Pentagon says annual weapons testing report will remain unclassified

By Justin Doubleday / October 29, 2018 at 5:18 PM

The Pentagon will publish a forthcoming annual report on operational weapons testing in unclassified format only, according to a spokeswoman, after a prominent congressional Democrat claimed the Defense Department planned to shroud the document in secrecy.

In a Defense One op-ed published over the weekend, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) summarized how the Pentagon under the Trump administration has rolled back transparency by, among other things, restricting media access, classifying once-public documents and directing service members to talk less about readiness.

Furthermore, Smith wrote, the Pentagon is planning to send Congress the full version of this year's annual weapons testing report in a classified format. The report, which details whether the Pentagon's costliest weapons are working in realistic testing, has been unclassified and released to the public since the office of the director of operational test and evaluation was established in the 1980's.

"For the upcoming annual report, DOD is planning to only provide a complete report to Congress as a classified document, even if most of the details about why a system isn't working have not been considered classified in the past and have been safely released to the public for decades," Smith wrote.

However, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza told Inside Defense today there are no plans to issue a separate, classified report to Congress for fiscal year 2018.

"As it has done in previous years, DOT&E will be publishing only an unclassified annual report for FY-18," she wrote in an email. "In developing the Annual Report in accordance with Title 10 requirements, attention is being paid to assure Operations Security (OPSEC) is maintained for our warfighters. DOT&E is always prepared to provide detailed classified responses to requests from the Congress regarding OT&E of DOD acquisition programs."

She also said the OPSEC risks being considered for the FY-18 report are no different than in past years.

"There are no additional OPSEC risks as compared to past years," Baldanza said. "While we provide an annual report to Congress as required, we always pay special attention that the information provided in our unclassified report does not place the warfighters at risk."

Asked about the Pentagon's statement, Smith told Inside Defense, "I am pleased if the Pentagon has reversed itself and is interested in providing a full, complete, and unclassified DOT&E annual report. I look forward to reading it."

The DOT&E report is typically released in January.