The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a Federal law that establishes the public’s right to request existing records from federal government agencies. The FOIA provides for prompt, maximum release of Department of Defense records to the public unless such requested records (or portions of them) are specifically exempt from mandatory public disclosure. Only the Secretary of the Army and the Initial Denial Authority (IDA) may deny a request for Army records.
Download sample FOIA letter.
Download FOIA request form.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a FOIA request?
A FOIA request is a written request for records. Records include files, e-mails, CDs/DVDs, books, maps, photographs, machine-readable materials, or other documentary materials. Regardless of form, an agency record refers to any record made or received by an agency of the U.S. government under federal law in connection with the transaction of public business.
Who can file a FOIA request?
Any person can file a FOIA request, including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, universities, businesses, and state and local governments. Requests may also be made through an attorney or other representative on behalf of any individual. Federal employees may not use government time or equipment when requesting information under the FOIA.
How do I file a FOIA request?
Write a letter to the military command or installation likely to have the information you seek; annotate "Freedom of Information Act" on the request and envelope. FOIA requests should be submitted to the agency that originated the record.
For records 25 years or older: Please direct your request to the National Archives and Records Administration.
For all DoD personnel records of retired military or civilian personnel: Please direct your request to the National Personnel Records Center.
How long will it take until I receive a reply?
Agencies are required to respond within 20 working days of receipt of a request. An interim reply will be provided when an extension of the initial time limit is needed to search for and collect records from separate offices, examine a voluminous amount of records, or the need to consult with another agency.
How much does a FOIA request cost?
Fees vary based on the type of FOIA request and processing time. All requesters should submit a willingness to pay fees regardless of the fee category. However, this does not mean you will be charged fees. Except for commercial requesters whose fees total more than $15, waivers may be considered. Fee waivers may be granted when disclosure of the records is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.
The Privacy Act works in tandem with the FOIA to regulate federal agency records about individuals, restricting the disclosure of personal information that might violate privacy while allowing individuals access to records about themselves.
View Privacy Act training.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Privacy Act?
The Privacy Act of 1974 is a federal law that establishes safeguard for the protection of records which the federal government collects and maintains on United States citizens and aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence. The purpose of the Privacy Act is to balance the government’s need to maintain information about individuals with the rights of individuals to be protected against unwarranted invasions of their privacy stemming from federal agencies’ collection, maintenance, use, and disclosure of personal information about them.
What is a Privacy Act request?
If you are seeking records on yourself, this is a Privacy Act request. A Privacy Act request is a written request for records pertaining to an individual maintained in a Privacy Act system of records, unless the record is subject to an exemption or the record is information compiled in reasonable anticipation of a civil action or proceeding.
You will need to submit your request via mail at the address to the right. You must also provide proof of identity. Also, if you are seeking records of a personal nature on another living individual, you must provide a Privacy Act release from that party to obtain these records. This type of request is not appropriate for submission via electronic or facsimile transmission.
What is a Privacy Act system of records?
A System of Records is a group of any records under the control of any agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifier assigned to the individual. The Privacy Act requires each agency to publish notice of its systems of records in the federal register. This notice is generally referred to as a system of records notice (SORN).
How long does it take to process a Privacy Act request?
The initial response time is the same as a FOIA request (20 days), except request for amendments. The Privacy Act systems manager normally acknowledges receipt of request within 10 working days and provides a determination within 30 working days.
What will be released in a Privacy Act request?
If you are the subject of the file and the word "None" appears in the last entry in the systems notice entitled "Exemptions Claimed for the System," then the entire record will be released to you.
Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
Personally identifiable information (PII) is personal information about an individual that identifies, links, relates, is unique to, or describes him or her. Such information can be used to distinguish or trace an individual's identity.
Examples of PII
|Name||Other names used||Social Security Number (SSN)|
|Truncated SSN||Driver's license||Other ID number|
|Race/Ethnicity||Birth date||Place of birth|
|Personal cell number||Home telephone number||Personal email address|
|Mailing/home address||Religious preference||Security clearance|
|Mother's maiden name||Mother's middle name||Spouse information|
|Marital status||Biometrics||Child information|
|Financial information||Medical information||Disability information|
|Law enforcement||Employment information||Military records|
|Emergency contact||Education information||Other identifiable information|
Immediate actions after a PII breach
- Immediately report the PII incident to the HQDA Privacy Office.
- Immediately notify the local Privacy Act Officer at (804) 765-3204.
- Within 24 hours, report the PII Incident to US-CERT.
The Garrison records manager serves as the primary point of contact for the Army Records Information Management System (ARIMS) for Garrison directorates. Non-IMCOM units should contact their command's records manager.
- Simplifies the recordkeeping process by categorizing records into two types (short term and long term permanent) and coding the disposition instructions (0-6, 6+ or permanent)
- Allows the organization to manage short term records
- Enables focuses on long term and permanent records management
- Provides clarity and understanding of what records are required to be saved regardless of the medium on which they are created
ARIMS training will be offered the third Wednesday of every month at 0900 by dialing 301-909-7352; the access code is 27692557 and the web link is https://conference.apps.mil/webconf/9bc39b2ae563d7c727114f6dd5a8c3cd. Please call 804-765-3204 for more information on training or training dates.
The official mailroom ensures official mail is properly handled and safeguarded against fraud and abuse.
Location, Hours and Contact Information
1401 Mahone Ave, Suite 120
Fort Lee, VA 23801-1603
Hours: Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (closed federal holidays)
Phone: (804) 734-7706 / (804) 734-6857; DSN: 687
Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (closed federal holidays)
All mail presented for metering must be completely customer prepared for acceptance.
To submit a written location request, send a letter to:
U.S. Army Enlisted Records and Evaluation Center
Indianapolis, Indiana 46249-5301