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Letter to Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense U.S. Department of Defense - Testify

On the heels of a tense, pointed and heated hearing on the Department of Defense's proposed, and wholly unsubstantiated installation closures and budget cuts, 37 Members of Congress -- Republicans and Democrats -- have made the unprecedented but necessary move of asking the House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton and Ranking Member Buck McKeon, to require Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to testify and subpoena him, if necessary. Signing the letter are each of the sitting Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, including every subcommittee Ranking Member. Members from 22 states have signed the letter to end the Pentagon stonewall. 32 of 37 of the letter's signatories are members of the Armed Services Committee, constituting a voting majority of the Committee.

In order to properly exercise their Congressional oversight responsibilities as required by law, the 27 Republicans and 10 Democrats are demanding that Secretary Gates appear before the Committee to answer questions concerning his proposals and to provide documents still being withheld nearly two months following his abrupt, closed-door decision.

"Members of the Armed Services Committee are beyond frustrated with the unparalleled degree of Pentagon secrecy surrounding decisions that carry enormous impact on national security. We have been thwarted, blocked, ignored and stymied by the Department at every turn. We are now taking an unprecedented response to their unprecedented move to begin the unilateral, large scale closures of our defense installations," said Forbes.

According to House Armed Services Committee rules, "A subpoena may be authorized and issued by the Committee, or any subcommittee with the concurrence of the full Committee Chairman and after consultation with the Ranking Member of the Committee, under subparagraph (a)(2) in the conduct of any investigation, or series of investigations or activities, only when authorized by a majority of the members voting, a majority of the Committee or subcommittee being present. Authorized subpoenas shall be signed only by the Chairman, or by any member designated by the Committee."

The letter states:

Dear Mr. Chairman & Ranking Member:

Recently Secretary Gates announced broad plans to reduce costs in the Department of Defense and re-appropriate those savings throughout the Department. As part of this plan, the Secretary announced three longer term projects and eight initiatives that he plans to begin implementing immediately. These eight initiatives have the ability to affect the Department, its ability to effectively fulfill its mission, and the security of the nation.

A decision of this magnitude should not be made without careful reflection, supported by rigorous analysis. We have been told by the Department that the Secretary had several meetings and reviewed these decisions carefully. However, it seems clear that this decision did not carefully consider the national defense implications of such a change, nor is the decision substantiated with any sort of calculation of the direct and indirect costs to our national defense structure. In addition, no information has been provided by the Department to demonstrate any level of analysis, either financial or strategic, to determine what risks are being introduced into our national security strategy and how we are to mitigate these new risks.

During a briefing to the HASC on August 10, 2010 the Department was asked to provide data collected and ensuing analysis supporting the recommendations announced by the Secretary on August 9, 2010. Almost immediately following this briefing a congressional letter was sent from several member of the HASC in search of this analysis. To date, we have not received this information. Ranking Member McKeon, Mr. Wittman and Mr. Forbes repeated this request to the Department in a August 31, 2010 letter.

We request that you require Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to serve as an expert witness before this Committee prior to any further implementation of his announced initiatives in order to provide the Committee all information needed to assess, understand, and provide oversight as required by law. If the request is refused, we ask that you immediately utilize all means available to compel him to appear to testify before this Committee.

Additionally, it is vital that the members of the committee are afforded the opportunity to thoroughly review all data, analysis, and other documentation supporting the Secretary's initiatives and related decisions. As this information has been requested by the Committee on August 10, by members of the Committee on August 31, and again by Committee staff during the intervening period between August 10 and today, and that the Department has either refused to respond or provided incomplete information, we request that the Committee subpoena the Department, compelling them to provide the analysis and information collected prior to August 9 upon which these decisions are being made.

Thank you for understanding the need to proceed in a deliberate, thoughtful and fully transparent manner.

Sincerely,

Congressman J. Randy Forbes -- (VA-04)
Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett -- (MD-6)
Congressman Mac Thornberry -- (TX-13)
Congressman Walter B. Jones -- (NC-03)
Congressman W. Todd Akin -- (MO-02)
Congressman Jeff Miller -- (FL-01)
Congressman Joe Wilson -- (SC-02)
Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo -- (NJ-02)
Congressman Rob Bishop -- (UT-01)
Congressman Michael Turner -- (OH-03)
Congressman John Kline -- (MN-02)
Congressman Mike Rodgers -- (AL-03)
Congressman Trent Franks -- (AZ-02)
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers -- (WA-05)
Congressman K. Michael Conaway -- (TX-11)
Congressman Doug Lamborn -- (CO-05)
Congressman Rob Wittman -- (VA-01)
Congresswoman Mary Fallin -- (OK-05)
Congressman Duncan Hunter -- (CA-52)
Congressman John C. Fleming -- (LA-04)
Congressman Mike Coffman -- (CO-06)
Congressman Thomas J. Rooney -- (FL-16)
Congressman Todd Russell Platts -- (PA-19)
Congressman Charles K. Djou -- (HI-01)
Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz -- (TX-27)
Congressman Robert Andrews -- (NJ-01)
Congressman Joe Courtney -- (CT-02)
Congressman Glenn Nye -- (VA-02)
Congressman Mark Critz -- (PA-12)
Congressman Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Congressman Dan Boren (OK-02)
* Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott -- (VA-03)
* Congressman Bob Goodlatte -- (VA-06)
* Congressman Frank Wolf -- (VA-10)
* Congressman Gerald Connolly -- (VA-11)
* Congressman Parker Griffith -- (AL-05)

* denotes not a member of the House Armed Services Committee


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