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Lynch, Connolly, Porter Urge Defense Department to Recommit to Public Transparency and Accountability

Washington, D.C. (Apr. 8, 2021)—Today, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security; Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations; and Committee Member Rep. Katie Porter sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III urging the Department of Defense (DOD) to build upon his previous commitments to transparency and expand public and Congressional access to information.

“After four years of defying democratic norms and resisting congressional oversight under the Trump Administration, the Pentagon now has an important opportunity to begin to repair its damaged relationship with Congress and the American people,” the Members wrote.

Under the Trump Administration, DOD repeatedly rejected democratic norms, undermined the public’s access to information, and attempted to hinder Congress’ ability to conduct oversight of Pentagon operations.

In 2017, the Trump Administration began to classify and withhold information related to the U.S. war in Afghanistan from the American people, including data on the capabilities of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

In 2018, the Trump Administration similarly began to withhold data related to the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. 

In 2020, the House Committee on Appropriations concluded that the Trump Administration’s repeated failure to meet congressionally mandated reporting requirements exhibited a “dismissive attitude toward oversight.”

In today’s letter, Lynch, Connolly, and Porter requested that DOD (1) resume publishing the number of U.S. military personnel deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, (2) declassify or otherwise make available for public release Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) performance metrics, and (3) improve compliance with statutory reporting requirements and expand public access to unclassified DOD reports.

“In a February 4, 2021, memorandum, President Biden stated that ‘[t]he revitalization of our national security and foreign policy workforce requires a recommitment to the highest standards of transparency.’   By implementing these and other measures, DOD can assist the President in meeting this goal, make a clean break from the damaging policies of the Trump Administration, and begin to repair the public’s trust in the department and our armed services,” the Members wrote.

Click here to read the letter.

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