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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)


Welcome to OMB’s FOIA Page. We hope this website provides helpful information for you about OMB and about the Freedom of Information Act. Below is a description of that Act, as well as a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). Following the FAQs, you’ll find a reading room organized by subject matter (it will tell you where, on OMB’s website, you should look if you’re interested in specific subjects) and other helpful links.

Key OMB FOIA Contacts:

OMB's FOIA Officer
Dionne Hardy
725 17th Street NW,
Suite, 9204
Washington, DC 20503 
(202) 395-FOIA
(202) 395-3504 (fax)

OMB's Public Liaison and Chief FOIA Officer
Heather Walsh
725 17th Street NW,
Suite, 904
Washington, DC 20503
(202) 395-7545

FOIA Requester Service Center (202) 395-FOIA

E-mail addressOMBFOIA@omb.eop.gov

 

I. The Freedom of Information Act

As the President stated on December 14, 2005, in his Executive Order 13,392, Improving Agency Disclosure of Information,

"The effective functioning of our constitutional democracy depends upon the participation in public life of a citizenry that is well informed. For nearly four decades, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided an important means through which the public can obtain information regarding the activities of Federal agencies. Under the FOIA, the public can obtain records from any Federal agency, subject to the exemptions enacted by the Congress to protect information that must be held in confidence for the Government to function effectively or for other purposes."

The Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552), provides a right of access to the public of government records.  The Act also allows the government to withhold certain information in responding to those requests in 9 exemptions, including for national security, deliberative process and attorney client, and confidential business information, to name a few.

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II. Frequently Asked Questions

About OMB:

  1. What does OMB do?
  2. What offices does OMB have?
  3. What types of records does OMB have? 

About FOIA and how to submit a request:

  1. What does FOIA do?
  2. Can I ask a question under the FOIA?
  3. How do I submit a FOIA request?
  4. What are the reasons for not releasing a record requested under a FOIA?
  5. Do I need to submit a particular form to request documents under FOIA?
  6. Is there a fee to submit a FOIA request?
  7. How long will it take to receive an answer to my FOIA request?
  8. What will I receive, in response to my FOIA request?
  9. What if I have concerns about the processing of my FOIA request?
  10. Can I ask for my request to be expedited? 

About the response I receive from OMB:

  1. What if I have concerns about the response I receive to my FOIA request?
  2. How do I appeal OMB’s response to my FOIA request?
  3. When will I hear back on my appeal?  

About documents OMB has:

  1. Are there records that OMB has that I can look at (inspect), without filing a FOIA request?

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III. Reading Room

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IV. Additional Helpful Links

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Frequently Asked Questions

About OMB:

  1. What does OMB do?

    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is an agency within the Executive Office of the President.  OMB assists the President in the discharge of his budgetary, management, and other executive responsibilities. More specifically, OMB assists the President in the preparation of the Federal budget and in managing its execution by the agencies. OMB works to assure that proposed legislation (as well as testimony, reports and policies) is consistent with Administration policies, including the President’s Budget. OMB also has a central role in providing leadership in the development, oversight and coordination of the Federal government’s policies in procurement, financial management and the information, statistical, and regulatory arenas as well as in the implementation of those policies. OMB promotes better program management, strengthens administrative management, develops agency-performance measures and improves coordination of the Executive Branch’s various operations.

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  2. What offices does OMB have?

    OMB has offices in the Eisenhower and New Executive Office Buildings in Washington, D.C. (OMB does not have regional or field offices.) OMB staff are divided into the following offices: 

    • the OMB Director’s office;
    • several small staff offices (General Counsel, Legislative Affairs, Strategic Planning and Communications, Management and Operations, and Economic Policy)
    • the Budget Review Division (which provides support in the development and execution of the Federal budget)
    • the Legislative Reference Division (which develops and supports the President’s management and budget agenda by carrying out OMB’s interagency legislative review function);
    • five Resource Management Offices (which develop and support the President’s budget); and
    • four statutory offices:
      1. the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs,
      2. the Office of Federal Financial Management,
      3. the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and
      4. the Office of Electronic Government and Information Technology.
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  3. What types of records does OMB have?

    You can find out about the type of records OMB has in our reading room, which is organized by subject matter, such as Grants, or the President’s Budget.

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About FOIA and how to submit a request:

  1. What does FOIA do?

    As noted above, FOIA provides a right of access to the public of government records.  The Act also allows the government to withhold certain information in responding to those requests in 9 exemptions, including for national security, deliberative process and attorney client, and confidential business information, to name a few. 

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  2. Can I ask a question under the FOIA?

    Please be aware that FOIA does not require agencies to do research, analyze data, answer written questions, or to create records in order to respond to a request.

    It is also important to understand that there is no central office in the government which processes FOIA requests for all agencies; each Federal agency responds to FOIA requests for records in its own files. Thus, the public may submit FOIA requests to OMB to obtain records that are in OMB's files.

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  3. How do I submit a FOIA request?

    Individuals wishing to file a FOIA request must write a letter to submit a FOIA request. Address your letter to: 

    Dionne Hardy, FOIA Officer
    Office of Management and Budget
    1800 G Street NW, Room 9026
    Washington, DC 20503

    Please note that for security reasons, OMB’s receipt and processing of mail may be delayed.  Therefore, you may also fax your letter to:  202.395.3504.

    You should be as specific as possible in your request for records (see below for records you can receive without submitting a FOIA request). Please describe the specific records you are requesting in sufficient detail so that the records can be located with a reasonable amount of effort.  You should also consult OMB's FOIA regulations, which outline the procedures governing the FOIA request process.

    Upon receipt of a FOIA request, the FOIA Officer will determine within 20 days (excepting Saturdays, Sundays and legal public holidays) after the receipt of such request whether it is appropriate to grant the request. (Please be aware that the time period for providing a response may be extended under the FOIA.) OMB will provide a written response to the FOIA request; if the request is denied in whole or in part, OMB will notify the requester of the denial, and of the requester's right to file an appeal within OMB. If OMB denies an appeal in whole or in part, the requester may seek judicial review of that denial.

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  4. What are the reasons for not releasing a record requested under the FOIA?

    The FOIA statute provided reasons why an agency may not release a requested record.  Such records are considered to be legally exempt from release.  Among the reasons for withholding a document are the following exemptions from disclosure:

    Exemption (b)(1)  National Security
    Exemption (b)(2)  Internal Documents
    Exemption (b)(3)  Statutory withholding
    Exemption (b)(4)  Commercial or proprietary data
    Exemption (b)(5)  Predecisional, deliberative communications
    Exemption (b)(6)  Privacy
    Exemption (b)(7)  Law enforcement
    Exemption (b)(8)  Financial institutions
    Exemption (b)(9)  Geological information

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  5. Do I need to submit a particular form to request documents under FOIA?

    No.  However, in order to process your request, you need to reasonably describe the records you are looking for, providing as much information as possible (in order for OMB to search for them).  OMB may also contact you to request that you provide more detail.

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  6. Is there a fee to submit a FOIA request?

    OMB, like other agencies, may charge a fee for responding to your FOIA request.  The amount of fee depends on who you are and why you are making a FOIA request.  The FOIA Act divides requesters into four categories for fees, as described below.  In addition, in certain circumstances, OMB may request advance payment of fees.  You may also indicate, in your letter, how much in fees you are willing to pay, before OMB needs to contact you. 

    • Commercial use requesters.

      When OMB receives a request for documents for commercial use, it will assess charges that recover the full direct cost of searching for, reviewing for release, and duplicating the records sought.

    • Educational and non-commercial scientific institution requests.

      OMB shall provide documents to requesters in this category for the cost of reproduction alone, excluding charges for the first 100 pages.

    • Representatives of the news media.

      OMB shall provide documents to requesters in this category for the cost of reproduction alone, excluding charges for the first 100 pages.

    • All other requesters.

      OMB shall charge requesters who do not fit into any of the categories above fees that recover the full reasonable direct cost of searching for and reproducing records that are responsive to the request, except that the first 100 pages of reproduction and the first two hours of search time shall be furnished without charge.

    OMB may waive fees, in whole or in part, if "disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester."  If you wish to request a waiver of fees, please provide as much information as possible about how you will be using the information in order for OMB to make its determination.

    Please note that in certain circumstances, such as when fees exceed $250 OMB may contact a requester for the advance payment of fees by check or money order payable to the U.S. Treasury.

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  7. How long will it take to receive an answer to my FOIA request?

    The FOIA Act gives OMB a minimum of 20 working days (that’s excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal public holidays) to respond to your request.  OMB can also extend that time period an additional 10 working days (OMB will send you a letter when that occurs).  As noted above, due to security reasons, OMB’s receipt and processing of mail could be delayed; the 20-day time period only begins when OMB has received your letter. 

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  8. What will I receive in response to my FOIA request?

    OMB will send you a letter responding to your FOIA request.  If we have located records in response to your request, our letter will tell you that.  If we have located records, but have withheld any part of them, our letter will tell you of your right to file an appeal within OMB (see below for how to file an appeal). If OMB denies an appeal in whole or in part, the requester may seek judicial review of that denial.

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  9. What if I have concerns about the processing of my FOIA request?

    OMB has a FOIA Requester Service Center.  You can call the FOIA Requester Service Center at:  (202) 395-FOIA (3542).  The FOIA Requester Service Center is available to assist you in answering questions that you have about your request.  If you are not satisfied with the assistance you receive from the FOIA Requester Service Center or they cannot assist you, you may also leave a message for OMB’s Public Liaison:   (202) 395-FOIA (3542).

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  10. Can I ask for my request to be expedited?

    OMB’s regulations provide for how someone can request expedited processing. Generally, you can request expedited processing if you demonstrate in your request letter to OMB one of the following:

    1. Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual;
    2. An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged Federal government activity, if made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information;
    3. The loss of substantial due process rights; or
    4. A matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity which effect public confidence.


    OMB will respond to your request for expedited processing within 10 working days.  At the present time, OMB does not have multi-track processing (which means that OMB staff works on requests as they come in; there is not a first-in-first-out queue that your request comes in).

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About the response I receive from OMB:

  1. What if I have concerns about the response I receive to my FOIA request?

    As noted above, OMB has a FOIA Requester Service Center.  You can call the FOIA Requester Service Center at:  (202) 395-FOIA (3642).  The FOIA Requester Service Center is also available to assist you in answering questions that you have about OMB’s response to your request.  If you are not satisfied with the assistance you receive from the FOIA Requester Service Center or they cannot assist you, you may also leave a message for OMB’s Public Liaison:   (202) 395-FOIA (3642).

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  2. How do I appeal OMB’s response to my FOIA request?

    Send your appeal, in another letter, to the same address as before: 

    Dionne Hardy, FOIA Officer
    Office of Management and Budget,
    1800 G Street NW, Room 9026
    Washington, DC 20503

    Please note that for security reasons, OMB’s receipt and processing of mail may be delayed.  Therefore, you may also fax your letter to:  (202) 395-FOIA (3642).

    Although it is not required, it is helpful to OMB in processing your appeal request if you include a copy of your original request letter as well as OMB’s response. 

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  3. When will I hear back on my appeal?

    The FOIA Act gives OMB a minimum of 20 working days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal public holidays) to respond to your appeal request.  OMB can also extend that time period an additional 10 working days (OMB will send you a letter when that occurs).  As noted above, due to security reasons, OMB’s receipt and processing of mail could be delayed; the 20-day time period only begins when OMB has received your letter.

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About documents OMB has:

  1. Are there records that OMB has that I can look at (inspect), without filing a FOIA request?

    OMB makes available in its Public Reading Room and in the Regulatory/Paperwork Records Management Center information pertaining to matters issued, adopted, or promulgated by OMB; these are commonly known as "reading room materials." These materials include the Federal Budget, OMB Circulars, selected OMB Bulletins, regulations and information collections reviewed by OMB, other policies and management documents, and OMB's Annual FOIA Report. Many of these documents are also available through OMB's Internet Home Page (see the "reading room" section for links to these documents).

    OMB has a public reading room and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Records Management Center.  Visitors to the public reading area or OIRA Records Management Center must write or telephone ahead (see below for details) to make an appointment. Security in the New Executive Office Building prevents visitors from entering the building without an appointment.

    • OMB’s Public Reading Room:  OMB’s public reading area is located in the Executive Office of the President Library, Room G-102, New Executive Office Building, 725 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 20503, (202) 395-FOIA (3642).

    • OIRA Records Management Center:  The OIRA Records Management Center is located in Room 10102, New Executive Office Building, 725 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 20503, phone (202) 395-6880.  The Records Management Center contains records related to information collections sponsored by the Federal government and reviewed by OIRA under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. The Records Management Center also maintains records related to proposed Federal agency regulatory actions reviewed by OIRA under Executive Order 12866, "Regulatory Planning and Review." Telephone logs and materials from meetings with the public attended by the OIRA Administrator are also available in the Records Management Center.  Information regarding regulations is also available on OMB’s Website in its new automated system, ROCIS (see the "reading room" section for links to these documents).

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