Answering the mail

By Thomas Duffy / August 30, 2017 at 2:41 PM

In new guidance on how the Defense Department answers inquiries from Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expects the department to improve its communication with Congress "at every level."

According to an Aug. 22 memo from Capt. Hallock Mohler, Mattis' executive secretary, responses to congressional inquiries directed to the secretary or deputy secretary "must be completed within five calendar days." If more time is needed, "an interim response or reply will be sent indicating when to expect a final one. A final response or reply will be sent no later than 30 days."

Mattis' guidance includes the following two directions: "Answer the question asked. Address the issue raised. Do not avoid the question or answer a different question. If you can't answer the question or address the issue, state why." and "Give members of Congress the Bottom Line Up Front; be direct and to the point using clear, concise, and straightforward language."