Answering this simple question, the Pentagon said, would take the department — hold your breath now — 15 million labor hours. Doing so would cost — no, don’t breathe yet — $660 million, the Pentagon said. …
In a two-page response to Peck, the department’s FOIA office said Robert Jarrett, the Pentagon’s Director of Operations, Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, had explained that although the Pentagon maintains a database of all its contracts — in something called the Electronic Documents Access (EDA) system — it cannot be comprehensively searched.
The Electronic Documents Access system was switched on eighteen years ago after being constructed at a cost of millions of dollars, and it now includes an estimated 30 million contracts. But the FOIA officer, signing the letter to Peck on behalf of FOIA chief Stephanie L. Carr, wrote in the response: “No method exists for a complete text search of EDA, as some documents are scans of paper copies.” The estimate that someone would need 15 million hours, or about 1,712 years, to come up with an answer — including any redactions required to keep company secrets out of the public domain — was based on the department’s presumption that the person doing the searching would have to read all of the contracts, and spend 20 minutes on each one.
You could buy an Australian island for what the Pentagon says it would cost to take inventory — of one item