White House Releases a Presidential Policy Directive

Updated below

The White House yesterday issued Presidential Policy Directive 27 on United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy. The text of the directive was posted on the White House web site.

“The new policy provides greater clarity and transparency with respect to U.S. goals for arms transfers and on the criteria used to make arms transfer decisions,” according to a White House statement.

This is not the first time that the Obama White House has published one of its Presidential Policy Directives, but it has not done so consistently, even when the directives are unclassified.

Last month, DC District Judge Ellen Huvelle scolded the White House for withholding an unclassified directive (PPD-6) and for what she termed its “cavalier attitude” towards public disclosure.  She ordered the document released.  (“Court Rebukes White House Over ‘Secret Law’,” Secrecy News, December 18, 2013.)

President Obama has been issuing presidential directives at a discernibly slower pace than did other recent presidents, for reasons that are unclear.

Compared to President Obama’s 27 directives, President George W. Bush had issued some 44 directives at this point in his second term, while President Clinton had issued 60, and President Reagan had produced over 200.

“We’ve talked about that,” a National Security Staff official said.  But an explanation for the differences was hard to pin down, the official said, except that it evidently reflects a difference in governing style and in the choice of directives as a policy instrument.

Update: On January 17, the White House issued Presidential Policy Directive 28 on Signals Intelligence Activities.

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