Department Defense Classifies our Request as “Complex”

On 10/11/12 the Department of Defense sent us the following email:

Dear Requester:
This is an interim response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
request dated October 4, 2012 which was received in this office on the same
day. Your request has been assigned case number 13-F-0016 and we ask that
you use that number when referring to your request.

We will be unable to respond to your request within the FOIA’s 20 day
statutory time period as there are unusual circumstances which impact on our
ability to quickly process your request. These unusual circumstances are:
(a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility
geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of
records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with
one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest
in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. For these
reasons, your request has been placed in our complex processing queue and
will be worked in the order the request was received. Our current
administrative workload is 1,199 open requests.

If you would like to discuss how to limit your request in order to
speed the processing time, we would be pleased to discuss how you might
modify your request. The action officer assigned to your request is Donald
Nichelson at (571) 372-0425. The toll free number for this Office is

You may not be aware that we maintain a website and electronic reading
room at:


We called and left a message the following day clarifying that we are looking for a single record and attempting to better describe the report.


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3 thoughts on “Department Defense Classifies our Request as “Complex”

  1. […] FOIA request processor at the Department of Defense about the email we received the following week classifying our request as “complex” and asking us to call to narrow our request. We were told that the language in the email is […]

  2. Kel McClanahan October 21, 2012 at 8:11 am Reply

    I’m less bothered by the fact that they classified this as a “complex” request than I am that they appear to have gone back to their previous policy of citing all three “unusual circumstances” to justify an extension without any regard to whether or not they actually apply. DIA used to do this, and I sued them, and they stopped, changing the language to “These unusual circumstances COULD BE…” So I didn’t pursue the issue any more and withdrew the count. Then I filed FOIA requests with every defense component for a sample of their response letters and learned that no other component used this blanket language, and that when they wanted to cite unusual circumstances, they cited only the relevant ones. Now it appears they’re back to using boilerplate language claiming all three. That’s annoying.

  3. […] we finally did receive a tracking number from DOD, it was included in an email telling us that our request had been classified as […]

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