By Jason Sherman / February 16, 2011 at 5:28 PM

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) today raised the prospect that OSD's legislative affairs shop may have contravened a statute that prohibits the Pentagon from lobbying Congress by circulating to lawmakers “information" papers on the F136 program that argue “the interests of the taxpayers” and the military “are best served by not pursuing a second engine.”

Here's the exchange from the House Armed Services Committee hearing this morning:

Bartlett: For the past two days two papers have been circulated by the Congress here. One on Monday, one on Tuesday. They are unsigned and undated. It simply says prepared by the Department of Defense. The Office of the Secretary of Defense for legislative affairs has refused to respond over the last three days to why these papers are not dated, why they were not provided to the [House] Armed Services Committee.

Sir, when I was a little boy, my mother impressed on me that an intent to deceive is the same thing as a lie. In each of these papers there is a statement, “The F136 alternate engine is currently three to four years behind in development compared to the current engine program,” and yesterday's paper said the F136 engine is already three to four years behind in the development phase.

Sir, as you know the first engine is now about 24 months behind in its development and I understand that the second engine is just two to three months behind in its development cycle. So, in reality, had they both been started at the same time, the second engine would now be well ahead of the first engine.

Sir, are you comfortable that these two [issue papers[ that have gone through the Congress for the last couple of days do not constitute a violation of the statute that prohibits the Pentagon from lobbying the Congress?

Gates: I am not in the slightest aware of either one of those documents. . . .

Bartlett: Sir, these two papers are circulating. They are both unsigned and undated. And the Office of the Secretary of Defense Legislative Affairs refuses to respond over the last three days as to why these papers are not signed.... they were provided to everyone else in the Congress except the Armed Services Committee, is my understanding.

Are you comfortable sir, that this does not violate the statute that says, the Pentagon cannot lobby Congress?

Gates: Let me see the papers and find out the background before I make a judgement on them.

On Monday, during a Pentagon press conference, Gates reached out to newly elected GOP House members expressing a hope that they would support his call to terminate the F136 program when he said:

And my hope is that, particularly the new members who are interested in fiscal responsibility will see this as an opportunity to save $3 billion for the taxpayers that can be put to better use.

Josh Holly, spokesman for House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), told InsideDefense.com today that the Office of the Secretary of Defense shipped the "information" paper in question to all new House members on Monday. "Our staff pinged OSD/LA on Monday and Tuesday -- and did not receive a response, which is highly unusual," Holly said in an e-mail, adding:

Chairman McKeon believes Rep. Bartlett raised some valid concerns at the hearing this morning. The Department of Defense is viewed on the Hill as a neutral authority; and pushing questionable information to specific Members without providing the committee of jurisdiction the courtesy of a heads-up is questionable and might cause some to doubt the Pentagon’s motives on other programs as well.