32 CFR 701.41 - FOIA fee terms.
(a) Direct costs means those expenditures a DON activity actually makes in searching for, reviewing (in the case of commercial requesters), and duplicating documents to respond to a FOIA request. Direct costs include, for example, the salary of the employee performing the work (the basic rate of pay for the employee plus 16 percent of that rate to cover benefits), and the costs of operating duplicating machinery. These factors have been included in the fee rates prescribed in this subpart. Not included in direct costs are overhead expenses such as costs of space, heating or lighting the facility in which the records are stored.
(b) Duplication refers to the process of making a copy of a document in response to a FOIA request. Such copies can take the form of paper copy, microfiche, audiovisual, or machine readable documentation (e.g., magnetic tape or disc), among others. Every effort will be made to ensure that the copy provided is in a form that is reasonably usable, the requester shall be notified that the copy provided is the best available, and that the activity's master copy shall be made available for review upon appointment. For duplication of computer tapes and audiovisual, the actual cost, including the operator's time, shall be charged. In practice, if a DON activity estimates that assessable duplication charges are likely to exceed $25.00, it shall notify the requester of the estimate, unless the requester has indicated in advance his or her willingness to pay fees as high as those anticipated. Such a notice shall offer a requester the opportunity to confer with activity personnel with the object of reformulating the request to meet his or her needs at a lower cost.
(c) Review refers to the process of examining documents located in response to a FOIA request to determine whether one or more of the statutory exemptions permit withholding. It also includes processing the documents for disclosure, such as excising them for release. Review does not include the time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of exemptions. It should be noted that charges for commercial requesters may be assessed only for the initial review. DON activities may not charge for reviews required at the administrative appeal level of an exemption already applied. However, records or portions of records withheld in full under an exemption that is subsequently determined not to apply may be reviewed again to determine the applicability of other exemptions not previously considered. The costs for such a subsequent review would be properly assessable.
(d) Search refers to time spent looking, both manually and electronically, for material that is responsive to a request. Search also includes a page-by-page or line-by-line identification (if necessary) of material in the record to determine if it, or portions thereof are responsive to the request. DON activities should ensure that searches are done in the most efficient and least expensive manner so as to minimize costs for both the activity and the requester. For example, activities should not engage in line-by-line searches when duplicating an entire document known to contain responsive information would prove to be the less expensive and quicker method of complying with the request. Time spent reviewing documents in order to determine whether to apply one or more of the statutory exemptions is not search time, but review time.
(1) DON activities may charge for time spent searching for records, even if that search fails to locate records responsive to the request.
(2) DON activities may also charge search and review (in the case of commercial requesters) time if records located are determined to be exempt from disclosure.
(3) In practice, if the DON activity estimates that search charges are likely to exceed $25.00, it shall notify the requester of the estimated amount of fees, unless the requester has indicated in advance his or her willingness to pay fees as high as those anticipated. Such a notice shall offer the requester the opportunity to confer with activity personnel with the object of reformulating the request to meet his or her needs at a lower cost.