304.5 Timing of responses to requests.§ 304.5 Timing of responses to requests.
(a) In general. The agency ordinarily will respond to requests according to their order of receipt.
(b) Multi-track processing. The agency generally uses two processing tracks that distinguish between simple and complex requests. In determining the appropriate track for a request, the agency considers, among other factors, the number of records requested, the number of pages involved in processing the request and the need for consultations or referrals. When a request is placed on the complex track, the agency will provide the requester with an opportunity to narrow or modify the request so that it can be placed on the simple track. The agency will contact the requester by telephone, email or letter, whichever is most efficient, in each case.
(c) Unusual circumstances. (1) Where the statutory time limit of 20 days for processing a request cannot be met because of “unusual circumstances,” as defined in the FOIA, and the agency extends the time limits on that basis, it will, before expiration of the 20-day period, notify the requester in writing of the unusual circumstances and of the date by which the agency estimates processing of the request can be expected to be completed. Where the extension is likely to exceed ten working days, the agency will provide the requester with an opportunity to modify the request or arrange an alternative time period for processing the original or modified request. In such instances, the agency's FOIA Public Liaison will contact the requester, and the requester will be informed of the mediation services offered by the Office of Government Information Services (“OGIS”) - see https://www.archives.gov/ogis.
(2) Where the agency reasonably believes that multiple requests submitted by a requester, or by a group of requesters acting in concert, constitute a single request that would otherwise involve unusual circumstances, and the requests involve clearly related matters, they may be aggregated. Multiple requests involving unrelated matters will not be aggregated.
(d) Expedited processing. (1) Requests and appeals will be taken out of order and given expedited treatment whenever it is determined that they involve:
(i) Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual;
(ii) An urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged federal government activity, if made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information; or
(iii) Other circumstances as determined by the agency.
(2) A request for expedited processing may be made at the time of the initial request for records (i.e., as part of the initial request) or at any later time.
(3) A requester who seeks expedited processing must submit a statement, certified to be true and correct to the best of that person's knowledge and belief, explaining in detail the basis for requesting expedited processing. For example, a requester within the category in paragraph (d)(1)(ii) of this section, if not a full-time member of the news media, must establish that he or she is a person whose main professional activity or occupation is information dissemination, though it need not be his or her sole occupation. That requester also must establish a particular urgency to inform the public about the government activity involved in the request, beyond the public's right to know about government activity generally. The formality of certification may be waived by the agency as a matter of administrative discretion.
(4) Within ten calendar days of its receipt of a request for expedited processing, the agency will decide whether to grant it and will notify the requester of the decision. If a request for expedited treatment is granted, then the request will be given priority and will be processed as soon as practicable. If a request for expedited processing is denied, then any appeal of that decision will be acted on expeditiously.[76 FR 18635, Apr. 5, 2011, as amended at 82 FR 7632, Jan. 23, 2017]