Before you file a request . . . .
Please take a moment to understand the FOIA process before submitting a request... read below to avoid some common mistakes.
The U.S. Army Environmental Command may only process FOIA requests for records in the possession and control of the command. If you are seeking records pertaining to a specific installation or garrison, please contact them directly.
For records 25 years or older, please direct your request to the National Archives and Records Administration.
Common FOIA Mistakes
Requesting records from the wrong office:
Each command has a FOIA officer, and each office is only allowed to process requests for records maintained by that command. As a general rule, the request must be sent to the garrison or command FOIA officer where the records are physically stored/maintained.
Requesting records pertaining to the individual requestor:
Most records related directly to the individual-- such as background or security checks, personnel documents, etc.-- are considered Privacy Act requests, not FOIA requests. Contact your local HR office for information on how to obtain personal records.
Requesting materials without agreeing to pay reasonable fees:
In many cases, Federal contracts can be hundreds of pages or more, and information covered by the privacy act must be redacted before the request can be fulfilled. The Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff requires requesters to agree to a minimum fee of $150 to process a contract-related FOIA request.
Fees are based on actual expenses incurred processing the request, and will vary. All written requests must indicate a willingness to pay reasonable fees, and should provide a maximum amount. A FOIA officer will contact the requester to negotiate costs if necessary. The goal is to provide reasonable reimbursement to the government while providing maximum access of records to the public, but the receiving FOIA office cannot begin processing a request until they are reasonably certain the government will be reimbursed for expenses.
What is a FOIA request?
The Freedom of Information Act generally provides that any person has a right, to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions of them) are protected from disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.
Enacted in 1966, the FOIA established an effective statutory right of access to government information. The principles of government openness and accountability underlying the FOIA are inherent in the democratic ideal: "The basic purpose of [the] FOIA is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed."
The Supreme Court has emphasized that "official information that sheds light on an agency's performance of its statutory duties” falls squarely within that statutory purpose.
(See the Department of Defense FOIA Handbook for more details).
More FOIA Mistakes
It is the responsibility of the requester to ensure enough information is provided to the FOIA officer to process the request. For example, a request for "contracts related to cultural resource activities on Fort Stewart" can not be processed at USAEC for two reasons:
- the request should be sent to Fort Stewart, not the HQ, and
- there are dozens of cultural resource programs encompassing hundreds of buildings and historic sites (and multiple contractors) on the installation.
In this example, ideally, a contract number should be included in the request. If that's not possible, the requester must provide enough information ("contract related to the historic restoration of building 2245 on Main Street, Hunter Army Air Field") to enable the FOIA officer to fulfill the request.
Each federal agency is responsible for meeting FOIA requirements for its own records. Persons or organizations who wish to request records from the U.S. Army Environmental Command should contact:
U.S. Army Environmental Command
ATTN: FOIA Officer
2450 Connell Road
JBSA Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234
FAX: (210) 466-1675
The request must be in writing. The request can be mailed, e-mailed or faxed to the command.
- The request must describe, in as much detail as possible, the record(s) sought, and identify the format the requester would like to receive the documents in (email, CD/DVD, hard copy, etc.). Note that the FOIA does not require agencies to do research for you, analyze data, answer written questions, or create records in response to your request.
- The request must identify the requester's willingness to pay fees regardless of the fee category and include the maximum dollar amount the requester is willing to pay.
- The request must include the requester's complete mail address, phone number and/or e-mail address.
- For more information, please review the "additional resources" links on this page. The DoD FOIA Handbook is a good starting place for general information and understanding the FOIA process.