FAQs for requesting Government Documents

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 What is the FOIA?
The FOIA is a mechanism by which members of the general public can obtain copies of Government documents.
 How long does it take to get a response to a request?
Once a proper FOIA request is received, the FOIA Officer has 20 working days to submit a response. This is required by statute. This requirement ensures that requests are not forgotten, and that they are dealt with efficiently. To check on the status of your request call 509-527-7706 or email FOIA-NWW@usace.army.mil
 FOIA Fees

There is no initial fee to make a FOIA request, and in many cases no fees are charged. However, we are authorized by law to recover the direct costs of providing information to a FOIA requester. For purposes of fees only, the FOIA divides requesters into three categories:

·        commercial use requesters,

·        news media, educational, or scientific requesters; and

·        all other requesters.

Commercial use requesters are charged for search time, document review, and duplication. News media, educational, and scientific requesters are charged for duplication only, after the first 100 pages. All other requesters are charged for search time (after two hours) and duplication (after 100 pages). In all cases, if the total fee does not exceed $15.00, the Corps of Engineers will not charge any fee at all.

In your request letter you may make a specific statement limiting the amount of fees you are willing to pay.If your estimated fees exceed $250.00, you will be given the opportunity to narrow your request in order to reduce the fees or you will be asked to express your commitment to pay the estimated amount. Ordinarily, for fees under $250.00 you will not be required to actually pay the fees until the records have been located and are ready to be sent to you.

Fee schedule (as of 08/2/2018):

·        duplication charges:

·        paper reproduction – 15 cents per page

·        computer tapes and print-outs – direct costs and labor costs

Search Charges:

·        $24.00 per hour for clerical staff

·        $48.00 per hour for professional staff

·        $110.00 per hour for executive staff

Review Charges:

·        $24.00 per hour for clerical staff

·        $48.00 per hour for professional staff

·        $110.00 per hour for executive staff

Fee Waivers

If you expect or are advised that a fee will be charged, you may request a fee waiver of those fees. However, fee waivers are limited to situations in which a requester can show that disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. For a more complete explanation of fee and fee waiver matters, go to the Department of Defense FOIA Regulations and scroll down to the "Fees" subheading.

 What kinds of documents can I get?

While the FOIA aims to provide an “open door” to the general public in its ability to access documents and Government material, because of various reasons there are nine separate exemptions that can apply to documents (or parts thereof) that can not be released.

Records that are subject to any of the following exemptions are withheld, in general, because of their role(s) in Government security, personal privacy, law enforcement, and/or legal issues. Army Regulation 25-55 states that records can be withheld because their release would jeopardize Government interests.

 What are the FOIA exemptions?
  1. Documents that are properly and currently “Classified” in the interest of National defense or foreign policy are subject to Exemption 1.
  2. Documents that are related solely to internal procedures, rules, and practices of the Department of Defense (and/or its components) are subject to Exemption 2.
  3. Documents that concern matters where a statute specifically exempts from disclosure (archaeological resources, National security matters, etc.) are subject to Exemption 3.
  4. Documents containing trade secrets, commercial or financial information for a Department of Defense component are subject to Exemption 4.
  5. Documents containing internal advice, recommendations, or subjective evaluations are largely subject to Exemption 5.
    1. This exemption is fairly complicated, however, and many considerations must be made prior to withholding any information.
  6. Documents from personnel, medical, or other files where a clear (unwarranted) invasion of personal privacy would result, are subject to Exemption 6.
  7. Documents that contain information compiled for law enforcement purposes are subject to Exemption 7.
  8. Documents relating to examination, operation, and regulation of financial institutions are subject to Exemption 8.
  9. Documents containing geological and physical information and data pertaining to wells are subject to Exemption 9.

For more detailed descriptions of the FOIA Exemptions click here: FOIA Guide

To assist you with your request, we have provided information on the procedures, rules and regulations pertinent to the Corps of Engineers’ processing of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Also provided are links to various sites, which you may find helpful in understanding and interpreting the Act.

FOIA Statute

· Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – link to the full text of the Act at the Department of Justice website.

FOIA Regulations – The Corps of Engineers is subject to DoD and Army FOIA Regulations:· Department of Defense Freedom of Information Act Regulations, DoDM 5400.07; 32 CFR Part 286.

Helpful FOIA Links

· Department of the Army FOIA Website

· Department of Defense FOIA Website

· Department of Justice/FOIA Website

Privacy Act Information

· The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, as amended

· Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974

Other Useful Resources

USACE FOIA Annual Reports

Army Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room

Federal Register

Code of Federal Regulations

FOIA Frequently Asked Questions

More information can be found at: http://www.usace.army.mil/FOIA.aspx

Requesting Government Documents

A FOIA request must be made in writing and sent to the FOIA office either via e-mail (preferred) or regular mail. Both addresses are in the sidebar.

Requests should include:

  • Your full name.
  • Your company/firm name(if applicable).
  • Your physical mailing address.
  • An E-mail address (if applicable).
  • A valid telephone number.
  • A reasonable description of the records you are seeking (preferably including date/geographic limitations and as much clarity as possible).
  • Your agreement to pay fees associated with processing or a request for a fee waiver (see FOIA Fees above). If requesting a fee waiver, please explain the basis for that request.

Additionally, if you believe that your request warrants expedited processing, you should ask in the request. The reasons for granting an expedited processing request are quite narrow, but laid out in detail in the FOIA Regulations at 32 C.F.R 286.8(e). 

The easiest way is simply to fill out the PDF below and send that in:

Requesting Government Documents

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to send an email to FOIA-NWW@usace.army.mil or call the Walla Walla District at (509) 527-7706.

What is an agency record?

Any books, papers, maps, photographs, machine readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical, or electronic form or characteristics that are (1) either created or obtained by an agency, and (2) under agency control at the time of the FOIA request.

Contact Us

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
ATTN: FOIA Officer
Walla Walla District Office of Counsel
201 North Third Avenue
Walla Walla, Washington 99362

Phone: 509-527-7706
E-mail: FOIA-NWW@usace.army.mil