Contracts with Northeastern University (Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense)

Todd Feathers filed this request with the Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America.
Est. Completion None
No Responsive Documents


From: Todd Feathers

To Whom It May Concern:

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

Copies of any and all contracts signed or renewed with Northeastern University, in Boston, Mass. since 2010.

As a reporter for Northeastern's independent student newspaper, the Huntington News, I request all fees be waived.

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request 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.


Todd Feathers

From: Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense

Dear Todd Feathers:

This is our final response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated April 08, 2014, which was received in this office on April 09, 2014. Your request has been assigned case number 14-F-0691 and we ask that you use that number when referring to your request. In your request you asked for “All Contracts signed or renewed with Northeastern University, in Boston, Massachusetts, since 2010”.

Please note that as worded, your request cannot be processed at this time. Please also understand that there is no central FOIA processing point for the entire Department of Defense (DoD) and each of the military services and various DoD components each process their own FOIA requests. This office, for example, only processes requests for records related to or associated with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff (OSD/JS). As you have not identified how the requested information is associated with the OSD/JS, more specifically, provided a contract number, you have not identified the record in sufficient detail to allow this office to process your request.

According to the FOIA's legislative history, a description would be sufficient if it enabled a professional employee of the agency who was familiar with the subject area of the request to locate the record with a reasonable amount of effort, and reasonably describes records if the agency is able to determine "precisely" what records are being requested.

Courts have identified at least three (3) ways in which a FOIA request can fail to reasonably describe the records sought: 1) the description may be too vague to allow the agency to determine precisely what records are being requested; an agency is not required to have clairvoyant capabilities to discover the requestor's need; 2) broad sweeping requests lacking specificity are insufficient; and, 3) even where a request sufficiently describes the records sought, an agency is not required to comply with a request so broad that it would impose an unreasonable burden upon the agency. An agency need not honor a request that requires an unreasonably burdensome search. The "reasonably describes" requirement exists because the FOIA was not intended to reduce government agencies to full-time investigators on behalf of requesters. As such, it is the requester's responsibility to frame requests with sufficient particularity to ensure the searches are not unreasonably burdensome, and to enable the searching agency to determine precisely what records are being requested.

In recent court action, James Madison Project (JMP) vs. CIA, the court referred to the request as "too broad because the term "pertaining to" is synonymous to the term "relating to," which generally indicates an overbroad request. A request for "all documents 'relating to' a subject is usually subject to criticism as overbroad since life, like law, is a 'seamless web,' and all documents 'relate' to others in some remote fashion." Massachusetts v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 727 F. Supp. 35, 36 n.2 (D. Mass. 1989). Such a request "unfairly places the onus of non-production on the recipient of the request and not where it belongs - upon the person who drafted such a sloppy request."

In order for this office to process your request, you will need to provide the specific contract number(s) that apply to or are associated with the OSD/JS. Such information can be found online at the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) website. There, you will find a search option that will allow you to identify specific contracts related to the subject in question and identify which DoD component you will need to submit your request. In the meantime, do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have regarding this response or the FOIA process.

Thank you,

Aaron Graves
(571) 372-0435


There are no files associated with this request.