The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that was established by Congress that allows members of the public to obtain copies of government records. By allowing access to government records, the public then has a means by which to see and understand how the government does business. The law itself is rather complex, and in the Mobile District we take pride in the fact that we have established a simple program that allows requesters to submit requests quickly and (hopefully) easily that then allow us to process those requests expeditiously.
Why is FOIA Required?
The general "rule of thumb" in the Mobile District is that if someone in the public sector wishes to obtain copies or to gain access to records we may have, and those records are not currently available online or through other public access venues, a Freedom of Information Act request must be submitted. (Submit FOIA Requests via E-mail HERE).
What is Required?
º Full Name
º Company/Firm Name (if applicable)
º Mailing Address
º Telephone Number
º E-mail Address (if applicable)
º Description of records you are seeking (see guidelines below)
º Agreement to pay minimal fees or request for fee waiver (see guidelines below)
Requests must be submitted in writing, we cannot process verbal requests. The FOIA process not only ensures that you get a response to your request in a timely manner, the process also ensures that you get the records you are specifically looking for. The FOIA process also provides some limited measures of security and/or protection of potentially proprietary and/or personal information that may be included in our records.
How Long Does it Take?
The FOIA allows our office 20 working days to process a request. There are a number of factors that do need to be taken into consideration before that clock begins to tick, so it's essential that requesters provide us with the most precise and detailed information about their requests so that we can process them as quickly as possible as soon as we receive them.
What Should I Put in My Request?
We have provided a specific list of the details that must be included in any request (below), and have provided a sample Request Letter as a reference tool. In sum, requests must state a willingness to pay the applicable fees and must describe the documents requested in sufficient detail to allow the FOIA Office to locate them with a reasonable amount of effort. In making a request you should be as specific as possible with regard to names, titles, dates, places, events, subjects, recipients, type of document, the offices likely to maintain the documents, etc.
Submitting a FOIA Request:
Listed below are some essential things to keep in mind when you submit a request. Please remember that each request is processed on a first in/first out basis, and while we understand and appreciate the importance/significance of your particular needs, we do have other requests in our queue and response efforts ongoing for a number of matters at any given time.
Do send your request directly to the Mobile District FOIA Office:
U.S. Mail: CESAM-OC (FOIA Office)
PO Box 2288
Mobile, AL 36628
|Don't send your request to another Mobile District office or staff person. Doing this is likely to delay our ability to process a response for you in a timely manner.
|Do make sure to be as specific as possible when describing the records you need to best meet your needs.
||Don't send a request asking for "any and/or all" records that "may relate to" a given subject or project. Terms such as this make it impossible to locate records that will bet meet your needs, and process them in a timely manner.
|Do provide property addresses, ownership history and location(s) of property if you are seeking permitting records.
||Don't send copies of maps, illustrations or other attachments that you think might show where property is located. We rely on written search criteria, sometimes maps and such can be misleading.
|Do submit your request in writing AND include all of the required elements for processing.
||Don't call us to ask for records or describe what you want over the telephone. We must rely on your written request to ensure an accurate response.
|Do allow us sufficient time to process your request. The law allows us 20 working days to provide a response, and there is a LOT that goes in to making that happen.
||Don't call other Corps offices or staff and ask what they can do to "help get your records quicker." We have a very specific process that we follow, and trying to ask someone to intervene is likely to complicate our process, add confusion and delay our ability to provide a timely and accurate response.