?

It may be that the Exchange did not have records for which you wanted to obtain. Otherwise, records or information may been withheld under an Exemption.

The FOIA authorizes certain protection from release through the following nine FOIA exemptions. You should have received an explanation of these exemptions when we responded to your request.

Exemption 1: Classified National Security Information Concerning National Defense or Foreign Policy
Exemption 2: Internal Personnel Rules and Practices
Exemption 3: Matters Specifically Exempted from Disclosure by Statute.
Exemption 4: Trade Secrets and Confidential/Proprietary Information
Exemption 5: Internal Memoranda Privileges/Attorney Work Product
Exemption 6: Personal Privacy
Exemption 7: Investigatory Files
Exemption 8: Records of Financial Institutions
Exemption 9: Geological and Geophysical Information

18. When can I expect a response to my FOIA request?

Under usual circumstances, you may expect a response to your request within 20 working days from the date the FOIA office has clarified or perfected your request. In special situations you may be contacted with an estimated completion date and reasons why your request cannot be completed within these 20 days.

19. What is a clarified or perfected request?

A clarified or perfected request is one in which you have provided a specific request to the Exchange for documents or records, have provided your physical address and other contact information, one for which the Exchange has interpreted your request correctly, and one for which you have agreed to abide by the Exchange regulations in the processing of your request.

If your request cannot be processed with 10 working days, the FOIA office will forward you an acknowledgment letter as soon as practical after receiving your request. This letter will interpret your request, provide you our fee structure, and provide you information on how to check the status of the processing of your request. You must acknowledge receipt and understanding of this letter before we can begin processing your request. The statutory time line of 20-work days will begin once you and the FOIA office are on the same page as to what documents you are requesting.

20. You stated you are not required to answer my questions. Why not?

The FOIA does not require a federal agency to do research for a requester, to analyze data, to answer questions, or to create records in order to respond to a request.


Back to top