WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has asked Congress to allow it to classify its Future Year Defense Program spending projections, new documents have revealed.
The FYDP numbers, which project five years into the future, are considered essential information for the public to see where the Department of Defense expects to invest in the future, and to hold the department accountable when those spending plans change.
Information on the request was published Monday by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. Aftergood wrote that the proposal would “make it even harder for Congress and the public to refocus and reconstruct the defense budget.”
In its request to Congress, the Pentagon wrote that an unclassified FYDP “might inadvertently reveal sensitive information,” despite the fact the numbers have been unclassified since 1989.
“With the ready availability of data mining tools and techniques, and the large volume of data on the Department’s operations and resources already available in the public domain, additional unclassified FYDP data, if it were released, potentially allows adversaries to derive sensitive information by compilation about the Department’s weapons development, force structure, and strategic plans,” the DoD wrote.
It added that there is a commercial concern with the FYDP providing too much information to industry.
“The Department is also concerned about the potential harm to its interactions with commercial interests by release of FYDP information prior to the budget year. Exposing resources allocated to future acquisition plans may encourage bids and other development activities not beneficial to the Government,” the proposal read.
Seamus Daniels, a budget analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a tweet that “DoD’s proposal to eliminate the unclassified FYDP severely limits the public’s ability to track how strategy aligns with budgets and how program plans change over time. Serious step backwards in transparency from the department.”
Earlier this year, the No. 2 uniformed officer in the Pentagon railed against the department’s tendency toward overclassification, calling it “unbelievably ridiculous.”
The Pentagon has requested a number of legislative changes this year, in addition to the FYDP classification attempt.
Among the notable requests are one that would remove the requirement for the defense secretary to “notify the Senate and House Armed Services Committees whenever the Secretary establishes or modifies an end-of-quarter strength level;” a request for the ability to add an additional 15 general officer billets in the combatant commands and three general officer billets on the Joint Staff, to be filled exclusively by reserve component officers; and a request to rename the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict as the assistant secretary of defense for “Special Operations and Irregular Warfare.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.