Public Handbook for Gaining Access to OMB Information
You may gain access to OMB information in a number of ways, through --
- the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts
- OMB's Internet Home Page
- OMB's reading room and regulatory/paperwork Records Management Center
This Handbook is intended to assist you and explain how you can obtain OMB information. We trust that this information will be helpful to you in formulating your requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act, and the Privacy Act as well as requests to access OMB’s public reading area.
The Freedom of Information Act.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is found in 5 U.S.C. 552, is a law that allows a person to obtain Federal agency records unless the records (or portions of the records) are protected from disclosure by any of the nine exemptions contained in the FOIA statute.
he FOIA statute along with OMB’s implementing FOIA regulations (published at 5 CFR 1303) established the procedures for requesting OMB records. The CFR can be found in all law libraries and Federal depositary libraries. OMB’s regulations have been amended as necessary to reflect amendments to the FOIA statute.
As discussed below, 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, if not all, of these documents are also readily available on OMB's Internet Home Page (see below).
How do I submit a FOIA request to OMB?
Individuals wishing to file a FOIA request must address their request in writing to the FOIA Officer, Office of Management and Budget, 725 17th Street NW, Room 9026, Washington, DC 20503, phone (202) 395-7214. Requests for information should be as specific as possible. Please describe the specific records you are requesting in sufficient detail so that the records can be located with a reasonable amount of effort. Requesters should consult OMB's FOIA regulations, which outline the procedures governing the FOIA request process; a brief summary of that process follows.
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.
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.
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
Will I have to pay for a FOIA request?
The FOIA statute allows agencies to charge fees to certain types of requesters for responding to FOIA requests. The FOIA divides requesters into four categories for fees:
- 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 decide to 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."
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.
What if I have questions about the status of my request?
OMB provides a FOIA Requester Service Center to keep you apprised of the status of your request. You may reach the FOIA Requester Service Center by email at OMBFOIA@omb.eop.gov or by phone at (202) 395-FOIA to obtain information about the request, including the date on which OMB originally received the request and an estimated date on which OMB will complete action on the request.
The Privacy Act.
Information may also be requested from OMB under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a. Privacy Act requests for information in OMB's files must be in writing, and sent to the same address as FOIA requests (above). Compared to some other agencies, OMB has relatively few records that are subject to the Privacy Act, and historically has received only a small number of Privacy Act requests. OMB's Privacy Act regulations are published at 5 CFR Part 1302.
You may access the OMB home page at www.whitehouse.gov/OMB. The home page contains information on OMB's mission, a description of OMB's organization structure, current recruiting information, and employment opportunities. The section under FOIA contains OMB's FOIA regulations, this handbook, OMB's FOIA Annual Reports, and a link to OMB's Government Information Locator System (GILS), which is an index of OMB's major information systems and record locator systems.
In addition, the home page provides access to the latest copy of the President's Federal Budget, as well as other OMB documents. Electronic versions of OMB documents are intended to provide broad public access to the text of OMB directives and other key information. Documents available over the Internet include the following:
- OMB Circulars. These are instructions or information issued by OMB to Federal agencies that is expected to have a continuing effect of two years or more. The Circulars are presented by numerical sequence as well as by major category.
- Selected OMB Bulletins. These bulletins provide guidance to Federal agencies of a more transitory nature that would normally expire after one or two years.
- Selected OMB Memoranda. A memorandum to heads of executive departments and establishments is used to announce new policy or to remind agencies of existing policies.
- Regulations and Paperwork under OMB review. This report is updated daily and lists regulation reviews and paperwork reviews currently pending at OMB or that were completed in the last 30 days. These regulation and paperwork reviews are done under the Executive Order 12866, "Regulatory Planning and Review" and the "Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995" (44 U.S.C. 3502 et seq.).
- Financia Management policies and Grants Management circulars and related documents.
- Federal Register submissions are copies of proposed and final rules OMB has submitted to the Federal Register.
- OMB Testimony.
- Statements of Administration Policy on Non-Appropriations and Appropriation Bills.
A 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, phone (202) 395-5715.
OMB also maintains the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Records Management Center, 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.
Persons desiring to visit the public reading area or OIRA Records Management Center must write or telephone ahead to make an appointment. Security in the New Executive Office Building prevents visitors from entering the building without an appointment.