28 CFR 16.4: Responsibility for responding to requests.
Except as stated in paragraphs (c), (d), and (e) of this section, the component that first receives a request for a record and has possession of that record is the component responsible for responding to the request. In determining which records are responsive to a request, a component ordinarily will include only records in its possession as of the date the component begins its search for them. If any other date is used, the component shall inform the requester of that date.
The head of a component, or the component head's designee, is authorized to grant or deny any request for a record of that component.
When a component receives a request for a record in its possession, it shall determine whether another component, or another agency of the Federal Government, is better able to determine whether the record is exempt from disclosure under the FOIA and, if so, whether it should be disclosed as a matter of administrative discretion. If the receiving component determines that it is best able to process the record in response to the request, then it shall do so. If the receiving component determines that it is not best able to process the record, then it shall either:
(1) Respond to the request regarding that record, after consulting with the component or agency best able to determine whether to disclose it and with any other component or agency that has a substantial interest in it; or
(2) Refer the responsibility for responding to the request regarding that record to the component best able to determine whether to disclose it, or to another agency that originated the record (but only if that agency is subject to the FOIA). Ordinarily, the component or agency that originated a record will be presumed to be best able to determine whether to disclose it.
Whenever a request is made for a record containing information that relates to an investigation of a possible violation of law and was originated by another component or agency, the receiving component shall either refer the responsibility for responding to the request regarding that information to that other component or agency or consult with that other component or agency.
Whenever a request is made for a record containing information that has been classified, or may be appropriate for classification, by another component or agency under Executive Order 12958 or any other executive order concerning the classification of records, the receiving component shall refer the responsibility for responding to the request regarding that information to the component or agency that classified the information, should consider the information for classification, or has the primary interest in it, as appropriate. Whenever a record contains information that has been derivatively classified by a component because it contains information classified by another component or agency, the component shall refer the responsibility for responding to the request regarding that information to the component or agency that classified the underlying information.
Whenever a component refers all or any part of the responsibility for responding to a request to another component or agency, it ordinarily shall notify the requester of the referral and inform the requester of the name of each component or agency to which the request has been referred and of the part of the request that has been referred.
All consultations and referrals will be handled according to the date the FOIA request initially was received by the first component or agency, not any later date.
Components may make agreements with other components or agencies to eliminate the need for consultations or referrals for particular types of records.