Public Records of the US Armed Forces

The United States Military was first created by the second Continental Congress as a means of organized defense against the British Empire during the American Revolutionary War. The Army, Marine Corps and Navy were founded in 1775 in anticipation of the Declaration of Independence. Despite the US Military's decisive role in early US History, it wasn't until WWII that a peacetime army was officially established.

The US Military Forces are part of the Executive Branch of the US federal government, headed by the President of the United States as Commander-in-Chief. The military administrative body is the Department of Defense which is headed up by the Secretary of Defense with the collaboration of the Joint-Cheifs-Of-Staff. Only the US Coast Guard is not under the sole administration of the DoD; during peacetime, it falls under the Department of Homeland Security (which was created in the wake of the September 11 attacks).

The US Budget for Military and Defense is the largest in the world at around $5 Billion. According to Department of Defense records for February of 2009 there are 1,454,515 active military personnel worldwide and a little more than that in reserves.

FOIA and the Military

The Defense Freedom of Information Policy Office is responsible for the formulation and implementation of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy for the Department of Defense (DOD).  Each DOD Component, to include the Military Services, Department of Defense Agencies, and Combatant Commands, responds to requests for its own records. Instructions for submitting a FOIA request may be found in the DOD Freedom of Information Handbook or by visiting the individual DOD Service Center websites.

Agencies are allowed to charge fees related to storage, retrieval and delivery of information open to the public under the freedom of information act.  Each agency has different rules and fee scheduled and should be consulted directly to better understand what those are.

Military Records and the Info They Hold

Military records can be useful for many reasons to many people; from genealogists researching family trees to citizens, creditors and employers running background checks to vet potential associates.

Information you can find in Military Records includes:

  • Vital Statistics
  • Rank and Branch
  • Service History
  • Wounds/ Capture
  • Awards and Medals
  • Station Posts
  • Diversity of Duty/Areas of Expertise
  • Veteran data
  • Burial Information

Helpful Resources

Contact Addresses for Info about FOIA:

1000 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1000
fax (703) 693-2746


Department of the Army
Freedom of Information Act Office
7701 Telegraph Road, Suite 144
Alexandria, VA 22315-
(703) 428-6504
Fax (703) 428-6522

FOIA/PA Manager (Code ARSF)
WASHINGTON DC 20380-1775
Telephone: (703) 614-4008
Fax: (703) 614-6287

Chief of Naval Operations (DNS-36)
2000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-2000
Fax: 1-202-685-6580

COAST GUARD (Dept of Homeland Security):
Commandant (CG-611)
2100 2nd Street, SW
Washington, DC 20593-0001
Attn: FOIA