The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) at OSTP
Welcome to the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP’s) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) page. OSTP serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal Government. This page contains information about OSTP’s procedures for submitting a request for OSTP agency records under FOIA.
Please note that the White House Office is a separate component of the Executive Office of the President (EOP). OSTP does not process FOIA requests for the White House Office. If you wish to request information from the White House Office, you may do so at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.
Contact information for OSTP’s FOIA Officer:
Office of Science and Technology Policy; Attn: FOIA Officer
- 1650 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20504
- Phone: (202) 456-4444
- Fax: (202) 456-6021
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
FOIA AT OSTP
- OSTP FOIA Handbook - March 2013 [PDF]
- Final Rule: OSTP’s Implementation of FOIA
- OSTP's Designation of a Chief FOIA Officer [PDF]
The Executive Office of the President (EOP) entities subject to the FOIA are:
- Council on Environmental Quality
- Office of Management and Budget
- Office of National Drug Control Policy
- Office of Science and Technology Policy
- United States Trade Representative
A FOIA request is generally a request for access to records concerning a third party, an organization, or a particular topic of interest.
- 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. Request or appeal for which an agency has taken a final action on the request or the appeal in all respects.
- Expedited Processing. An agency will process a FOIA request on an expedited basis when a request 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 (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 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.
FOIA EXEMPTIONS AND EXCLUSIONS:
FOIA provides access to all responsive Federal agency records, or portions of those records, except to the extent those records are protected by any of the FOIA's nine exemptions or three law enforcement exclusions. The three exclusions pertain to especially sensitive law enforcement and national security matters.
Exemptions. The FOIA's nine exemptions authorize federal agencies to withhold information covering: (1) classified national defense and foreign relations information; (2) internal agency rules and practices; (3) information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law; (4) trade secrets and other confidential commercial or financial information; (5) inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges; (6) information involving matters of personal privacy; (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 and/or information provided by 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; (8) information relating to the supervision of financial institutions; and (9) geological information on wells.
Exclusions. Congress also provided special protection in the FOIA for three narrow categories of law enforcement and national security records. The provisions protecting those records are known as “exclusions.” The first exclusion protects the existence of an ongoing criminal law enforcement investigation when the subject of the investigation is unaware that it is pending and disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings. The second exclusion is limited to criminal law enforcement agencies and protects the existence of informant records when the informant’s status has not been officially confirmed. The third exclusion is limited to the FBI and protects the existence of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence, or international terrorism records when the existence of such records is classified. Records falling within an exclusion are not subject to the requirements of the FOIA.
Submitting a FOIA Request
NOTE: The White House Office is a separate component of the Executive Office of the President (EOP). If you wish to request information from the White House Office, you may do so at http:// whitehouse.gov/contact. OSTP advises on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. OSTP does not process FOIA requests for the White House Office.
MAKING A FOIA REQUEST:
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Attn: FOIA Officer
1650 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20504
Phone: (202) 456-6125
Fax: (202) 395-1224
For security reasons, OSTP does not accept or open attachments to emails submitted to the FOIA email inbox. OSTP will not respond to FOIA requests submitted as email attachments. Please transmit attachments by fax or postal mail, or include the information in the text body of the email.
Describe the specific records requested in sufficient detail that they can be located with a reasonable amount of effort. Requests for answers posed as questions are not covered under FOIA and will not receive a response. The request must be for agency records. Records must exist at the time the request is received.
Upon receipt of a perfected FOIA request, OSTP has 20 working days to respond, extending this period for an additional 10 working days under certain circumstances, including for consultation with other federal agencies. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i) and 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(B)(i). If the request requires an extension, OSTP will provide written notice explaining the reason for the delay and when a determination will be made. If OSTP does not have records responsive to the request, it will notify you by letter.
OSTP’s FOIA regulations allow the agency to recover part of the costs associated with processing FOIA requests. Fee amounts vary based on a number of factors including the complexity of the request and the number of responsive documents. A request that results in no responsive documents may nonetheless incur a fee. There is no initial fee to submit a FOIA request, and in some cases, OSTP assesses no fees.
In your request, please state your willingness and ability to pay applicable fees, or provide a justification to support a fee waiver.
Generally, OSTP groups FOIA requesters into one of three categories:
- News media, educational, and scientific research requesters: OSTP will not charge for time spent searching for requests for a representative of the news media, or for an educational or scientific institution whose purpose is noncommercial scholarly or scientific research. OSTP will charge, however, for photocopies of records. The first 100 pages of photocopied records are free.
- Commercial requesters: A commercial requester is any person who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers his or her commercial, trade, or profit interests. OSTP charges commercial use requesters for search time, document review, and photocopies of records.
- All other requesters: OSTP charges for search time (after two hours) and photocopies of records. The first 100 pages of photocopied records are free.
OSTP charges $0.10 per photocopied page. For other methods of reproduction, including scanning and transmitting records via electronic mail, the charge may be lower. Fees for searching and review are determined by the average hourly salary of the employee(s) performing the initial search and review, and the time they spent processing the request.
If OSTP estimates that the total fees will exceed $25, OSTP will notify the requester and offer an opportunity to narrow the request in order to reduce the fee. If the total fee is likely to exceed $250, OSTP may require advance payment or satisfactory assurance of full payment. Failure to pay fees may result in OSTP requiring the requester to pay the full amount of any fees owed and/or to make an advance payment of the full amount of the estimated charges for any future or pending FOIA requests.
A requester may request a waiver of fees associated with his or her FOIA request. To request a fee waiver, a requester should state in the FOIA request: (1) how 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 (2) how disclosure is not primarily in the requester’s commercial interest. OSTP may grant a partial fee waiver under certain circumstances. Please note that a requester's inability to pay fees is not a legal basis for granting a fee waiver.
- OSTP Final Guidelines for Ensuring the Quality of Disseminated Information (Oct. 1, 2002) [PDF]
- OSTP FOIA Reports:
The Government Purchase Card Program Point of Contact:
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20504