Open Defense Budget Hearings on Key Policies
When Congress is deciding how to spend more than half a trillion dollars of the taxpayers' money, it should strive to do as much of it as possible in public. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the bill responsible for authorizing funding for the Pentagon, is drafted and voted on by the Senate Armed Services Committee almost entirely in secret. This is extremely troubling considering it defines most of our national security policy, and is one of the only bills Congress manages to have signed into law each year.
The public has a right to know how Congress conducts the people’s business and determines how to keep us safe, particularly when important and wide-ranging policies are at stake. While classified matters should only be discussed behind closed doors, the Senate should open up portions of debate around significant policy amendments and decisions by the Armed Services Committee.
In the past, the Senate has shown the public how this kind of debate enriches the public's understanding of key policies without compromising confidentiality or classified information. In 2012, the Armed Service Committee engaged in an in-depth debate around a military sexual assault amendment to the NDAA before proceeding to a closed session for classified amendments. Unfortunately, every markup since has remained completely closed to the public.
By limiting open debate to a few, unclassified policy priorities, the Senate Armed Services Committee could properly balance the public interest in debate against the sensitive nature of other matters addressed in the NDAA. It’s time for Senate open up the process, starting with the key policies in the NDAA.
It’s time for Senate open up the process, starting with the key policies in the NDAA.