Pentagon Rescinds Short-Report Rule Lawmakers Criticized

The Pentagon revoked a year-old guideline that most reports to Congress shouldn’t exceed 10 pages after the restriction triggered protests from Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee.

“We have rescinded the guidance,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters at a briefing today. “We take seriously this concern, we’ve addressed it, and we’re turning the page.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon demanded yesterday that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reverse the policy within 24 hours.

McKeon, a California Republican, said committee members learned of the policy yesterday morning when they received a shorter-than-expected annual report on China’s military might. When McKeon complained to Pentagon aides who provided a classified briefing to accompany the report, he said they told him of the department’s short-report directive.

The policy “reeks of obstructionism, a lack of transparency, and is harmful to constitutionally mandated congressional oversight and national security,” McKeon wrote in a letter to Panetta that he and fellow Republicans presented at a news conference. “Mr. Secretary, this policy must be rescinded immediately.”

Little said yesterday in a statement that the directive never sought to restrict information to Congress. He said the department prepares more than 500 reports to Congress each year and wants to do so in a way that saves costs and provides information “in the most readable and usable format possible.”

The flap comes at a time of tension between the Democratic Obama administration and Republicans on the defense panel. Republicans say the White House and Pentagon withhold too much information on defense strategy and the impact of automatic defense cuts that may take place in January.

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