WASHINGTON ― Sen. Elizabeth Warren is calling on the Pentagon to stop censoring its annual weapons testing report and return to the transparency that marked it for the last 40 years.
In a letter Tuesday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Warren rapped the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation office for omitting data about more than 20 programs from its public report published Thursday while a fuller version, marked “controlled unclassified information,” was given to Congress and Defense Department officials.
Warren, D-Mass., called the move an “unjustified restriction of public access” that “will not serve to protect national security information but will instead be abused to avoid disclosure of failures in our major weapons programs.”
The reports aid in the oversight of taxpayer dollars and help to ensure troops are provided with the tools they need to complete their missions, Warren said in her letter.
“This also endangers national security by making it more likely we will field weapon systems that unnecessarily jeopardize the lives of servicemembers and negatively affect their performance on the battlefield,” the letter read. “I urge you to reverse this directive and resume the release of public, unclassified reporting on the results of DOT&E’s findings.”
DOT&E’s acting director, Raymond O’Toole, announced in December that only a “controlled unclassified” version of the report will be made available to Congress.
“I thought it very important to provide Congress and the secretary the test evaluation details that shouldn’t wind up in our adversaries’ hands, hence the new CUI version of the annual report,” O’Toole said, according to Breaking Defense.
The public version omitted information about more than 20 weapon programs, including the Marine Corps’ CH-53K King Stallion, a major acquisition effort and one of the service’s most troubled programs.
In Warren’s letter to Austin, she said the classification of the report submitted to Congress will have the effect of limiting the Pentagon’s accountability, and worse.
“As a practical matter, it will limit the type of information available for those tasked with holding the Department accountable and ensuring taxpayer dollars are being spent responsibly,” Warren said.
The lack of transparency also raised alarms among watchdog groups. In a series of tweets, Dan Grazier, a fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, called the DOT&E move “disgraceful” and hailed Warren’s efforts.
“It’s good to see pushback against the Pentagon’s efforts to hide embarrassing information about the weapons we all pay for from the public,” Grazier said in a Tuesday post.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.