DoD Suppressed Data on Rising Research Lab Demand

In a report to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission last year, Department of Defense officials selectively withheld data showing that demand for certain DoD research laboratory facilities was likely to increase, not decrease, in coming years.

The suppression of this information on “future excess capacity” appears to have significantly distorted the decision-making process regarding military base closures.

“The [suppressed] data would have made for an awkward situation were it not expunged because it showed that excess capacity will vanish without any BRAC actions taken,” according to a sharply critical November 2005 memorandum (pdf) prepared by Don J. DeYoung, a member of an internal BRAC study group.

A copy of the DeYoung memo as well as the suppressed data on “future excess capacity” at DoD laboratories were independently obtained by Secrecy News.

“It was unethical to expunge critical data from the official process, and then withhold it from the public and the affected DoD workforces,” Mr. DeYoung wrote in his internal memorandum. It may also have been illegal, given a statutory requirement to provide all relevant information to Congress and the BRAC Commission.

Any decision to preserve or to shut down a particular facility is a judgment call that involves consideration of numerous factors.

But because relevant data were withheld, the resulting decisions “lacked integrity,” wrote Mr. DeYoung. “A necessary and appropriate public debate was thereby eliminated.”

The BRAC decision-making process also produced some results that are questionable from a public policy point of view. For example, a decision was made to close a research facility at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey even though it is a leading developer of countermeasures against Improvised Explosive Devices, which are a major threat to U.S. troops in Iraq.

A more detailed account of the DoD suppression of BRAC data on “future excess capacity” is presented in this synopsis.

For links (pdf) to the uncensored version of the report including data on “future excess capacity,” the censored BRAC report as presented to the Commission, the November 2005 DeYoung critique of the process, and a DoD email message suggesting that the suppressed data be classified, see this page.

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