Survey Manual

318.1 - Freedom of Information Act

This chapter establishes USGS policy and responsibilities for the administration of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and applies to all USGS employees.

DATE: 9/27/12

OPR:  Director's Office

Instruction: This chapter replaces Chapter 318.1, dated November 10, 2005.

1.  Purpose and Scope. This chapter establishes USGS policy and responsibilities for the administration of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and applies to all USGS employees.

2.  Authorities.

A. The Freedom of Information Act, as amended, 5 U.S.C. §552.

B.  Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, 5 U.S.C. §552a.

C.  Transparency and Open Government, Presidential Memorandum of January 21, 2009.

D.  Department of the Interior FOIA Regulations, 43 CFR Part 2, Subparts A through E, November 20, 2002.

3. References.

A.  Department of the Interior, 383 DM 15, Freedom of Information Act Policy and Procedures.

B. Department of the Interior, 383 DM 15, Freedom of Information Act Handbook.

4.  Policy. It is USGS policy to make records available to the public consistent with the Freedom of Information Act.

5.  Definitions.

A.  FOIA Request. A FOIA request means a written request (this includes facsimile and e-mail) made by any member of the public for USGS records. A FOIA request can be made by any individual (including a non-U.S. citizen), corporation, association, public interest group, or the media; a State, local, or foreign government; or an Indian tribe.

B.  Record.  Federal records include all books, papers, maps, photographs, machine-readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of the records .

C. Full Grant.  An agency decision to disclose all records in full in response to a request.


D.  Full Denial.  An agency decision not to release any records in response to a request because the records are exempt in their entireties under one or more FOIA exemptions.

E.  Partial Grant/Partial Denial.  An agency decision to disclose segrable portions of the records and to withhold other portions that are exempt under the FOIA. 

F.  Perfected Request.  Request which adequately describes the records sought, which has been received by the FOIA office or agency component in possession of the records, and for which there is no remaining questions about the payment of applicable fees.

G.  Workday.  A workday for the purposes of adhering to time limitations inherent in responding to a FOIA request is considered to mean a regular Federal working day and does not include Saturdays, Sundays, or Federal legal holidays.

6.  Responsibilities.

A.  Deputy Director.  Ensures that all USGS programs and activities are in compliance with the provisions of the FOIA and DOI FOIA regulations.

B.  Associate Director for Administration and Enterprise Information.  Ensures that appropriate FOIA policies and procedures are planned and implemented in all USGS activities and has delegated authority to deny access to USGS records after consultation with the Office of the Solicitor.

C.  USGS FOIA Officer.

(1)  Serves as the primary contact between the DOI FOIA Officer and the USGS for FOIA activities.

(2)  Consults with the Office of the Solicitor for USGS records and has delegated authority to deny access to records.

(3)  Tracks and ensures responses to USGS FOIA requests.

(4)  Maintains records necessary for the preparation of the annual report to the Department of Justice and the Chief FOIA Officer Report.

(5)  Manages a USGS FOIA team composed of headquarters and mission area representatives.

(6)  Provides advice to USGS employees on matters relating to FOIA requests.


(1)  Coordinates the responses to FOIA requests that relate to national USGS programs.

(2)  Ensures that the USGS FOIA Officer is notified of all FOIA activities.

(3)  Team representatives will ensure that the entire USGS FOIA Team is informed of their individual FOIA activities, and, when delegated the authority, may deny access to records after consultation with the Office of the Solicitor.

E. USGS Employees will notify the appropriate USGS FOIA Team representative (internal link removed), in a timely manner, when a FOIA request has been received individually and will properly maintain records and files pertaining to the request.

7.  FOIA Exemptions. There are nine exemptions that serve as a basis for withholding information from the public.  (See 383 DM 15, Freedom of Information Act Handbook, for a description of each exemption.)   

A.  Matters of national defense or foreign policy.

B.  Internal personnel rules and practices.

C.  Information exempted by other statutes.

D.  Trade secrets, commercial or financial information (confidential business information).

E.  Privileged interagency or intra-agency memoranda or letters.

F.  Personal information affecting an individual’s privacy.

G.  Records compiled for law enforcement purposes.

H.  Records of financial institutions.

I.  Geological and geophysical information concerning wells.

These exemptions are not mandatory bars to disclosure, but describe the information that USGS FOIA officials may, upon determination that sound grounds for withholding a record exists, chose not to release.  It is the practice of the USGS to withhold information falling within an exemption only if disclosure is prohibited by Federal statute or Executive Order or if valid grounds exist for invocation of the exemption. 


8.  Uniform Fee Schedule.  Unless waived, the Department's bureaus and offices are authorized to charge fees to requesters in accordance with provisions of 43 CFR 2.15 through 2.20 and 43 CFR Part 2, Appendix C, in order to recover the direct costs of search, review, and duplication of requested records.  Note that 43 CFR 2.18 provides that the requester indicate the maximum amount of fees that he/she is willing to pay.

9.  Annual Report.  On or before February 1 of each calendar year, the USGS is required to submit a report covering FOIA activities for the preceding calendar year to the Departmental FOIA Officer.  The USGS FOIA Officer will request information from appropriate offices and prepare the USGS consolidated report for submittal to the Department. 


/s/ Diane K. Wade                                                                                          September 27, 2012
______________________________________                                            __________________
 Diane K. Wade                                                                                                          Date
Associate Director for Administration and 
Enterprise Information