The Washington Post

House committee chairman outguns the Pentagon

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

McKeon learned of the year-old policy Wednesday after receiving a 19-page report on China’s military. In a sharply worded letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, McKeon called the report “wholly inadequate” and said that, along with other department actions, it “reeks of obstructionism.”

The policy reflected concerns about congressional demands for what the Pentagon considered duplicative and time-consuming reports that went largely unread.

The department’s initial response Wednesday indicated it was not going to change the policy.

But on Thursday, DOD spokesman George Little, reading from a memo announcing the change, said “the explicit intent was to ensure more concise and well-written reports.” But, he continued, the policy “appears to have been misinterpreted and has generated concern” that DOD did not take seriously “its congressional reporting responsibilities.”

So, final score: McKeon 1, Pentagon 0. Trees 0.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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