Several weeks ago, when Robert Gates released early details of the Pentagon budget, we noticed a peculiar, but, I suppose, predictable trend. With an assist from the media, conservatives and other stakeholders--seeking to attack the administration, and protect their parochial interests--began to portray the proposal as a soft-on-defense spending cut, when, in fact, the bottom line represented a modest defense spending increase.
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You don't hear too much of that meme anymore. But you do hear quite a bit these days, from Congressional Republicans, and others, that the budget process has been maddeningly opaque--that, for instance officials have been barred via non-disclosure agreement from discussing budget details with anybody outside the Pentagon or relevant government agency while the document was being assembled. John T. Bennett of Defense News first reported the existence of the agreement in February, and he sends along a copy, which you can see for yourself here. The terms of the agreement were rescinded earlier this week.
Still, that didn't please members of Congress who will have ultimate say over the budget itself. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) grilled Gates about the so-called "gag order," and what he described as the general lack of transparency in the budget process as a whole.