Secrecy News

Many Reports to Congress May Go Online

Many of the hundreds or thousands of reports that are submitted to Congress by executive branch agencies each year may be published online pursuant to a provision in the new Consolidated Appropriations Act (HR 1158, section 8092).

That provision states that any agency that is funded by the Act shall post on its website any report to Congress “upon the determination by the head of the agency that it shall serve the national interest.”

The impact of the latter condition is unclear, particularly since no criteria for satisfying the national interest are defined. In any case, reports containing classified or proprietary information would be exempt from publication online, and publication of all reports would be deferred for at least 45 days after their receipt by Congress, diminishing their relevance, timeliness and news value.

Reports to Congress often contain new information and perspectives but they are an under-utilized resource particularly because they are not readily available.

Some otherwise unpublished 2019 reports address, for example, DoD use of open burn pitspolitical boycotts of Israel, and the financial cost of war post-9/11.

The newly enacted FY2020 national defense authorization act alone includes hundreds of new, renewed, or modified reporting requirements, according to an unofficial tabulation.

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