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FOIA is a disclosure statute. Information is considered to be releasable unless it falls under one of the nine FOIA exemptions (b)(1) through (b)(9). The FOIA applies to records either created or obtained by an agency and under agency control at the time of the FOIA request. Agencies within the executive branch of the federal government, including the Executive Office of the President and independent regulatory agencies are subject to the FOIA. State governments, municipal corporations, the courts, Congress and private citizens are not subject to the FOIA. The Freedom of Information Act Program (DODR 5400.7) allows the general public including foreign citizens, military and civilian personnel acting as private citizens, to request records electronically or in writing from the Federal Government. Some records are released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, and may therefore reflect deletion of some information in accordance with the FOIA's nine statutory exemptions or two law enforcement record exclusions. A consolidated list of such records is on https://open.defense.gov/Transparency/FOIA.aspx and the U.S. Air Force FOIA site. Currently the law allows 20 working days to process a FOIA request upon receipt of the request in the FOIA office.
Who can submit a FOIA request
Members of the public, including foreign citizens, military and civilian personnel acting as private citizens, organizations and businesses, and individual members of the Congress for themselves or constituents, may request records in writing. It is important to remember that the Freedom of Information Act applies only to federal agencies. It does not create a right of access to records held by Congress, the courts, state or local government agencies, or by private businesses or individuals. Each state has its own public access laws that should by consulted for access to state and local records. 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.
Fees for processing FOIA requests
Fees are assessed depending on which group the request falls into:
Category 1: Commercial. Requesters pay all search, review and duplication
Category 2: Educational or Noncommercial Scientific Institution or News Media. Requesters get the first 100 copies free and pay for additional copies.
Category 3: Others. Requesters get the first two hours of search and the first 100 copies free.
Fee Waivers: Documents shall be furnished without charge, or at a charge reduced below fees assessed to the categories of requesters in subsection. The component determines that waiver or reduction of the fees is in the public interest because furnishing the information is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the Department of Defense and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
Expedite: An expedited request is when a requester asks for expedited processing and explains the compelling need (imminent threat to life or physical safety; urgently needed by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information; due process; or humanitarian need) for the requested information. In order to receive expedited processing, requesters must provide a statement certifying their "demonstration" (description) of their specific "compelling need" or due process/humanitarian need is true and correct to the best of their knowledge. When a requester seeks expedited processing, FOIA offices must respond in writing to the requester within 10 calendar days after receipt of the request approving or denying their request for expedited processing. Requesters have a right to appeal an adverse decision (e.g., when it is determined their requests will not be expedited). Expedited processing moves your request to the top of the queue, but it is still processed within the 20 workdays allowed by law.
How to make a FOIA request
To submit a FOIA inquiry online, access link: https://www.foia.af.mil. For mailing/faxing, contact the FOIA Requester Service Center where the record is located, describe the records you want as specificially as possible, and let the office know how much you are 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 the office 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. There is no special form to complete. Mark your request and envelope "FOIA."
Air Force Reading Room:
All reading room documents are now located in the Air Force Reading Room located at https://www.foia.af.mil/Library/.
Submit a Privacy Act Records Request
If you are seeking Privacy Act records on yourself or another individual, you must provide proof of identity for your records and you must have release authorization from the individual who is the subject of the records you are requesting. Deceased individuals lose their privacy rights, but information may be denied to protect the privacy of the surviving family members; therefore, you need release authorization from the executor of the estate or next of kin. At this time, all Privacy Act request must be submitted by mail directly to the appropriate Requester Service Center. More information on the Privacy Act is available here.
Accident Investigation Board Results
This link: http://www.afjag.af.mil contains a list of Class A mishaps or accidents involving U.S. Air Force aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, space systems and missiles as well as summaries from associated Accident Investigation Board (AIB) reports. An accident is listed on this site after the AIB report has been approved and publicly released. NOTE: There is no requirement to investigate the following accidents under AFI 51-503:
▪ Death, injury, or property damage by direct action of an enemy or hostile force
▪ Intentional or expected damage to Air Force equipment or property (e.g., authorized testing or combat training, including missile and ordnance firing; destruction of weapon system to prevent capture by enemy or hostile force; etc.)
▪ Accidents investigated by another federal agency or military department resulting in a publicly-releasable report
▪ All suspected cases of friendly fire