from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2016, Issue No. 34
April 13, 2016

Secrecy News Blog:


In a number of national security policy areas, there is a long-term trend in favor of greater transparency and disclosure. For example, the U.S. Army openly published a manual last week on Techniques for Information Collection During Operations Among Populations (ATP 3-55.4). It supersedes and replaces a previous publication from 2007 (FM 2-91.6) that was for restricted distribution and was marked For Official Use Only.

But in some other areas, the arrow of transparency is pointed backwards and previously unclassified categories of records are becoming newly restricted or classified.

That appears to be the case with The National Military Strategy of the United States of America. It was publicly released as an unclassified document in 2015, but the forthcoming edition that is to be completed by the end of next year will be classified.

"The [next] national military strategy will be a classified document," said Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a March 29 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He acknowledged that up to now the National Military Strategy was "an unclassified document that has historically, you know, been written for the public." But the next Strategy will not be made public, although "we will certainly articulate to the public the guts of a national military strategy," he said.

He did not elaborate on the rationale for classification of the hitherto unclassified document, except to say that "in my mind, what the national military strategy ought to do is drive the development of our operation[al] plans. And more importantly, drive the development of viable options that we would need in a crisis [or] contingency." His speech was reported in Defense News (April 5) and the US Naval Institute News (March 29).

The Congressional Research Service said "it can be assumed" that Special Operations Forces "will figure prominently in DOD's new classified military strategy document." But CRS warned that "a high or increased level of U.S. SOF involvement in the nation's new classified military strategy could come with a price.... there could be a tendency to assign them an inordinate amount of responsibility under this new strategic construct." See U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 8, 2016:


The transfer of presidential power from one Administration to the next "is a complex and multi-faceted undertaking" that actually begins several months before the general election, an updated report from the Congressional Research Service explains.

The law known as the Presidential Transition Act (PTA) "includes a number of provisions related to the pre-election portion of the presidential transition. It directs the President and the incumbent Administration to establish a specified transition-related organizational infrastructure, with some features ongoing and others operational during a presidential election year only."

Among other things, "the PTA authorizes eligible candidates to fund pre-election transition activities through their campaigns. The statute also establishes a process for designating and preparing career officials who will likely act as agency leaders during the transition process. It further provides for the negotiation, before the election, of memoranda of understanding between the incumbent President and eligible candidates concerning post-election transition matters."

The requested FY2016 budget for pre-election presidential transition activities is $13.278 million. See Presidential Transition Act: Provisions and Funding, updated April 12, 2016:

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service this week include the following.

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emission Trends and the Role of the Clean Power Plan, April 11, 2016:

The Selective Service System and Draft Registration: Issues for Congress, April 11, 2016:

Friended, but not Friends: Federal Ethics Authorities Address Role of Social Media in Politics, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 12, 2016:

Puerto Rico's Current Fiscal Challenges, updated April 11, 2016:

Unaccompanied Children from Central America: Foreign Policy Considerations, updated April 11, 2016:

Navy LX(R) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 11, 2016:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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