36 CFR 1250.26 - How quickly will NARA respond to my FOIA request?
(a) Acknowledgement. NARA acknowledges all FOIA requests in writing within 20 working days after receipt by the appropriate office (see 36 CFR 1250.22). The acknowledgement letter or email informs you of your request tracking number, and any complexity in processing that may lengthen the time NARA requires to reach a final decision on the release of the records. The acknowledgement letter or email may also seek additional information to clarify your request or to ask you to narrow the scope of a very large or broad request.
(b) Clarification of requests. Requests must reasonably describe the records sought. If we determine that a request does not reasonably describe the records sought, or if we are uncertain about another aspect of the request, we contact you to ask for clarification.
(c) Search cut-off date. As the end or cut-off date for a records search, NARA uses the date on which we first begin our search for documents responsive to your request, unless you specify an earlier cut-off date. This includes those cases when you request records “through the present,” “through today,” or similar language. If NARA uses any other search end date, we inform you of that date.
(d) Stops in processing time, clarification requests, and administrative closure. NARA may stop the clock for processing a request one time in order to seek your clarification. In such a case, the processing time resumes upon our receipt of your response. We provide at least 60 calendar days for you to respond to a request for clarification. If you do not clarify the request within 60 calendar days, we deny the request for not reasonably describing the records sought and provide you with the opportunity to appeal under the procedures in Subpart D. Should you not answer any correspondence, or should the correspondence be returned as undeliverable, NARA reserves the right to administratively close the FOIA request 60 calendar days after the date of the last correspondence we send.
(e) Confidential commercial information. If you have requested records containing confidential commercial information, refer to 36 CFR 1250.82 for information on how we process that request.
(f) Processing queues. NARA places FOIA requests in simple or complex processing queues to be processed in the order received, on a first-in, first-out basis. In most cases, we make a determination about release of the records you requested within 20 working days from when the appropriate office receives your request (simple queue processing). However, if complexity or unusual circumstances prevent NARA from making a decision within 20 working days, we place your request into a complex processing queue. This way, such cases do not hold up the processing of other requests that do not include such time-consuming factors. We notify you of complicating factors in our acknowledgement letter or email, and you may choose to limit the scope of your request to convert the complex processing queue request to a simple processing queue request. For more detailed information on NARA's multi-track processing queues, see our FOIA Guide at http://www.archives.gov/foia-guide.html (for a paper copy, see 36 CFR 1250.20(d)).
(g) Complex processing queue factors. We place into a complex processing queue any request that cannot be completed within 20 working days due to complexity, volume, because it contains national security information, because it involves Presidential or Vice Presidential records, or involves unusual circumstances. Unusual circumstances include the need to:
(1) Search for and collect the records from one or more field facilities;
(2) Search for, collect, and review a voluminous amount of records that are part of a single request;
(3) Consult with another Federal agency before releasing records; or
(4) Refer records to another Federal agency for declassification.
(h) Complex processing schedule. If NARA needs to extend the deadline for more than an additional 10 working days due to the complexity of a request or as a result of unusual circumstances, we ask if you wish to modify your request so that we can answer the request sooner. If you do not wish to modify your request, we work with you to arrange an alternative schedule for review and release.
(i) Complex processing: National security declassification and release. NARA does not have the authority to declassify and release records containing national security information without the approval of the agencies that have Original Classification Authority for the information contained in the records. We send copies of the documents to the appropriate originating Federal agencies for declassification review. We also send you an initial response to your FOIA request within 20 working days, informing you of this consultation with, or referral to, another Federal agency, except to the extent that the association with the other agency may itself be classified. Upon your request, we provide you an estimated date of completion.
(j) Complex processing: Presidential or Vice Presidential records. If you request Presidential or Vice Presidential records and we determine that the records are not subject to any applicable FOIA or Presidential Records Act (PRA) exemption (and can therefore be released), we must notify the current and former President(s) or Vice President(s) of our intention to disclose information from those records. After receiving the notice, the current and former President(s) and Vice President(s) have a period of time (as set out in the applicable Executive order on implementation of the PRA) in which to choose whether to invoke Executive Privilege to deny access to the requested information. Although we send you an initial status response to your FOIA request within 20 working days in these cases, the final response to your FOIA request will take longer. We can provide the final response only at the end of the Presidential notification period set forth in the Executive order.