The Pentagon has rescinded its guidance that reports to Congress not exceed 10 pages in length after Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, fired off an angry letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and called a press conference to express his frustration with the policy. (File photo / U.S. Navy)
Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon policy shop has rescinded its guidance that reports to Congress should not exceed 10 pages in length, bringing to an end a brief but heated exchange between Capitol Hill and the Pentagon.
During a July 12 briefing at the Pentagon, DoD spokesman George Little told reporters that DoD policy chief James Miller had told his staff that the guidance no longer applies and that reports should be as long as they need to be to fully answer questions from Congress.
The day before, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., fired off an angry letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, saying he was dismayed to learn that congressional reports were being held to an arbitrary length. He also called a last-minute press conference, where he expressed his frustrations to reporters.
McKeon said he learned of the Pentagon’s new guidance during a July 11 briefing on the annual Chinese military power report.
When McKeon asked why this year’s report was shorter than it had been in years past, he was told a new DoD rule requires all reports to Congress be limited to 15 pages. The Pentagon later clarified the guidance directed reports to be no longer than 10 pages if possible.
The China report contains four chapters that run 19 pages, but stretches to 52 pages if you include the four appendices and maps in the back. It cost $85,000 to prepare, according to the Pentagon.
Last year’s report cost $73,000 and ran 84 pages, with two appendices.
Because this year’s report is more expensive than last year’s, despite being shorter, McKeon said he believes the Pentagon’s guidance had more to do with limiting the amount of information provided than it did with cost-savings.
“Taken in context with the issuance of gag orders, the requirement for senior officials to sign non-disclosure agreements, and the tardiness of responses to requests for information, this policy reeks of obstructionism, a lack of transparency and is harmful to constitutionally mandated congressional oversight and national security,” McKeon said in his letter to Panetta.
He demanded an immediate response and asked to have the guidance rescinded.
The Pentagon did not immediately rescind the guidance, but issued a statement saying, “the guidance did not in any way seek to restrict information provided to Congress.”
According to The Hill, when McKeon had yet to receive a response within 24 hours of his letter being sent, he decided to block a request from the Pentagon to shift $8.2 billion to higher priority needs.