The top members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) criticized a new Defense Department memo that could limit congressional requests for operational information as limiting lawmakers’ oversight.
HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) issued a joint statement May 22 regarding an internal Pentagon memo that puts new restrictions on the ways department personnel provide information to congressional members and their staff. The memo was first reported by The Washington Post.
“If implemented, the Department’s new policy guidance would dramatically limit Congress’ ability to execute our constitutional prerogative,” Smith and Thornberry said in the statement. “Congress oversees the Department of Defense; but with this new policy, the Department is overstepping its authority by presuming to determine what warrants legislative oversight.
“Furthermore, by applying this policy to all members of Congress, regardless of committee assignment, the Department misunderstands the role and prerogatives of its committees of jurisdiction,” the HASC leaders continued.
They also slammed the memo’s apparent characterization of Congress as a security risk for classified information, calling it “both inexcusable and inaccurate.”
“The Department is not in a position to evaluate Defense committees’ worthiness to receive classified information, nor characterize our ability to appropriately protect it,” they said.
HASC intends to address the issue in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Smith and Thornberry said. The committee is scheduled to mark up the NDAA by subcommittee June 4-5, with a full committee markup currently scheduled for June 12.