DoD proposals for NDAA would weaken transparency, accountability when they’re needed most

Slated for late May, the markup schedule for this year’s National Defense Authorization Act is now in flux because of the congressional response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we don’t yet know how the crisis will impact the bill, the Department of Defense has already proposed several provisions to be included in the NDAA that raise significant oversight, transparency, and accountability concerns Congress should not accept.

If previous years are any indication, there’s hope that Congress will once again refuse to grant the DoD’s proposed FOIA exemption for the coming 2021 fiscal year, which the department has proposed each year for most of the past nine years. This unnecessary new FOIA exemption would keep large swaths of DoD information from being released to the public, including crucial information about U.S. use of lethal force, and potentially even information about troop safety and oversight of contractors. Twenty-five civil society organizations urged Congress to reject the DoD’s secrecy proposal in this letter.

Another harmful DoD proposal would weaken restrictions on lobbying activity. This section would change the 2018 NDAA by replacing the “lobbying activities” with the more narrowly defined “lobbying contacts” and speed the revolving door through which government officials can profit from government contracts by working for the private sector. A cross-section of organizations called on Congress to oppose the DoD’s proposal here.

A third concerning proposal would further obstruct the already limited access the public has to important DoD spending information – asking Congress to curb its own oversight of defense spending by reversing a decades-long requirement for an unclassified version of the Future Years Defense Program.

Open The Government has created a one-pager with more information about why these provisions are detrimental to the public’s right to know and should not be included in this year’s NDAA.