Get up to speed on FOIA, Privacy Act
May 24, 2012
The first choice for servicemembers and veterans to obtain records should be to follow the guidance on the U.S. Army Human Resources Command website at https://www.hrc.army.mil/. The Standard Form, or SF, 180 is no more than a request for records used by the National Archives and Records Administration's National Personnel Records Center.
The Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Office (commonly called the FOIA/PA Office) gets involved when the request isn't authorized to be released by the subject of the record.
1. What are the similarities and differences between the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 (FOIA) and the Privacy Act of 1974 (PA)?
Similarities: Both laws guarantee the public the right to request access to records held by the federal government, and both have fees and time limits. Under both laws, certain information is exempt from release.
Differences: FOIA guarantees access rights to any person and applies to government agency records. The PA guarantees access rights to the individual who is the subject of the records sought and applies only to records contained in a Privacy Act System of Records.
2. What regulations that govern these two programs?
The Freedom of Information Act is governed by Army Regulation 25-55/Freedom of Information Act and DOD 5400.7-R/The DOD Freedom of Information Act Program.
The Privacy Act is governed by Army Regulation 340-21/The Army Privacy Program and DOD 5400.11-R/Department of Defense Privacy Program
3. What is needed when placing a FOIA request?
A FOIA request must be in written form, reasonably describe the records sought, reflect a willingness to pay fees and provide a physical address. No special request form is needed.
4. For what kinds of records is HRC responsible?
The U.S. Army Human Resources Command is responsible for military personnel files relating to active-duty military personnel matters, personnel locator, physical disability determinations, and other military personnel administration records; records relating to military casualty and memorialization activities; heraldic activities; voting; records relating to identification cards; naturalization and citizenship; commercial solicitation; Military Postal Service Agency, and Army postal and unofficial mail service.
5. What types of information are releasable/not releasable?
Information normally releasable under FOIA and the Privacy Act: name, position, title, work phone number, salary, awards, decorations and the official military photo.
Information NOT releasable: home address and telephone number, date and place of birth, Social Security number, race, religion, citizenship, marital status, dependency, disciplinary actions, reasons for termination, misconduct and performance ratings.
6. What do I do if I get a FOIA request at work?
All requests that imply or state the Freedom of Information Act should be forwarded to the local FOIA office or mailed to the Department of the Army FOIA Office for processing.
7. How does one get to the HRC FOIA site?
Learn more about the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act at https://www.hrc.army.mil/STAFF/FOIA Requests.
If you want to request records and you don't know where to begin, submit your requests to your local FOIA office for processing.