Open the Defense Authorization Bill to Public Scrutiny, Groups Tell Senate Leaders

Sixty advocacy organizations, including The Constitution Project, have asked the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee to open its deliberations on the National Defense Authorization Act to the public.

In a letter delivered to Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) on April 22, the groups urged the committee to make the legislation and proposed amendments available to the public at least a day before voting on it, and to allow interested constituents to attend the meetings where the bill is discussed and voted on – called the “markup” – or to view them online.

“The NDAA is the single largest authorization bill that Congress passes, making the stakes for taxpayers incredibly high. This year SASC will consider amendments to overhaul military pay and benefit policy, authorize base closures, provide funding for major weapon systems, revise Guantanamo transfer authorities, and other provisions with significant and direct impacts on American national security,” the groups wrote.

While acknowledging that the public might need to be excluded from deliberations involving classified information, the groups argued that such a step should be taken only when absolutely necessary. They noted that the House committee responsible for considering the legislation has held open makeups for years and did not need to close any portion of last year’s markup of the NDAA for national security reasons.

“Given the size and scope of this important legislation, it is unacceptable for the vast majority of senators to have to vote on a bill compiled almost entirely behind closed doors, with very little chance for public input or accountability. It’s time to bring the NDAA into the light of day,” the letter said.

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