Judicial Watch on May 25, 2012 launched an investigation into the military’s response to sequestration, which entailed 600 billion dollars of automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon budget slated to take effect in January 2013. Judicial Watch’s investigation was prompted by a report in the Washington Times that military planners had been ordered not to develop a contingency strategy for operating in the event sequestration took place in order to force Congress into repealing the budget-balancing measure. The Washington Times further reported that, despite an order not to make sequestration plans, the military had formed secret cells to plan covertly for such a contingency.
In support of its investigation, Judicial Watch filed public records requests pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, with the Offices of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and Inspector General (DOD-IG), as well as the Departments of Defense, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Joint Chiefs seeking:
All communications from January 1, 2012 through the date of the request respecting sequestration, including whether to develop contingency plans at all and, if so, to do so covertly.
The deadline for responding was June 25, 2012. No agency timely complied with the law governing this transaction. OSD produced 10 pages’ worth of responsive documents consisting entirely of congressional correspondence.
As for the rest:
- DOD-IG on June 19, 2012 denied Judicial Watch’s request for a public interest fee waiver, which Judicial Watch appealed on June 22, 2012. DOD-IG never issued a determination of Judicial Watch’s fee appeal, nor addressed the substantive request itself.
- The Army on January 15, 2013 affirmed its total denial of records, claiming that the agency conducted a legally adequate search and that all six (6) responsive documents located were privileged and, therefore, entirely exempt from compulsory disclosure.
- The Navy on November 27, 2012 denied Judicial Watch’s request for a public interest fee waiver but never went on to address the substantive request.
- The Air Force on August 22, 2012 asked for an extension in deciding Judicial Watch’s appeal of the agency’s initial “no records” response. As of April 8, 2013, Judicial Watch has heard nothing more from this agency either.