Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has criticized the Pentagon’s decision to restrict the level of detail in the public version of its annual weapons testing report, saying it may hinder efforts to address programs’ effectiveness and safety issues.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Warren urged the Pentagon to reverse its decision to release one version of the annual Director of Operational, Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) report to department officials and lawmakers that included more specific “controlled and unclassified information” and another to the public that redacted details for more than 20 programs.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questions U.S. Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 18, 2017. (DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

“…This unjustified restriction of public access will not serve to protect national security information but will instead be abused to avoid disclosure of failures in our major weapons programs. I urge you to reverse the decision to classify these reports,” Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in her letter.

Raymond O’Toole, the acting head of the DOT&E office at the time, said in October the change to release two reports with different classification levels was intended to avoid adversaries having sensitive information on certain program’s potential technical challenges (Defense Daily, Dec. 10). Nick Guertin recently took over as the permanent head of the office.

Warren said the lack of detail in findings on program performance in the publicly released version of the report “is already raising alarms amongst watchdog groups due to its lack of transparency.”

“This office has been able to release an unclassified version of this report for nearly 40 years, and it is simply not credible to think it cannot and should not continue to do so,” Warren said. “This also endangers national security by making it more likely we will field weapon systems that unnecessarily jeopardize the lives of servicemembers and negatively affect their performance on the battlefield.”

The public version of the DOT&E report, for example, said the Navy’s Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) faces significant operational effectiveness and suitability challenges as it proceeds into the initial operational test and evaluation but did not disclose its full preliminary analysis, only including the information in the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) edition (Defense Daily, Jan. 28).