In the sort of absurd story that truly highlights how much the federal government really cares about communicating with its alleged public masters and complying with public records requests, for a couple of weeks now, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) did not have a working fax machine to send in Freedom of Information Act requests.
MuckRock, a site-slash-service that helps citizens and journalists file records requests, discovered the problem when their requests started bouncing back. They were told the OSD's fax machine wasn’t working, and it didn’t seem like there was a whole lot of energy devoted to fixing the problem:
The OSD's FOIA section chief confirmed the grim news yesterday, responding that his office "will likely need to procure (purchase) a new fax machine. However, that purchase will not occur until the start of the new fiscal year (at the earliest)."
That would be sometime in October or even November. Without the fax machine, requests had to either be mailed conventionally or submitted through their rather awkward web submission system. E-mailing a request is not an option.
In response, some of MuckRock’s users joked about putting together a Kickstarter campaign to get the OSD a new fax machine. But yesterday, the site was informed that somehow, somewhere the industrious folks at the OSD managed to track down a working fax machine. Problem solved!
MuckRock has responded by putting in a FOIA request for the OSD’s office equipment inventory and annual budget.