25 CFR 517.6 - Timing of responses to requests.
(a) In general. The FOIA Officer ordinarily shall respond to requests according to their order of receipt.
(b) Multitrack processing. (1) The FOIA Officer may use multi-track processing in responding to requests. Multi-track processing means placing simple requests requiring rather limited review in one processing track and placing more voluminous and complex requests in one or more other tracks. Request in either track are processed on a first-in/first-out basis.
(2) The FOIA Officer may provide requesters in its slower track(s) with an opportunity to limit the scope of their requests in order to qualify for faster processing within the specified limits of faster track(s). The FOIA Officer will do so either by contacting the requester by letter or telephone, whichever is more efficient in each case.
(c) Initial determinations. (1) The FOIA Officer shall make an initial determination regarding access to the requested information and notify the requester within twenty (20) working days after receipt of the request. This 20 day period may be extended if unusual circumstances arise. If an extension is necessary, the FOIA Officer shall promptly notify the requester of the extension, briefly stating the reasons for the extension, and estimating when the FOIA Officer will respond. Unusual circumstances warranting extension are:
(i) The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request;
(ii) The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of records which are demanded in a single request; or
(iii) The need for consultation with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request, which consultation shall be conducted with all practicable speed.
(2) If the FOIA Officer decides that an initial determination cannot be reached within the time limits specified in paragraph (c)(1) of this section, the FOIA Officer shall notify the requester of the reasons for the delay and include an estimate of when a determination will be made. The requester will then have the opportunity to modify the request or arrange for an alternative time frame for completion of the request.
(3) If the FOIA Officer has a reasonable basis to conclude that a requester or group of requesters has divided a request into a series of requests on a single subject or related subjects to avoid fees, the requests may be aggregated and fees charged accordingly. Multiple requests involving unrelated matters will not be aggregated.
(4) If no initial determination has been made at the end of the 20 day period provided for in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, including any extension, the requester may appeal the action to the FOIA Appeals Officer.
(5) If the FOIA Officer determines that another agency is responsible for the records, the FOIA Officer shall refer such records to the appropriate agency for direct response to the requester. The FOIA Officer shall inform the requester of the referral and of the name and address of the agency or agencies to which the request has been referred.
(d) Granting of requests. When the FOIA Officer determines that the requested records shall be made available, the FOIA Officer shall notify the requester in writing and provide copies of the requested records in whole or in part once any fees charged under Sec. 517.9 have been paid in full. Records disclosed in part shall be marked or annotated to show the exemption applied to the withheld information and the amount of information withheld unless to do so would harm the interest protected by an applicable exemption. If a requested record contains exempted material along with nonexempt material, all reasonable segregable material shall be disclosed.
(e) Denial of requests. When the FOIA Officer determines that access to requested records should be denied, the FOIA Officer shall notify the requester of the denial, the grounds for the denial, and the procedures for appeal of the denial.
(f) Expedited processing of request. The FOIA Officer must determine whether to grant the request for expedited processing within (10) calendar days of its receipt. Requests will receive expedited processing if one of the following compelling needs is met:
(1) The requester can establish that failure to receive the records quickly could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; or
(2) The requester is primarily engaged in disseminating information and can demonstrate that an urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity exists.