How the U.S. Military Is Trying to Mask Its Readiness Crisis

An FA-18E flies over the East China Sea. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

Senior Pentagon officials are classifying data on important readiness issues. Is that a good idea?

“This is a result of guidance from the Chairman [of the] Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, who has asked the service chiefs to refrain from divulging information which may give our adversaries sensitive information,” Spoehr said in an email to the National Interest. “Reportedly, it also stems from a desire not to dishearten U.S. service members.”

Still, the need to protect information should be balanced against the need for the American public to be informed about the status of the armed forces, Spoehr said.

“While some deficiencies do need to be classified for the most part this is information that should be public to assess whether these systems are ready and reliable,” said Mandy Smithberger, director of military reform for the Project On Government Oversight. “Especially for newer systems that we’re still paying to develop the public has a right to know what it’s paying for, and the Department shouldn’t abuse the classification system to try to hide information that is embarrassing but not actually national security sensitive.”

For military officials, the classification expansion is meant to protect national security, not portray the government as secretive, the government official said. After all, specifics about military readiness should be kept out of the public eye because that is how adversaries keep track of America’s weaknesses and plot to take advantage of them, the official said. So far, no one has complained.

“It’s been several months now and there really hasn’t been that much of a pushback,” he said.

Maggie Ybarra is an assistant managing editor at the National Interest.

Image: An FA-18E flies over the East China Sea. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy