After MuckRock let the world know about the death of the Secretary of Defense FOIA office’s single fax machine, their staff fired back, saying that yes, it was down, but it’s not really a big deal.
Mr. Aaron Graves of the Office of the Secretary of Defense FOIA office told the U.S. News “Washington Whispers” blog that less than 10 percent of his office’s FOIA requests are received via fax. He elaborated:
“We only get a few requests via fax per month, and typically only from the same few organizations. And most of those organizations fax AND mail/email their requests to be sure that we receive it.”
Given the frustrations MuckRock has had with OSD’s online FOIA portal, and our understandable impatience with physical mail, such a low incidence of fax requests is very surprising to us. So we’ve requested OSD’s FOIA logs and asked for a breakdown by receipt method, whether by fax, mail or online form. (We also requested their office equipment inventory and annual budgetfor good measure.)
According to FOIA.gov, OSD’s FOIA log will include a number of requests dating back to the early 1990s, before email had revolutionized communications across the government and private sectors alike. Its ten oldest pending request were received from March 1993 to April 1994:
As of the end of FY2012, OSD had 1097 requests in its backlog, by FOIA.gov figures.
With the OSD fax machine offline and that office unwilling to accept emailed requests, we’ve dutifully printed out the request, slapped on a stamp and sent it along by postal mail. So look lively, OSD. Any day now, our fact-checking FOIA will arrive.
The 2013 log is embedded below, and the rest can be found on the request page.
Image via WIkimedia Commons