Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

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Your Right to Government Information

Exercise Your Right

The Freedom of Information Act is a law that requires full or partial disclosure of information and documents controlled by the US Government upon request.

In order to use the Freedom of Information Act, you must utilize the FOIA request. This request is only beneficial to you if you are being proactive and getting the information ahead of the request.

A proactive approach is better defined by saying – someone who has information ahead of time, and the knowledge to use this information to gain an advantage in the market.

Why wait for the opportunity to post, because when it does post you are then at the mercy of the market and there is no advantage.

What to Look For

When the Government knows that a particular part/product has a short life span and will be purchased frequently, they will use a contracting vehicle such as IDIQs, BPAs or FSS.

These contracts are for multiple years and we do know that when these contracting vehicles expire they get re-competed, we just don’t know exactly when.

As an example, let’s say that we see a contract that is getting ready to expire and want to take that proactive approach, here’s the process; First thing that we would need is the original request that was posted to see how the incumbent obtain the winning price.

The next thing needed is the technical data, this allows us to see what the scope of work (SOW) entails. Simply by using a FOIA request the original request, technical data, etc., and we do so in writing.

Many make the mistake of trying to request information from the buyers, only to be disappointed by not getting much of a response, if any.

This written request is submitted to the FOIA officer and not the buyer. With this tool you are able to indicate the specific facility in which you are requesting information from.

We suggest this approach be taken a minimum of 60-90 days out (contract expiration). This is great for multiple award (IDIQs, BPAs etc) contracts that are competitively competed.

A proactive approach is better defined by saying – someone who has information ahead of time, and the knowledge to use this information to gain an advantage in the market. 

The FOIA Request

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) generally provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law, or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.

The FOIA applies only to federal agencies and does not create a right of access to records held by Congress, the courts, or by state or local government agencies. 

It does not require agencies to do research for you, answer written questions, or in any other way create records (such as lists or statistics) in order to respond to a request.

Exemptions: The nine exemption categories that authorize government agencies to withhold information are:

1- classified information for national defense or foreign policy
2- internal personnel rules and practices
3- information that is exempt under other laws
4- trade secrets and confidential business information
5- inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letters that are protected by legal privileges
6- personnel and medical files
7- law enforcement records or information
8- information concerning bank supervision
9- geological and geophysical information

FAQs about the FOIA Request

Is there a special form I have to use to make a FOIA request?

There is no specific form that must be used to make a request. Search GovData does however, provide you a sample form for you.

What can I ask for under a FOIA request?

A FOIA request can be made for any agency record. You can also specify the format in which you wish to receive the records (for example, printed or electronic form). The FOIA does not require agencies to create new records or to conduct research, analyze data, or answer questions when responding to requests.

How long does a FOIA request take?

Agencies typically process requests in the order of receipt. The time it takes to respond to a request will vary depending on the complexity of the request and any backlog of requests already pending at the agency.

A simple request can be processed faster by the agency than one that is complex. Simple requests are typically more targeted and seek fewer pages of records. 

Complex requests typically seek a high volume of material or require additional steps to process such as the need to search for records in multiple locations.

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In Conclusion 

The Freedom of Information request is used to obtain the original solicitation, SOW and technical documents that were made available at the time of the original solicitation request.

This allows you to see word for word how the incumbent arrived at the winning bid; allowing you to be better prepared to respond or exploit your advantages ahead of the request.