Former defense secretary Bob Gates may be gone, but the Pentagon’s war on compiling congressionally mandated reports that the Defense Department says are time-consuming — and largely unread — seems to go on.
Gates, Loop Fans may recall, began issuing little stickers putting price tags on what it costs the Pentagon to prepare these studies.
A new salvo was fired Wednesday morning when a Pentagon official told House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) that DOD’s policy is that no report to Congress can be longer than 15 pages, no matter what.
McKeon promptly returned fire in a letter a few hours later to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, demanding he rescind the policy.
A 19-page DOD report on China’s military, which triggered the day’s skirmishing, was late and “wholly inadequate,” McKeon wrote, and the new policy, along with other Pentagon actions, “reeks of obstructionism.”
Besides, McKeon noted, “this year’s 19-page report evidently cost [DOD] $85,000 to prepare, nearly $12,000 more that last year’s 70-page report.” Not exactly saving taxpayers any money.
A DOD spokesman issued a statement saying that the department takes “very seriously its responsibility to provide Congress with thorough, accurate and timely briefings and reports on the full range of matters.”
The statement said the Pentagon always tries 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.” Hmmm.
DOD sends Congress more than 500 reports a year, the statement said, and one Pentagon “component” said reports shouldn’t be longer than 10 pages — not 15 — except under certain circumstances. “The guidance did not in any way seek to restrict information provided to Congress,” the statement said.
Doesn’t look like a white flag there.
And, indeed, not good enough for McKeon. A spokesman for the chairman fired back that McKeon, had “asked Secretary Panetta to revoke any guidance that sets arbitrary page limits and issue alternative guidance within twenty four hours. He continues to await a response from Secretary Panetta that such alternative guidance has been issued.”
Maybe they could just make the font reeeeally small?