The Pentagon said Thursday it’s rescinding guidance that limited the length of reports to Congress to 10 pages, appearing to end a fight with a powerful Republican chairman.
After House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) learned of the page limit on Wednesday, he wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demanding that he end the policy. He upped the ante on Thursday by threatening to block the Pentagon’s reprogramming requests until the change was made, which could have put in jeopardy an $8 billion request submitted last month.
It’s unclear whether McKeon’s threat had anything to do with the Pentagon’s decision to end the policy, which was announced Thursday afternoon by Defense Department spokesman George Little.
A committee aide said McKeon was not informed about the change until after he threatened to block the requests.
“The explicit intent was to ensure more concise and well-written reports to Congress,” Little said, reading from a memo from the office of the undersecretary for policy that ended the page-limit practice.
The memo said the guidance appeared to be “misinterpreted,” but the policy was rescinded, effective immediately.
“We are turning the page," Little said at the briefing.
“It really was an attempt to provide some parameters to guide concise information delivered to Congress. That’s it,” he said.
The brouhaha over report page lengths began on Wednesday after a Pentagon staffer told McKeon about the guidance during a closed-door briefing on a China report that was 19 pages long, plus appendices.
McKeon blasted the Pentagon for the policy, holding a hastily convened press conference and writing a letter to Panetta demanding that he rescind the policy within the next 24 hours.
McKeon spokesman Claude Chafin said that after the 24 hours had elapsed, the chairman made the threat to block the reprogramming requests.
"Taken in context with the issuance of gag orders, the requirement for senior officials to sign non-disclosure agreements and the tardiness of responses to requests for information, this policy reeks of obstructionism [and] a lack of transparency," McKeon wrote to Panetta.
Little said the decision was made within the policy shop, and not by Panetta, though the secretary was aware of the concerns in Congress.
— This story was first posted at 1 p.m. and has been updated with new developments.