Have you attempted to fax your way to full or partial disclosure of government documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) recently? Well too bad, suckers! Because the Office of the Secretary of Defense has a broken fax machine, and it ain't getting fixed anytime soon.
It all started about two weeks ago when MuckRock noticed that all of their faxed FOIA requests were getting spit right back out as undeliverable. They decided to follow up with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and received the following (cryptic) statement:
“IF” our IT department doesn’t have a replacement available, then they will need to order one. If that is the case, then it wouldn’t be ordered until the start of the new fiscal year (Oct 1). We would hope that it is back up sometime in October, but could extend into the beginning of November.
Now, you're likely to have a few questions at this point. For instance, why does an office with a $31.8 billion budget for maintenance and operations only have one fax machine? How could it possibly take several months to replace a fax machine? And lastly, what is a fax machine? All valid questions that will probably never receive valid answers.
Of course, there are two other ways of submitting your FOIA should you be so inclined—snail mail and online form. But previous attempts from a few us here at Gizmodo have found the online version to be shaky at best, although some have had success. So should you find yourself choosing between USPS or the immediacy of a fax, you—who likely assumes that this clearly technologically adept government watchdog will have basic functions running—will probably choose fax. Wrong.