About the FOIA Program

The organizational structure of the Department's FOIA Program mirrors the decentralized structure of the Department itself. The Department does not have a central location for submitting FOIA requests and it does not maintain a central index or database of records in its possession. Instead, the Department's files are decentralized and maintained by various bureaus and offices throughout the country. DOI's diverse functions and the sensitive, high profile issues with which it deals, generate a large and increasing number of FOIA requests each year.

To make a request for Department records, a requester must write directly to the bureau that maintains those records. A request to a particular bureau (for example, a request addressed to regional or field office) will be presumed to seek only records from that particular bureau, unless the request specifies otherwise.

Direct questions about where to send a FOIA request to the bureau that manages the underlying program or to the appropriate FOIA Public Liaison.

Address requests to the FOIA contact in the bureau that maintains the requested records after reviewing the FOIA Contacts page.

If you are having difficultly locating the information that you require, please examine our handy Roadmap, which will guide you to the correct location based on the most commonly-sought materials.  The Department and its bureaus/offices post a great deal of information on-line.  If you are interested in making a request you may find the information you seek has already been posted.  A good place to begin is in the eLibraries.


Department's Chief FOIA Officer

The DOI's Chief Information Officer (CIO) has been designated as the Chief FOIA Officer pursuant to Executive Order 13392 and the OPEN Government Act of 2007. The Chief FOIA Officer has the following responsibilities:

  • Department-wide responsibility for efficient and appropriate compliance with the FOIA;
  • Monitoring implementation of the FOIA throughout the Department and keeping the Secretary, the Solicitor, and the Attorney General appropriately informed of the Department's performance in implementing the FOIA;
  • Recommending to the Secretary such adjustments to agency practices, policies, personnel, and funding as may be necessary to improve its implementation of the FOIA;
  • Reviewing and reporting to the Attorney General, through the Secretary, at such times and in such formats as the Attorney General may direct, on the Department's performance in implementing the FOIA;
  • Facilitating public understanding of the purposes of the statutory exemptions of the FOIA; and
  • Designating FOIA Public Liaisons.

Department-level FOIA Policy Staff

Two full-time career employees serve as the Department's FOIA policy staff.  This staff is located within the Office of the Executive Secretariat and assists the Chief FOIA Officer in fulfilling their responsibilities by:

  • Developing policies, regulations, guidelines, procedures, and standards for Department wide FOIA implementation;
  • Maintaining the DOI FOIA website and its FOIA Library;
  • Providing program oversight, technical assistance, and formal training to DOI employees;
  • Managing the electronic FOIA tracking system (EFTS) – a centralized, web-based application that provides for standardized tracking and reporting of FOIA requests Department-wide;
  • Monitoring bureau/office backlogs through monthly and quarterly reporting;
  • Preparing the Department's FOIA annual report based on data entered into the EFTS by FOIA personnel in the 12 bureaus and offices; and
  • Helping coordinate high profile or multi-bureau/office request issues.


Bureau/Office-level FOIA Staff

The Department has decentralized its FOIA operations among 13 bureaus and offices, each of which has a Bureau/Office FOIA Officer leading its separately managed and resourced FOIA Program. Secretarial Order 3244 (November 12, 2002) anchored Bureau/Office FOIA Offices within their respective CIOs' Offices. That order was superseded by Secretarial Order 3309 (December 14, 2010), which replaced Bureau/Office CIOs with Assistant Directors for Information Resources and initiated a series of significant ongoing organizational changes as part of the Department's IT Transformation.

Bureau/office FOIA Officers are responsible for tracking, managing and responding to FOIA requests for records in their organization's possession and control, and administering their organization's FOIA programs. In addition to Bureau/Office FOIA Officers, some bureaus/offices also have Regional FOIA Coordinators and Field Offices that process requests. Some bureaus/offices have their program offices (i.e., the offices whose records are the subject of the requests) prepare the responses to FOIA requests. These responses are reviewed by the FOIA Officer or Regional FOIA Coordinator and the appropriate FOIA attorney (when the decision is to withhold information, make a discretionary release, or deny a fee waiver).

The Office of the Solicitor FOIA Attorneys

The Office of the Solicitor (SOL) supports the Department's FOIA Program by providing legal interpretations of the FOIA and guidance. The SOL also provides legal reviews of many FOIA initial determinations and appeals, assists in developing DOI's FOIA regulations, and handles FOIA/Privacy Act litigation for the Department. Along with the DOI FOIA policy staff and the FOIA/Privacy Act Appeals Officer, the SOL also assists in training DOI personnel on FOIA implementation.

The Department's FOIA/Privacy Act Appeals Officer

The Department's FOIA/Privacy Act appeals function is located in and administered by the SOL. The FOIA/Privacy Act Appeals Officer receives, tracks, monitors and issues final determinations on all FOIA/Privacy Act appeals made to the Department.

The Department's Public Liaisons

Each bureau/office has a FOIA Public Liaison who can assist individuals in locating records. FOIA Public Liaisons report to the Department's Chief FOIA Officer and serve as supervisory officials to whom a requester can raise concerns about the service the requester has received. FOIA Public Liaisons are responsible for assisting in reducing delays, increasing transparency and understanding of the status of requests, and assisting in the resolution of disputes.