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FOIA Fees and Waivers

When making a FOIA request, please specify the fee category in which you feel your request falls and the amount you are willing to pay. The FOIA divides requestors into the following four categories:

  1. Commercial use requesters may be charged fees for searching for documents, reviewing the documents, and duplication.
  2. Educational or noncommercial scientific institutions may be charged only for duplication, minus the first 100 pages.
  3. Representatives of the news media may be charged only for duplication, minus the first 100 pages.
  4. All other requesters may be charged fees for searching for documents and duplication minus the first 2 hours of search time and the first 100 pages.

In your FOIA request, you must specify the amount that you are willing to pay. If ONR anticipates that fees associated with processing your request will exceed the amount you stipulate in your FOIA, you will be notified. In cases where no responsive records are located, ONR can charge the requester for any applicable search time involved.

Fee Structures

The FOIA provides for the collection of fees for:

  • Searches: Time spent in looking for and retrieving material, either paper or electronic files, that may be responsive to the request, including personnel hours (clerical, professional or managerial).
  • Reviews: Time spent to determine if the record is releasable under legal guidelines, excluding the resolution of legal or policy issues. This includes blacking out or redaction of text.
  • Reproduction: Generating a copy of a requested record in the appropriate medium, for example paper or computer disk.

FOIA Fees are assessed based on the requester's category. The fee schedule is provided at SECNAVINST 5720.42F, DON FOIA Program, enclosure (3). See sample Cost Sheet: DoD Form 2086, Cost Sheet.

Fee Waiver

FOIA requesters do not pay any indirect processing costs. Further, only commercial requesters are assessed all direct costs incurred in processing their requests. Qualified educational, non-commercial scientific institutions, and news media requesters do not pay search and review fees and receive up to 100 pages before incurring fees. All other requesters receive two hours of search time, all review fees, and 100 pages of duplication at no cost. Billable costs under $15 are not normally assessed. Additional waivers are granted when disclosure "is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government." Fee waiver requests must include a justification addressing the following issues:

  • Subject of the Request: Explain how the subject matter of the request involves issues which will significantly contribute to the public's understanding of Navy operations or activities.
  • Informative Value of the Information to be Disclosed: Explain how disclosure of non-exempt portions of the requested document will provide new, meaningful information about Navy operations or activities to the public.
  • Contribution to Public's Understanding: Explain how disclosure will have the potential to inform the public rather than the requester or a small segment of interested persons. Demonstrate the capability to disclose information in a manner informative to the general public. Describe your qualifications, the nature of the research, the purpose of the requested information, and the intended means of dissemination.
  • Significance of the Contribution to Public Understanding: Explain how disclosure of the requested document will be unique in contributing previously unknown facts, thereby enhancing public knowledge, and why disclosure will not basically duplicate what is already known by the general public.
  • Commercial Interest: Explain why disclosure of the requested document is not primarily in your commercial interest.

The following are examples of insupportable fee waiver requests:

  • Requests for press clippings, magazine articles, or records forwarding a particular opinion or concern from a member of the public regarding a naval activity, as well as requests for documents to assist in plans to write a book, research a particular subject, doctoral dissertation work, or claims of indigence.
  • Requests for information already in the public domain or nearly identical information that would add no new meaningful information on Navy operations and activities.
  • Requests for information that would further the requester's commercial, trade, or profit interest such as requests from data brokers or others who compile government information for marketing purposes.