General Accounting Office Request for Documents of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

Headnotes: 

The General Accounting Office Act of 1980 gives the General Accounting Office (GAO) new power to enforce its requests for information from executive branch agencies, but does not limit or expand GAOʼs underlying statutory authority to obtain such information.

In requesting documents of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), GAO acts as an agent of the Congress and therefore has the benefit of the same protection against an executive agency’s assertion of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemptions as does the Congress and its committees. Accordingly, FEMA may not assert FOIA exemption (b)(5) as a basis for declining to release documents to GAO.

The executive branch may, in appropriate circumstances, exercise its constitutional authority to decline to release information in order to safeguard the discharge of its functions.

Updated July 9, 2014