No matter what form your request takes, you should follow the procedures below to submit a request. Requests may be submitted via email, in letter format, by fax, or electronically at foiaonline.gov. A verbal request for a record will not be accepted, nor will questions in a FOIA request be answered.
1. To begin, start by stating "This is a Freedom of Information Act request."
2. Describe the specific record(s) you are seeking with enough detail so that a knowledgeable official of the activity may locate the record with a reasonable amount of effort. Such detail should include descriptive information of the document(s) sought, date of document (if known), if unknown then the approximate time-frame to be searched or a description of the event/incident, etc. Because most Navy records are not retained permanently, the more information you can provide, the better chance there is to determine if the records still exist and where they may be. The FOIA clearly states that records must exist at the time the request is submitted to be considered.
3. A requester must state a willingness to pay all fees or fees up to a specified amount, or provide justification to support a fee waiver or reduction of fees. Agreement to pay a fee is considered to include amounts up to $250, unless another greater or lesser amount is specified. Normally we charge search, review (for commercial requester's only) and duplication costs. Total costs will depend on the fee category your request falls under per Secretary of the Navy FOIA Instruction 5720.42G.
4. Include your complete postal service address and/or email address on your request and indicate how you want your response to be provided to you. (i.e., U.S. Postal Service, email, etc.)
5. Please see a sample FOIA request letter.
6. The next step in submitting a request is deciding where to send the request. Because Navy records are maintained in a decentralized system, you will get the fastest response by sending your request to the Department of the Navy component (activity/command) most likely to be holding the record(s) you seek.
Step 1a: Submitting Your Request to a Navy Activity
Please visit the FOIA contacts page for help in locating commands, obtaining addresses, or finding a command's website. Once you have located a command and have its address (postal, email or fax), you may submit your request in writing to that command. Alternatively, you may submit your request to a command via a web-based FOIA request form, if that command has one available on its website. If after consulting this list, you are not sure which activity may hold the records you seek, it is recommended you contact the Navy's FOIA manager at 202-685-6530/6517 for assistance.
Step 2a: Submitting Your Request to a Navy Activity
If you believe the records you seek are held at the headquarters of the Commander, Military Sealift Command (MSC), you may use any of the following methods to submit a Freedom of Information Act request:
Submit a request in writing to:
Commander, Military Sealift Command
471 East C Street, Building SP-64
Norfolk, VA 23511
Submit a written request via fax:
You may send your request by fax 1-757-341-5537 or go to FOIAonline.gov, establish an account and submit your request there.
If the records you seek are not held by MSC, we will attempt to forward your request to the Department of the Navy component(s) most likely to have the records meeting your description, or return the request to you. You will be advised if your request is referred to another activity.
For more information on submitting a FOIA request, you may wish to consult the FOIA Handbook.
The FOIA allows any person to seek access to agency records. The Navy processes thousands of FOIA requests for a wide variety of information and only in about 10% of the cases is information denied. You will receive a response to your request.
Please keep in mind that the 20 working day time limit (excluding Saturdays, Sundays or legal holidays) begins when the activity/command holding the record(s) receives your request.
Due to shrinking budgets, downsizing, complexity of certain requests, the need for classification and legal review, coupled with the number of requests received for processing, some Navy activities may not be able to respond to your FOIA request within 20 working days.
FOIA requesters who have any questions concerning the processing of their requests should contact the MSC FOIA Coordinator at 757-443-2359. If you are not satisfied with the response from this center, you may contact the DON FOIA Public Liaison at 202-685-0412.
To check on the status of your request submitted to MSC, please contact the FOIA Coordinator.
Our goal is to provide the most information we can to the public. However, in some instances information may be withheld from disclosure. The FOIA statute (5 U.S.C. 552) provides for the following exemptions of information (exemption number at end of item):
currently and properly classified in the interest of national defense or foreign policy (b)(1)
related solely to internal personnel rules and practices, the release of which would allow circumvention of a statute or rule (b)(2)
protected by a statute that specifically exempts the information (b)(3)
trade secrets and commercial or financial information which was obtained from a private source which would cause substantial competitive harm to the source (b)(4)
pre-decisional advice, opinions and recommendations, information of a speculative, tentative, or evaluative nature, inter- or intra-agency email, memoranda or letters involving the deliberative process and that show a foreseeable harm to a government interest if released. Also, this exemption may apply to attorney-client privilege and attorney-work product; (b)(5)
personnel and medical information the release of which would result in a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; (b)(6)
investigatory records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, which:
(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 investigative techniques, and/or
(f) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual (b)(7)
records for the use of any agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions (b)(8)
records containing geological and geophysical information (including maps) concerning wells (b)(9)
You may appeal the denial of information. Your letter of appeal must be postmarked within 90 calendar days from the date of the denial letter. At a minimum, an appeal letter should state the following information:
Why the denial may be in error, and reason(s) why your appeal should be granted. You should include a copy of your original request and a copy of the response letter denying you information. It is recommended you clearly mark your letter and the envelope "Freedom of Information Act."
For matters where the initial request pertained to business and commercial matters such as requests for copies of contracts, grants, and other business transactions; personal and real property (including non-operational environmental matters pertaining thereto); fiscal matters, i.e., how money was spent; records regarding civilian personnel; matters pertaining sonar litigation; and denials based on exemption 4:
Office of the General Counsel
Department of the Navy General Counsel
1000 Navy Pentagon, Room 5A532
Washington, DC 20350-1000
For matters where the initial request pertained to military justice, military law, torts, investigations, aircraft accident investigations, safety investigations, mishap reports, NCIS investigations, operational law (including environmental issues such as fleet exercises, sea trials, munitions, matters involving activities of military personnel, and any other matter not under the cognizance of OGC), critical infrastructure information, and detainee operations:
Office of the Judge Advocate General
ATTN: General Litigation Division (Code 14)
1322 Patterson Ave., SE, Suite 3000
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5066