FIA-19-0031 - In the Matter of Center for Public Integrity

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On September 10, 2019, the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appeal filed by the Center for Public Integrity (Appellant) concerning a FOIA request it made to the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Appellant's FOIA request sought a document titled "Independent Cost Estimate: Pit Manufacturing Equipment for the Plutonium Sustainment Program issued by the Office of Cost, Policy and Analysis" (Cost Estimate). The NNSA's Plutonium Program Manager requested that the Office of Cost Policy and Analysis prepare the Cost Estimate to assess the capability of an NNSA program to meet production goals for plutonium pits and to estimate costs for the 2018 fiscal year and beyond. In its response to Appellant's FOIA request, the NNSA provided Appellant with a partially-redacted copy of the Cost Estimate. The NNSA indicated in its response that it had redacted portions of the Cost Estimate under the deliberative process privilege of Exemption 5 of the FOIA. On appeal, Appellant alleged that the redacted material was factual and therefore that the NNSA had improperly asserted Exemption 5 in making the redactions to the Cost Estimate. Upon review of the records in question, OHA concluded that the Cost Estimate was pre-decisional and deliberative, and that the redacted portions of the Cost Estimate, which included cost and production estimates and recommendations made based upon those projections, were subjective and non-factual in nature. OHA therefore concluded that the NNSA had properly asserted Exemption 5 in redacting portions of the Cost Estimate. OHA further concluded that the NNSA had reasonably disclosed segregable portions of the Cost Estimate. For these reasons, OHA denied Appellant's appeal. OHA Case No. FIA-19-0031.