The U.S. Air Force says its policy is to provide information to Congress as needed, but with preference given to members of the Armed Services Committees over other Committees, and to the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committees over other members.
“Per OSD Policy, Congressional Member clearances are automatic once the Member is elected into their current position in the United States Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. Once a Member is elected as a seated member of Congress, the Member is automatically read into SCI [sensitive compartmented information] and any other classification needed,” a newly revised Air Force Instruction explains.
“Members of Congress assigned to the defense committees (and to the intelligence committees only for intelligence SAPs) are accessed to all DoD SAPs, except for a limited number of programs judged to be of extreme sensitivity, referred to as waived SAPs.” SAPs stands for “special access programs” which are classified programs involving access controls that are more restrictive than for other classified information. “Waived SAPs” are a subset of SAPs that are briefed to only a select group of congressmen.
“Members of Congress not assigned to the defense committees (and to the intelligence committees only for intelligence SAPs) will be granted access to DoD SAPs (non-waived SAPs only) with the concurrence of the DoD after consultation with the Chairman and Ranking Member of the defense committees.”
“Air Force officials may not disclose classified information to the Congress for release to a congressional constituent.”
Remarkably, Members of Congress who seek information for their own legislative purposes enjoy no special treatment from the Air Force, according to the Air Force.
“Requests from Members of Congress not seeking records on behalf of a Congressional Committee, Subcommittee, either House sitting as a whole, or made on behalf of their constituents shall be considered the same as any other requester.” See “Air Force Relations With Congress,” Air Force Instruction 90-401, 14 June 2012.