Revised Annual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Report
The National Archives and Records Administration
Fiscal Year 2003
Table of Contents
- Report Information
- How to Make a FOIA Request
- Definitions of Terms and Acronyms
- Exemption 3 Statutes
- Initial FOIA/PA Access Requests
- Appeals of Initial Denials of FOIA/PA Requests
- Compliance with Time Limits/Status of Pending Requests
- Comparisons with Previous Year(s)
- Costs/FOIA Staffing
- FOIA Regulations and Fee Schedule
I. Basic Information Regarding Report
- Questions about this report can be addressed to the National Archives FOIA Officer,
Office of General Counsel, Room 3110, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.
The telephone number is 301-837-2024.
- An electronic version of the report is available at:
- To request a copy of the report in paper form write to the National Archives FOIA Officer, Office of General Counsel, Room 3110, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.
II. How to Make a FOIA Request
- Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all individual agency components and offices that receive FOIA request.
- Brief description of the agency's response-time ranges.
- Agency-wide FOIA performance dropped off this year after reaching an all-time high last year. This was due to a drop in FOIA response rates at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, which made up 76 percent of the total FOIA requests the National Archives received in FY 2003. The drop in the response to FOIA's within 20 workdays at NPRC (from 81 percent in FY 2002 to 68 percent in FY 2003) was the result of the deployment of a new processing system in the first quarter of FY 2003, related process changes, and staff development efforts. Response times slowed during this time and the backlog of requests increased. While we were able to get back to normal business during the second quarter, the largest portion of FOIA requests arrived during the first two quarters when we were at our lowest production level, thus making it more difficult to catch up. By the end of the fiscal year, however, NPRC FOIA response times had improved and the backlog had decreased significantly.1 According to the National Archives' Performance Measurement and Reporting System (PMRS), the NPRC received 4,288 FOIA requests during FY03, processing 3,861 of those requests. Of that total 2,694 were completed within 20 workdays. In addition, the NPRC received 907,151 written requests (non-FOIA or reference requests) for access to military and civilian personnel records, including requests from originating agencies. Of this total the NPRC processed 344,596 within 10 workdays.
- When FOIA requests are submitted to those Presidential Libraries subject
to both the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the FOIA, the National Archives must inform both the current and the former Presidents which records we propose to open and then allow the
Presidents a review period before we can release the documents, in accordance with the
requirements of Executive Order 13233, Further Implementation of the Presidential Records
Act, issued November 1, 2001. E.O. 13233 allows the Presidents at least 90 days to
review documents prior to release.
- The National Archives has very limited authority to declassify documents. When the National Archives receives a FOIA request for records that are classified, often it cannot respond to the requestor until the originating agency has reviewed the documents and made a release determination. FOIA requests, received during FY03, for classified documents were pending for an average of 121 days. Most of this time represents the average number of days that requests were pending while the National Archives waited on release decisions from other agencies.
- Brief description of why some requests are not granted.
The National Archives receives FOIA requests for the executive branch records in its legal custody, both the operational records it creates as an agency of the executive branch and the archival records it maintains as the archives of the U.S. government. The National Archives also receives FOIA requests for Presidential and Vice-Presidential records, beginning with the administration of Ronald Reagan, created under the terms of the Presidential Records Act. Judicial and legislative records among the National Archives' holdings are not subject to the provisions of the FOIA. For a full description of the types of records the National Archives maintains and where to send FOIA requests for those records, please review the National Archives and Records Administration Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Reference Guide.
In addition, the National Archives' National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) receives Privacy Act and FOIA requests for personnel and medical records of former military and civilian employees of the Federal government. The NPRC provides access to these records in accordance with the access and release policies of the agency that has legal custody of the records. Military Records remain in the legal custody of Department of Defense (Air Force, Navy, and the Marine Corps) or the Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Coast Guard). Access to most civilian employee records is covered by U.S. Office of Personnel Management regulations. See information concerning access to military or civilian personnel records.
Several different issues play into the National Archives' response time on FOIA requests.
1Excerpted from the National Archives' FY03 Annual Performance Report to Congress.
In FY03, the National Archives withheld information 188 times at the initial processing and appeal stages under specific exemptions of the FOIA. Approximately 54% of these withholdings were either to protect the privacy of individuals or to withhold information the release of which would harm the national security of the United States. An additional 33% were held pursuant to statute or to protect agency deliberations.
III. Definitions of Terms and Acronyms Used in the Report
- Agency-specific acronyms or other terms.
- The National Archives National Archives and Records Administration
- Operational records records that the National Archives creates or receives in carrying out its mission and responsibilities as an executive branch agency
- Archival records permanent records of the United States Government that have been transferred to the legal custody of the National Archives of the United States
- Performance Measurement and Reporting System (PMRS) - the National Archives' official source for statistical information. PMRS includes all of the National Archives' performance measures related to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and other useful data.
- Basic terms, expressed in common terminology.
- FOIA/PA request -- Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act request. A FOIA
request is generally a request for access to records concerning a third party, an
organization, or a particular topic of interest. A Privacy Act request is a request for records concerning oneself; such requests are also treated as FOIA requests. (All requests for access to records under these two statutes are included in this report. This report does not account for requests for archival records that do not cite the FOIA or Privacy Act.)
- Initial request -- a request to a federal agency for access to records
under the Freedom of Information Act.
- Appeal -- a request to a federal agency asking that it review at a higher
administrative level a full denial or partial denial of access to records under
the Freedom of Information Act, or any other FOIA determination such as a matter
pertaining to fees.
- Processed request or appeal -- a request or appeal for which an agency has
taken a final action on the request or the appeal in all respects.
- Multi-track processing -- a system in which simple requests requiring
relatively minimal review are placed in one processing track and more voluminous
and complex requests are placed in one or more other tracks. Requests in each
track are processed on a first-in/first out basis. A requester who has an urgent
need for records may request expedited processing (see below).
- Expedited processing -- an agency will process a FOIA request on an
expedited basis when a requester has shown an exceptional need or urgency for
the records which warrants prioritization of his or her request over other
requests that were made earlier.
- Simple request -- a FOIA request that an agency using multi-track
processing places in its fastest (non expedited) track based on the volume
and/or simplicity of records requested.
- Complex request -- a FOIA request that an agency using multi-track
processing places in a slower track based on the volume and/or complexity of
- Grant -- an agency decision to disclose all records in full in response to
a FOIA request.
- Partial grant -- an agency decision to disclose a record in part in
response to a FOIA request, deleting information determined to be exempt under
one or more of the FOIA's exemptions; or a decision to disclose some records in
their entireties, but to withhold others in whole or in part.
- Denial -- an agency decision not to release any part of a record or
records in response to a FOIA request because all the information in the
requested records is determined by the agency to be exempt under one or more of
the FOIA's exemptions, or for some procedural reason (such as because no record
is located in response to a FOIA request).
- Time limits -- the time period in the Freedom of Information Act for an
agency to respond to a FOIA request (ordinarily 20 working days from proper
receipt of a "perfected" FOIA request).
- "Perfected" request -- a FOIA request for records which adequately
describes the records sought, which has been received by the FOIA office of the
agency or agency component in possession of the records, and for which there is
no remaining question about the payment of applicable fees.
- Exemption 3 statute -- a separate federal statute prohibiting the
disclosure of a certain type of information and authorizing its withholding
under FOIA subsection (b)(3).
- Median number -- the middle, not average, number. For example, of 3, 7,
and 14, the median number is 7.
- Average number -- the number obtained by dividing the sum of a group of
numbers by the quantity of numbers in the group. For example, of 3, 7, and 14,
the average number is 8.
IV. Exemption 3 Statutes
- This section lists the exemption 3 statutes invoked by the National Archives in responding to FOIA requests, the types of information withheld most often, and court decisions supporting these withholdings.
|Exemption 3 Statute||Types of information withheld||Court decisions supporting the withholding|
|F.R.Cr.P. 6(e)||Grand jury information||Senate of Puerto Rico v. U.S. DOJ, 823 F.2d 574 (D.C. Cir. 1987)|
|26 U.S.C. § 6103||Income tax information||Church of Scientology of California v. IRS, 484 U.S. 9 (1987)|
|41 U.S.C. § 253b(m)(1)-(2)||Business proposal documents not incorporated in contracts||None|
|42 U.S.C. § 2167||Atomic energy information||Meeropol v. Meese, 790 F.2d 942 (D.C. Cir. 1986)|
|50 U.S.C. § 403(d)(3)||CIA intelligence sources and methods||CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159 (1985)|
|50 U.S.C. § 403(g)||Information pertaining to the organization, function or employees of the CIA||Miner v. CIA, 88 F.3d 796 (9th Cir. 1996)|
V. Initial FOIA/PA Access Requests
- Numbers of initial requests.
- Number of requests pending as of end of preceding fiscal year 4,5092
- Number of requests received during current fiscal year 5,556
- Number of requests processed during current fiscal year 4,830
- Number of requests pending as of end of current fiscal year 5,2353
- Disposition of initial requests.
- Number of total grants 1075
- Number of partial grants 92
- Number of denials 3
- number of times each FOIA exemption used (counting each exemption once per request)
- Other reasons for nondisclosure (total) 3,660
- no records 3,269
- referrals 86
- request withdrawn 39
- fee-related reason 0
- records not reasonably described 93
- f. not a proper FOIA request for some other reason 46
- not an agency record 31
- duplicate request 11
- other 85 (Requested records subject to the Presidential Records Act)
2At the end of FY 02, the National Archives reported having 3,590 pending FOIA requests. That number represented the number carried over from years of manually tabulating data for inclusion in the annual FOIA report. Since our last report, the National Archives has redesigned PMRS to tabulate the number of open FOIA cases at the end of each fiscal year. The number reported in this year's report reflects the data available in PMRS.
3 A review of the data in PMRS reveals that there are 5,235 FOIA requests that remained open at the end of FY03. The National Archives believed that its FOIA backlog is substantially lower than the data indicates. We reviewed the data in some of the old local databases and determined that some of the pending FOIA's reflect cases where offices reported open FOIA's in their old tracking systems, using old identifiers that were never mapped to identifiers recognized by PMRS. When the National Archives converted to the use of PMRS, we attempted to map the old-system identifiers to PMRS so that there would be continuity in the data. We suspect that some requests in the old systems were overlooked. We were able to determine that 381 of those requests have been completed. However, because of the change in databases, the disposition of those requests was not captured. The National Archives will attempt to rectify this in the FY04 annual FOIA report.
(1) Exemption 1 45
(2) Exemption 2 7
(3) Exemption 3 44
(4) Exemption 4 8
(5) Exemption 5 17
(6) Exemption 6 47
(7) Exemption 7(A) 0
(8) Exemption 7(B) 0
(9) Exemption 7(C) 8
(10) Exemption 7(D) 2
(11) Exemption 7(E) 2
(12) Exemption 7(F) 3
(13) Exemption 8 0
(14) Exemption 9 0
VI. Appeals of Initial Denials of FOIA/PA Requests
- Numbers of appeals.
- Number of appeals received during fiscal year 11
- Number of appeals processed during fiscal year 11
- Disposition of appeals.
- Number completely upheld 5
- Number partially reversed 2
- Number completely reversed 2
- number of times each FOIA exemption used
(counting each exemption once per appeal)
- Other reasons for nondisclosure (total) 2
- no records 1
- referrals 0
- request withdrawn 0
- fee-related reason 0
- records not reasonably described 0
- not a proper FOIA request for some other reason 1
- not an agency record 0
- duplicate request 0
- other 0
(1) Exemption 1 0
(2) Exemption 2 1
(3) Exemption 3 0
(4) Exemption 4 1
(5) Exemption 5 1
(6) Exemption 6 2
(7) Exemption 7(A) 0
(8) Exemption 7(B) 0
(9) Exemption 7(C) 0
(10) Exemption 7(D) 0
(11) Exemption 7(E) 0
(12) Exemption 7(F) 0
(13) Exemption 8 0
(14) Exemption 9 0
VII. Compliance with Time Limits/Status of Pending Requests
- Median processing time for requests processed during the year.
- Simple requests (if multiple tracks used).
- number of requests processed 4,579
- median number of days to process 31.234
- Complex requests (specify for any and all tracks used).
- number of requests processed 251
- median number of days to process 311.795
- Requests accorded expedited processing.
- number of requests processed 0
- median number of days to process 0
- Status of pending requests.
- Number of requests pending as of end of current fiscal year 5,235
- Median number of days that such requests were pending as of that date 2,372.56
4PMRS measures processing times using the average number of days that requests are pending.
5 PMRS measures processing times using the average number of days that requests are pending.
6This number represents the median number of days between the receipt of the National Archives' oldest pending FOIA request, which dates from FY91, and the receipt of its most recent pending request received at the end of FY03.
VIII. Comparisons with Previous Year(s) (Optional)
- Other statistics significant to agency
The National Archives received 5,556 FOIA requests during FY03. Of that total, the agency processed 4,830 requests; 3,334 of those were completed within 20 working days, an overall completion rate of 60%.
It should be noted that FOIA requests make up only a very small portion of the requests that the National Archives receives in a year. In FY03, the National Archives answered 1,003,252 written requests for access to archival records. This number does not include the 199,171 items furnished to researchers in the National Archives' reading rooms or the far greater number of telephone inquiries and other matters handled for researchers visiting National Archives facilities. In addition, the National Archives has made 36 of the 120 services it offers to businesses, citizens, state and local governments and other agencies available on-line. Of particular use to the public are our on-line databases describing some of our holdings, Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and Access to Archival Databases (AAD).
The National Archives received two requests for expedited processing of Presidential records subject to the Presidential Records Act in FY03. However, the National Archives was unable to comply with either request. As stated in 36 CFR 1250.28, the National Archives can only expedite requests, or segments of requests, for records over which we have complete control. The National Archives cannot expedite requests for Presidential records because we do not control the notification period required under E.O. 13233.
IX. Costs/FOIA Staffing
- Staffing levels.
- Number of full-time FOIA personnel 22 (represents employees who spend at least 85% of their time processing FOIA requests)
- Number of personnel with part-time or occasional FOIA duties (in total work-years) 4
- Total number of personnel (in work-years) 26
- Total costs (including staff and all resources).
- FOIA processing (including appeals) $ 1,354,911
- Litigation-related activities (estimated) N/A
- Total costs $1,354,911
- Total amount of fees collected by agency, under the FOIA, for processing requests: $ 2,481.67
- Percentage of total costs: 0.2%
For the National Archives' operational records, fees are assessed in accordance with the National Archives' FOIA fee schedule. Fees for operational records are not charged if the aggregate of all applicable fees is less than $10. Commercial requesters are charged search, review, and reproduction fees. All other requesters are provided the first 100 pages of reproductions or their equivalent free of charge. The fees referenced above reflect fees for operational records.
The National Archives does not charge fees for document search or review of accessioned (archival) records. However, in accordance with 44 USC § 2116 (c), the National Archives charges standard fees to recover the costs of making reproductions in response to requests received by the National Archives. In our current system there is no way to distinguish reproductions made in response to FOIA requests records, from reproductions made in response to other types of requests.
XI. FOIA Regulations (Including Fee Schedule)
The National Archives' FOIA regulations are found in 36 CFR Part 1250, which includes the fee schedule for the National Archives' operational records. The fee schedule for archival records is found in 36 CFR Part 1258.