Comments on Proposed Revision to DOD Directive 7650.1

B-199765: Published: Feb 4, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 4, 1982.

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A revision has been proposed to the Department of Defense (DOD) Directive dealing with access by GAO to DOD records. In general, GAO believes that the proposal represents a positive and constructive step toward minimizing and expeditiously resolving any access to records problems that may arise in connection with GAO work at DOD. GAO is most concerned with the proposed handling of requests for budgetary materials. Although DOD acknowledged that there may be an inconsistency between the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-10 and a statute on this issue, GAO does not agree that Circular A-10 presents a valid legal basis for the denial of any materials within its scope. The proposed revision definitely states that specific statutory tests must be satisfied to preclude the Comptroller General from seeking judicial enforcement of his access to records authority. These tests do not authorize the withholding of budgetary material in any form before transmittal to Congress by the President. GAO believes that the proposed revision should include a strict timeframe for processing routine requests and handling GAO requests for other agencies' materials in DOD possession. With regard to reevaluating whether to release documents to GAO, GAO believes that a written Comptroller General's request should be sufficient to initiate such a reevaluation. Since decisions on whether to seek a presidential or OMB exemption must be made in the context of statutory criteria, GAO suggests that this rationale be included in the memorandum required from the DOD component to the Assistant Secretary of Defense to facilitate consistency in the intra-agency decisionmaking process with the DOD-OMB communications. This will approach the issue of withholding documents from GAO in the same statutory framework.

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