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Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) Freedom of Information Act

This web site was developed to ensure that your right to access the information systems maintained at the Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic is protected.

It was also developed to educate you regarding your rights to your privacy information held at this command and how we protect disclosure of that information.

Inside you will also find out how to submit a request to our Freedom of Information/Privacy Coordinator. Please browse our web site at your leisure.

If you need assistance, check the Frequently Asked Questions page. If you do not find what you need, please contact our FOIA/PA Coordinator for further assistance.

FOIA requesters may notice delays in responses to FOIA requests from Department of the Navy FOIA Requester Service Centers. We apologize for these delays; however, please be assured that Navy FOIA Officers are committed to providing quality customer service during this time. Thank you for your patience.

Commander, Naval Surface Force, Atlantic
1751 Morris Street
Norfolk, VA 23511-2808

FOIA POC: (757) 836-3509
PA POC: (757) 836-3128
FAX: (757) 836-3254





 Introduction to FOIA

Introduction to the Freedom of Information Act Freedom of Information Act

5 U.S.C. 552, As Amended By
Public Law No. 104-231, 110 Stat. 3048

FOIA Policy:

FOIA policy for the Federal Government is established by the Department of Justice (DoJ). The DoJ FOIA website contains many helpful references. It's main page on FOIA can be found (here); Individual Government agencies establish FOIA policies in accordance with DoJ guidance and relevant statutory and case law.

PA Policy:

The Privacy Act (PA) of 1974 (Public Law 93-579), codified as 5 U.S.C. 552a, establishes safeguards for the protection of records the Government collects and maintains on United States citizens and lawfully admitted permanent residents. Specifically, it mandates that the Government inform people at the time it is collecting information about them why the information is being collected and how it will be used; publish a notice in the Federal Register of new or revised systems of records on individuals; assure that information is accurate, relevant, complete and up-to-date before disclosing it to others; allow individuals to find out about disclosures of their records to other agencies or persons; and provide individuals with the opportunity to correct inaccuracies in their records.

The PA allows individuals to seek access to records retrieved by their name and personal identifier that are contained in a PA system of records; provide written authorization for their representative to act on their behalf; and seek records on behalf of a minor child if they are the legal guardian or parent and are determined to be acting in the minor's best interest.

An "Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974" (located at is a discussion of the Privacy Act's disclosure prohibitions, its access and amendment provisions, and its agency recordkeeping requirements. Any inquiry about the Privacy Act's provisions should be made to individual agency Privacy Act officers in conjunction with use of this "Overview". Particularly important Privacy Act policy/litigation questions, or questions concerning the OMB Guidelines, may be directed to OMB.

Purpose of this Site:

This web site allows you to obtain documents, through FOIA and PA requests, from Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic (CNSL). This site provides a brief description of your rights and the manner in which we process and respond to FOIA/PA requests. The information contained herein is not intended to be exhaustive, and you may obtain additional information from other Government sources, or from your own legal counsel or FOIA point of contact. Due to its size and complexity, the Government's FOIA and PA programs are decentralized among various agencies that operate their own FOIA/PA offices and respond directly to the public for documents under their possession and control. If you desire documents from an agency other than CNSL, you may use the (related links) or other sources to connect with those websites.


 Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions Freedom of Information Act

1. 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.

2. Who is subject to the FOIA and what type of information can be requested?

The FOIAs scope includes Federal Executive Branch Departments, agencies, and offices, Federal regulatory agencies, and Federal corporations. Congress, the Federal Courts, and parts of the Executive Office of the President are not subject to the FOIA. State and local governments are likewise not subject to the Federal FOIA, but some states have their own equivalent access laws for state documents.

3. What is a document?

A document is the product of data compilation, such as books, papers, maps, photographs, and machine readable materials, including those in electronic form or format, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the U.S. Government under Federal law in connection with the transaction of public business and in the agency's possession and control at the time the FOIA request is made. Documents submitted voluntarily to the U.S. Government (for example brochures) and documents specifically exempted by separate law (for example, contract proposals) are not subject to the FOIA. Finally, agencies are not required to go outside the government (for example, to a contractor) to obtain a copy of requested documents not in the agency's possession and control at the date the request is made.

4. Can I ask questions under the FOIA?

The FOIA does not require Federal agencies to answer questions, render opinions, or provide subjective evaluations. Requesters must ask for existing documents, such as those mentioned above.

5. What is the relationship between the FOIA and Privacy Act?

You may request documents under the FOIA and/or Privacy Acts through this office. Privacy Act requests are typically more narrow and focus on an individual's personal documents from a system of records (for example, personnel files). This office will assume that FOIA requests for such documents are also made under the Privacy Act.

6. Can I appeal a denial?

Yes. If your request is initially denied in whole or in part under one or more of the above exemptions or denied for some other reason, you will be advised of your appeal rights and the proper procedures for submitting the appeal, which must be postmarked within 60 calendar days of the date of the denial letter. You may also appeal any determination you consider to be adverse (for example the inability of the command to find your document). As with appeals of denied information, an appeal of an adverse determination also must be postmarked within 60 calendar days of the date of the letter advising you of the adverse determination.

7. How long will it take for my request to be processed?

Requests are processed in order by date of receipt and according to their complexity. These are called easy and hard queuing tracks. Whenever possible, an initial determination to release or deny a record is made within 20 working days after receipt of the request by the official who is designated to respond. However, due to the thousands of requests received annually, the agency may need additional time to answer your request. Under certain conditions, expedited access may be granted if there is a compelling need, such as a threat to life and safety, if a person engaged in disseminating information has an urgency to inform the public on actual or alleged Federal Government activity, an imminent loss of substantial due process rights, or a humanitarian need.

8. Do I have to pay for a FOIA request?

FOIA allows fees to be charged to certain types of requesters (usually at $44 per hour and $.15 per page for copies), but it also provides that waivers or reductions in fees be given if disclosing the information is in the public interest. Public interest is defined as information which significantly enhances the publics knowledge of the operations and activities of the Federal Government. FOIA requires that requesters be placed into one of the below categories:

Commercial. Requesters who seek information for a use or purpose that furthers their commercial, trade, or profit interest are considered commercial requesters. Commercial requesters pay all fees for search, review and duplication.

Educational. Institutions of education, including preschools, elementary or secondary schools and institutions of higher learning, qualify as educational institutions. The records must be sought in furtherance of scholarly research. Educational requesters pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest. The first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

Non-Commercial Scientific. A non-commercial scientific institution is operated solely for conducting scientific research. The records must be sought in furtherance of scientific research. Like educational requesters, these requesters pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest. The first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

News Media. A representative of the news media is a person actively gathering news for an entity organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. News media pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest. Again, the first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

"Other" Requesters. Requesters who do not qualify in another category are considered "other" requesters, and normally make requests for agency records for their personal use. "Other" requesters receive two hours search, all review costs, and the first 100 pages at no cost and all requesters should submit a willingness to pay fees regardless of the fee category; however, this does not mean you will be charged fees. The following factors are weighed in making a fee waiver determination:

  • The informative value of the information to be disclosed.
  • The significance of the contribution to public understanding.
  • Disclosure of the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

9. What are the reasons for not releasing a record?

Reasons for not releasing a record include:

  • A reasonable search of files failed to identify responsive records.
  • The requests were transferred to another DoD Component, or to another Federal Agency.
  • The request was withdrawn by the requester.
  • The requester was unwilling to pay fees associated with a request; the requester is past due in the payment of fees from a previous FOIA request; or the requester disagrees with the fee estimate.
  • A record has not been described with sufficient particularity to enable the DoD Component to locate it by conducting a reasonable search.
  • The requester has failed to comply with procedural requirements, other than fee-related, imposed by DoD 5400.7-R or DoD Component supplementing regulations.
  • The information requested is not a record within the meaning of the FOIA and this Regulation.
  • The request is a duplicate request (e.g. a requester asks for the same information more than once). This includes identical requests received via different means (e.g. electronic mail, facsimile, mail, courier) at the same or different times.
  • Any other reason a requester does not comply with published rules other than those outlined above.
  • The record is denied in whole or in part in accordance with procedures set forth in the FOIA.

10. What are the FOIA exemptions?

Records (or portions of records) will be disclosed unless that disclosure harms an interest protected by a FOIA exemption.

The nine FOIA exemptions are cited in the Act as 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(1) through (b)(9):

  • (b)(1)records currently and properly classified in the interest of national security;
  • (b)(2)records related solely to internal personnel rules and practices, which if released would allow circumvention of an agency function;
  • (b)(3)records protected by another law that specifically exempts the information from public release;
  • (b)(4)trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a private source which would cause substantial competitive harm to the source if disclosed;
  • (b)(5)internal records that are deliberative in nature and are part of the decision making process that contain opinions and recommendations;
  • (b)(6)records which if released, would result in a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
  • (b)(7)investigatory records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes;
  • (b)(8)records for the use of any agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions; and
  • (b)(9)records containing geological and geophysical information (including maps) concerning wells.



 FOIA Links