Requests for Analysis in the DMSS Request Manager

Remington Nevin filed this request with the Defense Health Agency of the United States of America.
Tracking # 2016-006
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Appeal

Communications

From: Remington Nevin

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

All requests for analysis (dated from January 1, 1998 through the date of processing of this request) recorded in the Defense Medical Surveillance System (DMSS) “request manager” application (or any related tracking system maintained by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center) to specifically include the request tracking number, date of request, requestor, title of request, and the request instructions.

I request a waiver of fees for this request because disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the DoD and of the AFHSC. For the purposes of your determining my eligibility for a waiver and my status for the purposes of assessing fees, please note that these documents will be used to support publishable academic research evaluating the health surveillance activities of the U.S. military. The requested documents will also be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, and the request is not being made for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be willing to pay up to $100 without prior notice. If you anticipate the charges will exceed this amount, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request be filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Please note that this request is identical to a request sent to your office by certified mail February 12, 2015, but thus far not yet acknowledged by your office. Please also note that on January 5, 2015, I sent your office a letter by certified mail requesting confirmation of the appropriate address to which to direct this request. Having not yet received a response to either certified mail letter, I am resending this request directly to you for response and forwarding as appropriate. Please note that you may consolidate the earlier request dated February 12, 2015 into this request and forward or respond to this request only. If you do forward this request to another agency for processing, please kindly advise me of this fact and provide me with the contact information and address of the agency to which it has been forwarded.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on March 17, 2015. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on March 17, 2015. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on March 17, 2015. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: Remington Nevin

CC: judith.l.evans8.ctr@mail.mil
Ms. Judith L. Evans
Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center
11800 Tech Road, Suite 220
Silver Spring, MD 20904
Tel: 301-319-3240
Email: usarmy.ncr.medcom-afhs.mbx.media@mail.mil

July 8, 2015

Dear Ms. Evans,

It was good speaking with you today about this FOIA request. As I understand, you have received this request, and that AFHSC, reporting to DHA, is the correct agency for this request. I shall look forward to a formal acknowledgement of receipt within the week by email.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on March 17, 2015. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: Remington Nevin

CC: dha.ncr.pcl.mbx.foia-requests@mail.mil

Defense Health Agency Freedom of Information Service Center
7700 Arlington Boulevard, Suite 5101
Falls Church, Virginia 22042-5101
Phone: (703) 681-7500
Fax: (703) 681-5138

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

I hereby request the following records: All requests for analysis (dated from January 1, 1998 through the date of processing of this request) recorded in the Defense Medical Surveillance System (DMSS) “request manager” application (or any related tracking system maintained by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center) to specifically include the request tracking number, date of request, requestor, title of request, and the request instructions.

This request was first submitted to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center by email on March 17, 2015 and has remained formally unacknowledged. As described in a public news release (http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/614118/three-organizations-set-to-join-the-defense-health-agency), on August 23, 2015, the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center changed its name to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch, and now operates under the Defense Health Agency’s Public Health Division within the Healthcare Operations Directorate. The requested documents should now thus be records maintained by and in the control and custody of the DHA. Please note that this request is identical to a request sent to AFHSC by certified mail February 12, 2015, but thus far not yet acknowledged by that office. Please also note that on January 5, 2015, I sent AFHSC a letter by certified mail requesting confirmation of the appropriate address to which to direct this request. Having not yet received a response to either certified mail letter, or to my emailed request, I am resending this request directly to DHA for action.

I request a waiver of fees for this request because disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the DoD and of the AFHSC. For the purposes of your determining my eligibility for a waiver and my status for the purposes of assessing fees, please note that these documents will be used to support publishable academic research evaluating the health surveillance activities of the U.S. military. The requested documents will also be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, and the request is not being made for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be willing to pay up to $100 without prior notice. If you anticipate the charges will exceed this amount, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request be filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on March 17, 2015. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thanks for your help, and let me know if further clarification is needed.

From: DHA NCR PCL Mailbox FOIA Requests

Dr. Nevin,

Attached is the FOIA Acknowledgement Letter for your review.

v/r,
Angela McDowell
Senior Analyst, Axiom Contract Support
DHA Privacy and Civil Liberties Office
Main: 703-681-7500

From: DHA NCR PCL Mailbox FOIA Requests

Dr. Nevin,

We have received your follow-up inquiry and researched the status. The estimated completion date for your request is February 15, 2016. Please be advised that this date is merely an estimate and your request may be processed sooner or later than indicated. Additionally, the complexity of backlogged cases in our queue, which were received prior to your request, may affect timely processing of your request.

Please be assured that we are working as quickly as possible to research and deliver the responsive records (if any), that you have requested.

v/r,
Angela McDowell
Senior Analyst, Axiom Contract Support
DHA Privacy and Civil Liberties Office
Main: 703-275-6363

From: DHA NCR PCL Mailbox FOIA Requests

Good Morning,

Please see the attached document regarding your FOIA request.

Thank you,
Jessie Ludin
Junior Analyst, Axiom Contract Support
Defense Health Headquarters
DHA Privacy and Civil Liberties Office
7700 Arlington Boulevard, Suite 5101
Falls Church, VA 22042
Main: 703-275-6363

From: Remington Nevin

Defense Health Agency Office of General Counsel
National Capital Region Medical Directorate
Attn: Mr. Paul T. Cygnarowicz
8901 Wisconsin Avenue (Building 27)
Bethesda, MD 20889

Dear Office of the General Counsel,

Re: Denial of Defense Health Agency Control Number 2016-06 (FOIA)

This is an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby appeal the denial of records responsive to my request for “All requests for analysis (dated from January 1, 1998 through the date of processing of this request) recorded in the Defense Medical Surveillance System (DMSS) “request manager” application (or any related tracking system maintained by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center) to specifically include the request tracking number, date of request, requestor, title of request, and the request instructions” on the basis that the records being requested are specifically, particularly, and reasonably described; exist in the control of the agency; and that their production would not place an undue administrative burden on the agency due to the volume of documents sought.

1. Background. As can be verified at the public website MuckRock (see https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/requests-for-analysis-in-the-dmss-request-manager-16729/ ), this request was first submitted to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center by certified mail February 12, 2015, but remained unacknowledged for a period of 30 days. This request was then resent by email via MuckRock to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center by email on March 17, 2015, but also remained unacknowledged by that office for a period of 30 days. Previously, on January 5, 2015, I had sent AFHSC a letter by certified mail requesting confirmation of the appropriate address to which to direct this request, but this correspondence also remained unacknowledged, and as of the present day, none of this correspondence has been formally acknowledged or returned. As described in a public news release (http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/614118/three-organizations-set-to-join-the-defense-health-agency), on August 23, 2015, the AFHSC changed its name to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch (AFHSB), and began operating under the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) Public Health Division within the Healthcare Operations Directorate. As the requested documents are now records maintained by and in the control and custody of the DHA, on August 8, 2015, I sent DHA the same request, and in a letter dated October 8, 2015 (http://d3gn0r3afghep.cloudfront.net/foia_files/2015/10/09/2016-006-Nevin-16729_Acknowledgement_Signed.pdf), this request was acknowledged and assigned DHA Control Number #2016-006 (FOIA).
In correspondence dated January 26, 2016 (http://d3gn0r3afghep.cloudfront.net/foia_files/2016/01/26/FOIA-2016-006_Final_Response_letter_signed.pdf), DHA denied this request in full, stating that “[a]fter a thorough search and review with the program office, it was determined that your request lacks the specificity required. In addition, completing the request would place an administrative burden due to the volume of documents sought. A record has not been described with sufficient particularity to enable the AFHSC to locate it by conducting a reasonable search.”

2. Requested Records. The AFHSB (previously known as AFHSC) conducts epidemiological analysis for internal and external customers through use of a health surveillance database known as the DMSS which contains health data on members of the Armed Forces. Internal customers for analysis of this database include the editors and authors of the AFHSB’s monthly publication Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR), who make requests for epidemiological analysis to inform articles and editorials in this publication. External customers include service clients (e.g. from the Army, Navy, etc.) and senior health leaders within DoD. By examining the organizations making requests for such analysis, the number of such requests, and the subject or title of such requests, the public may gain important insight into the health surveillance priorities of the military. The AFHSB tracks requests for such analyses in a software application known previously as the DMSS "request manager”, which permits AFHSB to quickly document the customer's military branch or agency, the date the request was made, and to assign a brief descriptive title to the request, and to write more detailed information regarding the nature of the analysis requested. This information is stored in a database format, one request per row, such that it is easily searchable by AFHSB staff across these and other fields. For example, when new requests for analysis are received, this feature permits staff to search the database for existing or prior requests that may already exist to satisfy the new request, thus saving unnecessary effort and duplication. This search feature also permits the AFHSB to produce annual and ad-hoc summaries of these requests, such as are included in annual reports, and described on the AFHSB website. Currently, the AFHSB website (https://www.afhsc.mil/Home/Sections/EA) describes the request manager as tracking approximately 500 customized and 800 periodic requests per year. On the AFHSB website, these reports are described as “designed to help key DoD and Coast Guard decision makers implement and continuously improve valuable, evidence-based force health protection measures. Other analyses products are delivered to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to support policy decisions and address congressional and media inquiries”.

3. Basis for Appeal. The original request made to DHA is for records that are specifically, particularly, and reasonably described and that exist in the control of the agency within a single database. Agency control of these records is demonstrated by the agency utilizing these records on a daily basis as a core component of their mission, as described on their own website. The request is also very “reasonably described”, in that staff members at the agency are able “determine precisely what records are being requested” in response to my request [see Kowalczyk v. Dep’t. of Justice, 73 F.3d 386, 388 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (quoting Yeager v. Drug Enforcement Admin., 678 F.2d 315, 326 (D.C. Cir. 1982))]. Indeed, the request is simply for “all requests for analysis”, which staff members of the agency would understand is equivalent to a request for relevant fields from every row of data in the DMSS “request manager” corresponding to the dates January 1, 1998 through the date of processing of this request. The request is also very specifically and particularly described, in that the request specifies particular and specific data elements to be produced in response to the request from the existing database record. The request is also specified with sufficient specificity and particularity to permit “a professional employee of the agency who [is] familiar with the subject area of the request to locate the record with a reasonable amount of effort” [see Truitt v. Dep’t of State, 897 F.2d 540, 545 n. 36 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 93-876, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. at 6 (1974), reprinted in 1974 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6267, 6271))]. As the information being requested exists in database format, readily amenable to electronic production, despite the number of records that would be responsive to this request (potentially tens of thousands), their production would not place an undue administrative burden on the agency due to the volume of documents sought, as their production could readily be performed through a simple search and by exporting the results of the search to a single Excel file, plain text extract, or formatted document. Indeed, such an extract could be generated as quickly and as easily as the more targeted searches of the database which are conducted daily as a routine practice in the conduct of the agency's mission.

4. Clarification. To facilitate the agency’s production of these records, I would be pleased to narrow my request so as to request a copy of all columns and rows of the single database file used by the DMSS “request manager” application, thus eliminating from my request any need for the agency to filter, search, or otherwise extract specific data elements from the file. Such a file might contain additional data elements not originally specifically requested, such as names and email addresses of the requestor. Should the agency determine these elements are subject to a blanket exemption, the agency may exclude these data elements or columns from the document produced in response, provided that the original fields (e.g. "request tracking number, date of request, requestor, title of request, and the request instructions") are not excluded. As further clarification, for the purposes of this appeal, "requestor" should be interpreted as the military branch or agency making the request, rather than the individual's name or their email address.

I thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: Remington Nevin

Defense Health Agency Office of General Counsel
National Capital Region Medical Directorate
Attn: Mr. Paul T. Cygnarowicz
8901 Wisconsin Avenue (Building 27)
Bethesda, MD 20889

Dear Office of the General Counsel,

Re: Denial of Defense Health Agency Control Number 2016-006 (FOIA)

Please acknowledge receipt of my appeal of the denial referenced above, which I sent to your office February 25, 2016. The denial I received from DHA was dated January 26, 2016.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: DHA NCR PCL Mailbox FOIA Requests

Good afternoon,

Please see the attached documents regarding your FOIA request.

v/r
Jessie Ludin
Junior Analyst, Axiom Contract Support
Defense Health Headquarters
DHA Privacy and Civil Liberties Office
7700 Arlington Boulevard, Suite 5101
Falls Church, VA 22042
Main: 703-275-6363

From: Remington Nevin

Defense Health Agency Office of General Counsel
National Capital Region Medical Directorate
Attn: Mr. Paul T. Cygnarowicz
8901 Wisconsin Avenue (Building 27)
Bethesda, MD 20889

Dear Office of the General Counsel,

Re: Partial Denial of Defense Health Agency Control Number 2016-06 (FOIA)

This is an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby appeal the partial denial of records responsive to my request for “All requests for analysis (dated from January 1, 1998 through the date of processing of this request) recorded in the Defense Medical Surveillance System (DMSS) “request manager” application (or any related tracking system maintained by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center) to specifically include the request tracking number, date of request, requestor, title of request, and the request instructions” on the basis that the production of the denied records would not place an undue administrative burden on the agency due to the volume of documents sought.

1. Background. As can be verified at the public website MuckRock (see https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/requests-for-analysis-in-the-dmss-request-manager-16729/ ), on April 20, 2016, I received a partial response to my request for “All requests for analysis (dated from January 1, 1998 through the date of processing of this request) recorded in the Defense Medical Surveillance System (DMSS) “request manager” application (or any related tracking system maintained by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center) to specifically include the request tracking number, date of request, requestor, title of request, and the request instructions”. This request had been assigned DHA FOIA tracking number 2016-006.

Although data partially responsive to my request have been released by DHA (see: https://d3gn0r3afghep.cloudfront.net/foia_files/2016/04/20/DMSS_Data_16-006.XLSX), data containing “request instructions” were specifically excluded from the released data. The released Excel spreadsheet contains 8,866 data rows (lead by a header row) containing only the request tracking number, date of request, requestor, and title of request, but not the request instructions.

As described in the accompanying response letter dated April 20, 2016, “information is being released in its entirety, with the exception of the requests’ instructions. These instructions are generally 1-2 pages; multiplied by the 9,000+ projects [sic] listed in the attached report would make this request too onerous and voluminous” (see: https://d3gn0r3afghep.cloudfront.net/foia_files/2016/04/20/FOIA_16-006_Reprocessed_-_ReleaseInFull_Letter_No_Fee_Signed.pdf).

2. Requested Records. The request instructions, which has been excluded from release by DHA, is necessary to place a particular request into proper context, and to better understand the precise nature of the request, and what epidemiological or statistical methods were used in its production.

3. Basis for Appeal. The original request made to DHA was for records that exist in database format, readily amenable to electronic production. Despite the number of records that would be responsive to this request (N=8,866 ), their production would not place an undue administrative burden on the agency due to the volume of documents sought, as their production could readily be performed by exporting the results of the search to a single plain text extract, formatted document, or Excel file, as had been done with the original release of partially responsive data. Indeed, such an extract could be generated as quickly and as easily as the original production of released records.

Assuming the “1-2 pages” of instructions described in DHA’s response letter of April 20, 2016, and assuming the general conversion factor of 2kB per page of printed data, such output would be equivalent to 1.5 x 2 x 8866 kB, or 26,598 kB. This is equivalent to approximately 26 MB, a file size consistent with other recent FOIA releases from DHA, and readily amenable to production and distribution via email, file server transfer, or via mail by CD-ROM.

4. Clarification. To facilitate the agency’s production of these records, I would be pleased to narrow my request so as to request an extract in Excel spreadsheet similar in format to that already produced, and limited to only two data elements: request tracking number, and request instructions, with the later field limited to the maximum number of characters that can be exported to Excel (currently 32,767). The spreadsheet so produced could then be manually merged by the requestor by request tracking number so as to reconstruct the full data originally requested.

5. Summary. In summary, the released Excel spreadsheet contains data that is only partially responsive to my request, as it has excluded the requested “request instructions”, which is critical for interpretation of this data. I formally appeal this partial denial and request the agency provide the withheld information as soon as possible. I have described a manner for the agency to readily produce the additional estimated 26 MB of excluded requested data so as to complete my request, in a manner that would not place an undue administrative burden on the agency due to the volume of documents sought.

I thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter and shall look forward to receipt of the requested records.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: DHA NCR PCL Mailbox FOIA Requests

Good afternoon,

Please see the attached documents regarding your FOIA request.

v/r
Jessie Ludin
Junior Analyst, Axiom Contract Support
Defense Health Headquarters
DHA Privacy and Civil Liberties Office
7700 Arlington Boulevard, Suite 5101
Falls Church, VA 22042
Main: 703-275-6363

From: DHA NCR PCL Mailbox FOIA Requests

Good afternoon,

Please see the attached documents regarding your FOIA request.

v/r
Jessie Ludin
Junior Analyst, Axiom Contract Support
Defense Health Headquarters
DHA Privacy and Civil Liberties Office
7700 Arlington Boulevard, Suite 5101
Falls Church, VA 22042
Main: 703-275-6363

From: Defense Health Agency

A letter stating that the request appeal has been rejected.

From: Remington Nevin

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT APPEAL
Defense Health Agency Office of General Counsel
National Capital Region Medical Directorate
Attn: Mr. Paul T. Cygnarowicz
8955 Wood Road, Building 1, Floor 9
Bethesda, MD 20889-5628

Re: Partial Denial of Defense Health Agency Control Number 2016-006 (FOIA)

Dear Mr. Cygnarowicz,

Thank you for your letter dated July 28, 2016, in which you acknowledge receipt of my appeal related to the partial denial of DHA 2016-006, which I sent on April 29, 2016.

In your letter, it is stated that you first received this appeal on May 6, 2016.

It is my understanding that my appeal remains under review by your office.

Please advise me at your earliest convenience as to the status of your deliberations and whether any further clarification of the basis for my appeal is needed.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: Remington Nevin

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT APPEAL
Defense Health Agency Office of General Counsel
National Capital Region Medical Directorate
Attn: Mr. Paul T. Cygnarowicz
8955 Wood Road, Building 1, Floor 9
Bethesda, MD 20889-5628

Re: Partial Denial of Defense Health Agency Control Number 2016-006 (FOIA)

Dear Mr. Cygnarowicz,

I am in receipt of your letter dated July 28, 2016, in which you acknowledge receipt of my appeal related to the partial denial of DHA 2016-006, which I sent on April 29, 2016.

In your letter, it is stated that you first received this appeal on May 6, 2016.

It is my understanding that my appeal remains under review by your office.

Please advise me at your earliest convenience as to the status of your deliberations and whether any further clarification of the basis for my appeal is needed.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: Remington Nevin

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT APPEAL
Defense Health Agency Office of General Counsel
National Capital Region Medical Directorate
Attn: Mr. Paul T. Cygnarowicz
8955 Wood Road, Building 1, Floor 9
Bethesda, MD 20889-5628

Re: Partial Denial of Defense Health Agency Control Number 2016-006 (FOIA)

Dear Mr. Cygnarowicz,

I am in receipt of your letter dated July 28, 2016, in which you acknowledge receipt of my appeal related to the partial denial of DHA 2016-006, which I sent on April 29, 2016.

In your letter, it is stated that you first received this appeal on May 6, 2016.

It is my understanding that my appeal remains under review by your office.

Please advise me at your earliest convenience as to the status of your deliberations and whether any further clarification of the basis for my appeal is needed.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: Remington Nevin

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT APPEAL
Defense Health Agency Office of General Counsel
National Capital Region Medical Directorate
Attn: Mr. Paul T. Cygnarowicz
8955 Wood Road, Building 1, Floor 9
Bethesda, MD 20889-5628

Re: Partial Denial of Defense Health Agency Control Number 2016-006 (FOIA)

Dear Mr. Cygnarowicz,

I am in receipt of your letter dated July 28, 2016, in which you acknowledge receipt of my appeal related to the partial denial of DHA 2016-006, which I sent on April 29, 2016.

In your letter, it is stated that you first received this appeal on May 6, 2016.

It is my understanding that my appeal remains under review by your office.

Please advise me at your earliest convenience as to the status of your deliberations and whether any further clarification of the basis for my appeal is needed.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

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