Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Annual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Report

National Archives And Records Administration (NARA)
Fiscal Year 2006

I. Basic Information Regarding Report

  1. Questions about this report can be addressed to Ramona Oliver, NARA FOIA Officer, Office of General Counsel, Room 3110, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. The telephone number is 301-837-2024. The e-mail address is foia@nara.gov.

  2. Pursuant to E.O. 13392, NARA has designated Gary M. Stern, General Counsel, as Chief FOIA Officer. Questions may be addressed to his attention at Office of General Counsel, Room 3110, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. The telephone number is 301-837-1750. The e-mail address is foia@nara.gov.

  3. An electronic version of the report is available from the NARA web site: http://www.archives.gov/foia/reports/2006.html.

  4. To request a paper copy of this report write to the FOIA Officer at the address above.

II. How to Make a FOIA Request to NARA

  1. Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all individual agency components and offices that receive FOIA requests.
  2. NARA accepts FOIA requests for the executive branch agency records in its legal custody. That includes the operational records that NARA creates while conducting government business and the accessioned archival records it maintains as the archives of the U.S. Government. NARA also accepts FOIA requests for Presidential and Vice Presidential records subject to the provisions of the Presidential Records Act. For general questions on the FOIA or on a specific request, you may call NARA's FOIA hotline at 301-837-3642.

    For Operational Records

    NARA FOIA Officer
    Office of General Counsel, Room 3110
    8601 Adelphi Road
    College Park, MD 20740-6001
    301-837-2024 (phone)
    301-837-0293 (fax)
    foia@nara.gov (e-mail)

    For Records of NARA's Inspector General

    Office of Inspector General
    Attn: FOIA Request
    8601 Adelphi Road, Room 1300
    College Park, MD 20740-6001
    301-837-3000 (phone)
    301-837-3197 (fax)

    For Archival Records (Washington, Metropolitan Area)

    Special Access and FOIA Staff
    8601 Adelphi Road, Room 6350
    College Park, MD 20740-6001
    301-837-3190 (phone)
    301-837-1864 (fax)
    foia@nara.gov (e-mail)

    For Archival Records (in the Regional Archives System)

    FOIA requests should be addressed to the director of the regional archives where the records are located. A listing of facility addresses can be found at http://www.archives.gov/locations/index.html.

    For Presidential Records Subject to FOIA

    Pursuant to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, the records of former presidents, beginning with President Reagan, become subject to the provisions of FOIA five years after the presidents leave office. The incumbent or former president may continue specific restrictions for up to twelve years, after which only statutory FOIA restrictions may be applied. Records of the Clinton administration became subject to FOIA on January 20, 2006. FOIA requests for Presidential records should be mailed to the attention of the Library Director at the appropriate Presidential Library. Addresses of the Presidential Libraries are posted on our web site at http://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/contact/libraries.html.

    For Official Military or Civilian Personnel Files

    National Personnel Records Center
    Military Personnel Records
    9700 Page Avenue
    St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
    npr.center@nara.gov (e-mail)

    National Personnel Records Center
    Civilian Personnel Records
    111 Winnebago Street
    St. Louis, Missouri 63118-4126
    cpr.center@nara.gov (e-mail)

    All Other Records

    Judicial records, records of the Congress and legislative branch agencies, donated historical materials, and Nixon Presidential Historical Materials are not subject to FOIA. NARA cannot respond to FOIA requests for records solely in our physical custody, such as the records of Federal agencies stored at NARA's Federal Records Centers. FOIA requests for records center holdings remain the responsibility of the transferring agency.

    We have published a FOIA Reference Guide that describes the procedures for making FOIA requests to NARA. The Guide can be viewed at http://www.archives.gov/foia/foia-guide.html.

    Additional procedural information can be found in our implementing FOIA regulations at 36 CFR Part 1250.

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  3. Brief description of the agency's response times
  4. For FY 2006, NARA maintained the target goal of completing 90 percent of FOIA requests for executive branch agency records within 20 working days. Of the 9,695 FOIA requests received by NARA in FY 2006, 8,134 were completed within 20 working days. The resulting on-time rate of 83.89%, while under the target goal, is an improvement of over six percentage points from the FY 2005 percentage of 77.41%. The average age of completed FOIA's decreased slightly from 19 working days in FY 2005 to 18.62 working days in FY 2006. Note that 71.33% of all FOIA's were completed within 10 working days or less, half the time required by law. This is a six percentage point improvement over FY 2005, when this figure was at 64.78%.

    Like many government agencies, NARA faces budgetary and staffing challenges that impede our ability to meet FOIA goals. There are also factors unique to NARA that create further challenges:

      a. FOIA's for military records take considerably longer than the 20 day standard if the request is for a record that was lost in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center and the data must be reconstructed from other sources, or if the record has been borrowed by another agency.

      b. NARA has very limited authority to declassify information. The length of time to respond to a FOIA can be prolonged if the records must be referred to another agency for declassification review.

      c. When FOIA requests are submitted to those Presidential Libraries subject to both the Presidential Records Act and the FOIA, NARA must inform both the current and the former Presidents of the records we propose to open and then allow the Presidents an opportunity to review the records prior to release. Executive Order 13233 allows the Presidents at least 90 days to review such documents.

      d. The Archivist of the United States has initiated the National Declassification Initiative (NDI) to facilitate the review of classified records among our holdings in accordance with the 25 year automatic declassification requirements of EO 12958, as amended. The majority of the staff allocated to process incoming FOIA requests at NARA's College Park facility were transferred to the declassification unit to assist in implementing the NDI. In the short term this will affect our ability to meet agency and FOIA improvement plan goals. In the long term, the benefits brought about by the released material will far outweigh the temporary setbacks.

    Brief description of why some requests are not granted

    In FY 2006, NARA withheld information 114 times at the initial processing and appeal stages under specific exemptions of FOIA. Approximately 60% 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 19% were held pursuant to statute or to protect agency deliberations.

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III. Definitions of terms and acronyms used in this report

  1. Agency specific acronyms or other terms

    NARA - National Archives and Records Administration

    Operational records - records that NARA creates or receives in carrying out its mission and responsibility as an executive branch agency.

    Archival records - permanent records of the United States government that have been transferred to the legal and physical custody of the National Archives of the United States.

    Performance Measurement and Reporting System (PMRS) - the official source for statistical management information at NARA. PMRS is a "data warehouse" application that collects and publishes data regarding NARA's performance relative to the numeric goals in NARA's Strategic Plan.

  2. 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 records requested.

    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.

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IV. Exemption 3 Statutes

  1. This section lists the Exemption 3 statutes invoked by NARA in responding to FOIA requests; the types of information withheld most often and court decisions supporting these withholdings.
Exemption 3 StatuteTypes of information withheldCourt decisions supporting the withholding
26 U.S.C. § 6103 Income tax returns and return information Church of Scientology v. IRS 484 U.S. 9 (1987)
41 U.S.C. § 253b(m)(1) Business proposal related to negotiated procurement action Hornbostel v. US Department of Interior, 305 F. Supp. 2d 21 (D.D.C. 2003)
50 U.S.C. § 403-3(c)(7) Intelligence sources and methods CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159, 167 (1985)
50 U.S.C. § 403g CIA organization, activities, and personnel Minier v. CIA, 88 F.3d 796, 801 (9th Cir. 1996)
F.R.Cr.P. 6(e) Grand jury information Senate of Puerto Rico v. United States Department of Justice, 823 F. 2d 574 (D.C. Cir. 1987)

V. Initial FOIA/PA Access Requests

  1. Numbers of initial requests.

  2. 1. Number of requests pending as of end of preceding fiscal year 6,382
    2. Number of requests received during current fiscal year 9,695
    3. Number of requests processed during current fiscal year 8,884
    4. Number of requests pending as of end of current fiscal year 7,193

  3. Disposition of initial requests.

  4. 1. Number of total grants 454
    2. Number of partial grants 76
    3. Number of denials 5
      a. number of times each FOIA exemption used
      (counting each exemption once per request)
        (1) Exemption 1 29
        (2) Exemption 2 11
        (3) Exemption 3 12
        (4) Exemption 4 8
        (5) Exemption 5 10
        (6) Exemption 6 35
        (7) Exemption 7(A) 0
        (8) Exemption 7(B) 0
        (9) Exemption 7(C) 4
        (10) Exemption 7(D) 3
        (11) Exemption 7(E) 2
        (12) Exemption 7(F) 0
        (13) Exemption 8 0
        (14) Exemption 9 0
    4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total) 8,349
      a. no records 7,990
      b. referrals 112
      c. request withdrawn 25
      d. fee-related reason 1
      e. records not reasonably described 76
      f. not a proper FOIA request for some other reason 38
      g. not an agency record 10
      h. duplicate request 29
      i. other 68
      (in some instances "other" refers to records subject to the Presidential Records Act in lieu of FOIA)

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VI. Appeals of Initial Denials of FOIA/PA Requests

  1. Numbers of appeals.

  2. 1. Number of appeals received during fiscal year 26
    2. Number of appeals processed during fiscal year 13

  3. Disposition of appeals.

  4. 1. Number completely upheld 3
    2. Number partially reversed 2
    3. Number completely reversed 1
      a. number of times each FOIA exemption used
      (counting each exemption once per appeal)
        (1) Exemption 1 1
        (2) Exemption 2 2
        (3) Exemption 3 1
        (4) Exemption 4 0
        (5) Exemption 5 3
        (6) Exemption 6 3
        (7) Exemption 7(A) 0
        (8) Exemption 7(B) 0
        (9) Exemption 7(C) 1
        10) Exemption 7(D) 1
        11) Exemption 7(E) 1
        12) Exemption 7(F) 0
        13) Exemption 8 0
        14) Exemption 9 0
    4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total) 7
      a. no records 5
      b. referrals 1
      c. request withdrawn 0
      d. fee-related reason 0
      e. records not reasonably described 0
      f. not a proper FOIA request for some other reason 0
      g. not an agency record 0
      h. duplicate request 0
      i. other 1

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VII. Compliance with Time Limits/Status of Pending Requests

  1. Median processing time for requests processed during the year.

  2. 1. Simple requests (if multiple tracks used).
      a. number of requests processed 8,667
      b. median number of days to process 51
      1PMRS measures processing times using the average number of days that requests are pending. This average was used in place of a median number in previous reports. The data provided by PMRS can, however, be used to calculate a median number, which has been done for FY 2006..
    2. Complex requests (specify for any and all tracks used).
      a. number of requests processed 215
      b. median number of days to process 202
      2PMRS measures processing times using the average number of days that requests are pending. This average was used in place of a median number in previous reports. The data provided by PMRS can, however, be used to calculate a median number, which has been done for FY 2006..
    3. Requests accorded expedited processing.
      a. number of requests processed 2
      b. median number of days to process 20.5
  3. Status of pending requests.

  4. 1. Number of requests pending as of end of current fiscal year 7,193
    2. Median number of days such requests were pending as of that date 9373
    3This number previously represented the average number of work days between the receipt of NARA's oldest pending FOIA request, which was received on September 21, 1992, and the receipt of its most recent pending request received. Using data from PMRS we calculated the median number of days for the FY 2006 report. It should be noted that the oldest pending request in our log was referred for declassification review on August 4, 1993. NARA is still awaiting a determination from the equity holding agency.

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VIII. Comparisons with Previous Year(s) (Optional)

  1. Other statistics significant to agency
  2. NARA received 9,695 FOIA requests during FY 2006. Of that total, the agency processed 8,884 requests; 8,134 of those were completed within 20 working days, an overall completion rate of 83.89% (a six percentage point increase over last year).

    NARA answered 1,200,432 written reference requests for access to records among NARA's holdings. These requests seek records that are publicly available and have no restrictions to access. Of the over 1.2 million requests received, NARA answered 825,725 within 10 working days. This represents a seven percentage point improvement in on-time responses from FY 2005.

    These numbers show that FOIA requests make up only a very small portion of the requests that NARA receives every year. The number of requests for open archival records does not include the 420,715 items furnished to researchers in NARA's reading rooms or the far greater number of telephone inquiries and other matters handled for researchers visiting NARA facilities.

    In FY 2006, NARA received eight requests for the expedited processing of Presidential records subject to the Presidential Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act. In three cases NARA was able to expedite the processing of the portions of the requests over which we had control, however, NARA could not shorten the Presidential notification period described in §1250.26(e). Accordingly, the remaining requests for expedited processing were denied.

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IX. Costs/FOIA Staffing

  1. Staffing levels.

  2. 1. Number of full-time FOIA personnel 28
    (represents employees who spend at least 85% of their time processing FOIA requests)
    2. Number of personnel with part-time or occasional FOIA duties (in total work-years) 4
    3. Total number of personnel (in work-years) 32

  3. Total costs (including staff and all resources).

  4. 1. FOIA processing (including appeals) $2,622,615.05
    2. Litigation-related activities (estimated) N/A
    3. Total costs $2,622,615.051
    1In FY 2006, NARA's FOIA expenditures increased from $1,741,987.00 to $2,622,615.05. This increase is due to both the increased complexity of FOIA requests received by NARA, as well as the new FOIA staff working at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library which began processing FOIA requests on January 20, 2006.

X. Fees

  1. Total amount of fees collected by agency, under the FOIA, for processing requests: $0

  2. Percentage of total costs: 0%

  3. For NARA's operational records, fees are assessed in accordance with NARA's FOIA fee schedule. 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. Fees for operational records are not charged if the aggregate of all applicable fees is less than $10. NARA did not collect any fees for processing FOIA request for operational records in FY 2006.

    NARA does not charge fees for document search or review of accessioned (archival) records. However, in accordance with 44 USC § 2116 (c), NARA charges standard fees to recover the costs of making reproductions in response to requests received by NARA. In our current system there is no way to distinguish reproductions made in response to FOIA requests from reproductions made in response to other types of requests.

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XI. FOIA Regulations (Including Fee Schedule)

NARA's FOIA regulations are found in 36 CFR Part 1250, which includes the fee schedule for NARA's operational records. The fee schedule for archival records is found in 36 CFR Part 1258.

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XII. Report on FOIA Executive Order 13392 Implementation

  1. Description of supplementation/modification of agency improvement plan (if applicable)

  2. In October 2006 (FY 2007), NARA submitted a modified improvement plan. The one change was to further define NARA's intended efforts in the area of backlog reduction. We specifically stated our intent to reduce the backlog of operational FOIA requests from 45 to five.

  3. Report on agency implementation of its plan, including its performance in meeting milestones, with respect to each improvement area


  4. 1. Affirmative disclosures

    NARA's goal in this area is to conduct meetings with the Policy and Planning Staff (which is responsible for dissemination of policy directives, regulations, and interim guidance) to develop a process for adding those items appropriate for affirmative disclosure to both the conventional and electronic reading rooms within 30 days of issuances as official NARA policy. In addition, NARA will identify all existing policy documents that should be added to the FOIA reading rooms.

    These goals were to have been met by 12/31/2006. Accordingly, a plan has been developed to include NARA regulations and associated directives in both reading rooms. The material will cover policies relating to the lifecycle of records, our "front end" operations (such as records center operations, records management, appraisal, and disposition), archival materials, and access issues. As regulations and directives in these areas are issued they will be reviewed for inclusion in the conventional and electronic reading rooms.

    As part of NARA's continuing effort to measure success in this area, the NARA FOIA Officer will evaluate compliance with this recommendation on a semi-annual basis and report to the Chief FOIA Officer (beginning 3/31/2007). The 2007 FOIA report will include an update on NARA's success in this area.

    2. Proactive disclosure of information

    NARA's plan established a 12/31/2007 milestone for reporting updated numbers on the online availability of records. NARA's Archival Research Catalog (ARC) continues to lead the way in increasing the online availability of archival records. In 2006, hundreds of thousands of pages of traditional archival holdings and millions of electronic records were described in ARC. Our Access to Archival Databases (AAD) System also continued to grow, with the addition of electronic cables and indexes from the State Department's Central Foreign Policy File. Additional updates will be provided in the 2007 FOIA report per our milestones in this area.

    3. Improvement to FOIA reference guide

    NARA has several upcoming milestones in this area. The first, a goal of revising the online FOIA Reference Guide, has been completed. Upon final approval of these revisions, NARA will post the new Guide on our web site on or before the milestone date of April 15, 2007. We have also implemented online submission of FOIA requests prior to the target date of 2/2007.

    4. Multi-track processing

    By 12/31/2006, NARA's goal was to change tracking databases at the Presidential libraries to include frequently requested records as a multi-track option, and to work with the libraries on guidelines for using that option.

    NARA has issued written guidance on creating a new multiple request FOIA queue and distributed it to the three presidential libraries with FOIA backlogs-the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Libraries. Each library will begin analyzing each incoming request as well as requests in existing FOIA queues to determine if they should be placed in the new multiple request queue.

    The Reagan, Bush, and Clinton libraries completed a preliminary survey to identify FOIA requests seeking access to the same or overlapping groups of records. The Reagan Library identified 104 FOIA requests covering 48 subjects. The Bush Library identified 20 FOIA requests on 10 subjects. Finally, the Clinton Library identified 28 FOIA requests on 13 overlapping subjects. Each library will now analyze these requests to determine if enough of a series or subseries has been requested to warrant moving these requests to the multiple request FOIA queue.

    Further updates on the success of this initiative will be included in the 2007 FOIA report.

    5. Forms of communication with requesters

    NARA's first milestone in this area (March 2007) will involve the collection of information from NARA's FOIA Service Centers and Public Liaisons to determine whether or not efforts to improve communication have been successful. These efforts include providing additional information on the FOIA process to both requesters and employees. NARA now provides information on our Service Centers and Liaisons in FOIA responses and has updated the FOIA Reference Guide to provide requesters with more detailed information concerning NARA organizations, our processing queues, and processing times. We are also developing a staff FOIA page that will provide our staff with additional information concerning the implementation of the FOIA, including updated sample response letters that state in plain language information concerning exemptions invoked, procedural denials and fee issues. Additional updates will be provided in our 2007 FOIA report.

    6. Acknowledgement letters

    NARA's first milestone date for this area is 9/1/2007, by which time we will have added a checkbox to all FOIA databases reminding staff to send an acknowledgement letter. Our initiative in this area will be fully completed by 12/31/2007, and we will update our success in this area in the 2007 report.

    7. System of handling referrals

    NARA's first milestone date for this area is 12/31/2007. In the intervening period we will continue to work with equity holding agencies to improve efficiency.

    8. Additional training

    NARA's first milestone date for this area is 9/1/2007. However, work has already begun on development of a staff only web page containing information and suggestions on the FOIA and responding properly to requests. Planning has also begun for FOIA training sessions at all NARA facilities.

    9. Backlog reduction

    NARA's first milestone date for this area is 12/31/2007. The goal of reducing the backlog of initial FOIA requests for NARA's operational record requests is well underway. At the end of FY 2006, the number of pending requests reduced from 45 to 12 as of 12/31/2006. Reducing the archival request backlog will remain a challenge due to budgetary constraints and the reassignment of FOIA personnel. The 2007 FOIA report will include an update on this area.

    10. Automated processing

    NARA's first milestone date for this area is 12/31/2007. We still anticipate meeting the goals in this area, and will provide an update in the 2007 report.

  5. Identification and discussion of any deficiency in meeting plan milestones (if applicable)

  6. There are no deficiencies in meeting plan milestones at this time.

  7. Additional narrative statement regarding other executive order-related activities (optional)


  8. Concise description of FOIA exemptions


  9. 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(1): National security classified information.

    5 U.S.C. 552(b)(2): Related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.

    5 U.S.C. 552(b)(3): Information specifically exempted from disclosure by statute.

    5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4): Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential.

    5 U.S.C. 552(b)(5): Inter- or intra- agency memoranda protected by either the deliberative process, attorney client, or the attorney work-product privileges.

    5 U.S.C. 552(b)(6): Personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

    5 U.S.C. 552(b)(7): Records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, to the extent that the production of those records (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.

    5 U.S.C. 552(b)(8): Information relating to the supervision of financial institutions.

    5 U.S.C. 552(b)(9): Geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.

  10. Additional statistics


  11. 1. Time range of requests pending, by date of request (or, where applicable, by date of referral from another agency)

    NARA's oldest pending request is from September 21, 1992. This request was referred to the equity holding agency for review on August 4, 1993, and we are still awaiting determination on possible declassification. For the purposes of this report, our most recent pending request was received on January 31, 2007.

    2. Time range of consultations pending with other agencies, by date of initial interagency communication

    As mentioned above, NARA's oldest consultation dates to August 4, 1993. The most recent pending consultation began on January 31, 2007.

  12. Attachment: Agency improvement plan (in current form)


  13. NARA's FOIA Improvement Plan

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