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The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson


July 11, 2012 - 2:53 pm

The Defense Department today defended its new policy of keeping its reports to Congress on weighty international security matters short, sweet… and super-short.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), joined by subcommittee chairmen Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), complained to reporters today that he’d received a report on China’s military capabilities that was a mere 19 pages long. Last year’s report was 70 pages.

Lawmakers were told this morning that new Pentagon policy dictates that reports to Congress should be kept to 15 pages.

But a statement just issued by the DoD puts the cap at just 10 pages.

“Across the department, we continually strive to provide Congress with the information and analysis it needs to fulfill its vital oversight role, and to do so in the most readable and usable format possible.  We also seek to do so in a cost effective manner,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs George Little.

“The department prepares and sends to Congress over 500 reports annually. Last summer, one component within the department issued written guidance on report length,” Little said. “That guidance indicated reports should not exceed ten pages in length, except when the statutory requirements or specific circumstances dictate. The guidance did not in any way seek to restrict information provided to Congress.”

McKeon fired off a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today asking that he be notified within 24 hours that the policy has been rescinded.

“I consider the report to be wholly inadequate and believe it minimizes the uncertainty and the challenges posed by China’s military build-up,” McKeon wrote. “…It would not appear the justification is cost-savings, but rather an internal decision to limit the amount of information to be provided to Congress — irrespective of the subject matter or origin of the requirement.”

Far from saving money, the congressman noted, the stubby China report actually cost $12,000 more than last year’s full-length version.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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