We received a reply from the Department of Defense’s Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff yesterday turning down the FOIA request we sent them for congressional correspondence logs. The reason given was that the request as presently written, since it would appear to apply to all 535 Members of Congress, is much too broad to enable this Office to conduct an adequate and effective search for responsive records.”
Although other offices and agencies within DoD indicated that responding to our FOIAs could take a while, none had so far turned us down. We’ve gotten acknowledgement letters from within DoD saying that they are short staffed and have a slew of pending FOIA requests.
For example, Gwen Smider, a FOIA officer working with the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that we could expect substantial delays.” She mentioned that their FOIA office has only eight staffers a combination of government employees and contract workers supplied by Phacil, a defense contractor. Once their office receives a FOIA request, they send it to the specific office that handles the issue, in this case the office that would respond to congressional requests. None of these smaller departments have employees specifically assigned to handle FOIA requests; they have to made do with the personnel they have, who obviously have other responsibilities.
According to Smider, there are 2800 FOIAs pending within the DIA and their office has received about 350 since Oct. 2006.
I also talked to Brian Kinsey, Senior FOIA Officer at the DIA. According to Kinsey, the department is still answering individual FOIA requests from the 1990s” and said that most of the delays were because they had fewer staffers working on FOIA since the global war on terrorism requires a lot of personnel.”
– Anupama Narayanswamy