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Congress Must Reject Department of Defense Efforts to Shroud Its Budget Proposals in Secrecy

Congressional Committees Must Hold Military Officials Accountable, Defend the Public’s Right to Know

War Plane

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Taxpayers and members of Congress should continue to have access to U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) spending proposals so they can hold the department accountable for future projected expenditures, 36 veterans, consumer, religious, grassroots, national security and government accountability groups said today in a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

The groups’ letter draws urgent attention to a shortsighted and dangerous proposal contained in the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act proposal. The proposal would increase the department’s ability to hide even more of its out-of-control spending from the public and congressional oversight. Specifically, the Pentagon seeks to eliminate the longstanding requirement that the department submit an unclassified version of the Future Years Defense Program database to Congress.

The database captures and summarizes all forces, resources and programs associated with DoD operations worldwide over a five-year period. Essentially, the database is a schedule and financial plan showing how the Pentagon plans to spend billions in taxpayer resources – and the Pentagon wants even less transparency over how it is spent.

A Defense Department that touts a budget of more than $738 billion, is unable to pass an audit, and already over-classifies information to hide some spending from the public and the Congress should not be permitted to obscure its financial projections, the groups say in the letter. By allowing the Pentagon to secretly classify even more future spending projections, taxpayers and elected representatives are less likely to be able to hold the department accountable.

“The unclassified [Future Years Defense Program database] disclosures enable American taxpayers and their elected representatives to openly view and vet Pentagon spending expectations and hold the Department accountable for deviations,” the letter states. “The notion that such information should remain classified flouts transparency and common sense. There is no plausible way such information disclosure weakens national security; and there is no way for the public to engage in a sensible debate about Pentagon spending policy without it.”

The groups, representing a bipartisan array of veterans, democracy, environmental, government accountability, grassroots, national security and religious groups, sent the letter to chairs and ranking members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, as well as the full House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations committees.

Read the letter.