Transparency and the Pentagon

July 19, 2011

Transparency and the Pentagon

Cleaning up Panetta's statements; McCain and Kerry on the South China Sea; Clinton stands by India.

Reporters are getting frustrated with the Department of Defense with a group of journalists lodging a complaint on Friday. Defense has been slow getting transcripts out to the press, which makes it difficult to write stories, and there have been allegations that a bit of censorship is going on as well. As has been evident from recent speeches, new secretary of defense Leon Panetta’s method of delivery is a bit more, shall we say, colorful and blunt than his predecessor. Official transcripts are allegedly being wiped clean of some of the more descriptive turns of phrase. At other times, when Panetta has made some of his more blunt statements (like that the reason we were in Iraq was 9/11), no official transcript makes it into the public sphere at all.

Senators John McCain and John Kerry are jumping into the South China Sea fray. Shortly after chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen wrapped up a trip to China and the week of an ASEAN meeting, the lawmakers sent a letter to Beijing’s leading foreign policy official, Dai Bingguo, calling on China to curb “naval incidents.” “If appropriate steps are not taken to calm the situation, future incidents could escalate, jeopardizing the vital national interests of the United States,” McCain and Kerry wrote.

In India today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touched on terrorism, saying that New Delhi and Washington stood together in fighting “ violent extremist networks .” Last week a series of bombings struck Mumbai. The secretary of state was also pleased to see Pakistan and India talking, calling the dialogue between the two countries the “most promising” solution to their disagreements.

And as the August 2 default deadline looms, some House Republicans are taking a stand . They plan to vote today on a measure that would make raising the debt ceiling contingent upon passing a new constitution amendment that would require a balanced budget and would make it harder to raise taxes. Meanwhile, just yesterday, senators said they would demonstrate their dedication to finding a budget solution by vowing to stay in session every day , even over the weekends, until, in Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s words, "Congress passes legislation that prevents the United States from defaulting on our obligations.” House speaker John Boehner and majority leader Eric Cantor both met with President Obama on Sunday.