Compiling Numerical Ratings for Members of the Congress by the Department of Defense

MASAD-83-14: Published: Jun 20, 1983. Publicly Released: Jun 22, 1983.

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In July 1982, it was disclosed that the Navy had developed a rating system to evaluate members of Congress. Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO conducted a review to: (1) document the extent of the use of rating files within the Department of Defense (DOD); (2) specifically identify those individuals involved in the creation, maintenance, and use of such files; and (3) determine the specific purpose of these rating files.

GAO found that the numerical rating by DOD of congressional voting performance was limited to that developed by the Navy's Office of Legislative Affairs. There was no evidence that the ratings were done at the direction of higher authorities either within DOD or the Navy. The Office of Legislative Affairs stated that a first rating was based on specific roll-call votes in the House and Senate. It selected the roll-call votes for this rating on the basis of whether the issue under consideration was of interest to the Navy or whether it was a major issue in terms of dollars to be expended or in terms of the potential effect it could have on the operations of the Navy or DOD. These ratings were used by the Office to monitor congressional attitudes. Although the Office rated all Members of Congress, only ratings for Members of the Military Reform Caucus were widely distributed within the Navy. GAO stated that, shortly after public disclosure of the ratings' existence, the Navy destroyed the rating files, the index rankings created from the ratings, and the working papers related to the roll-call votes. GAO noted that, while the wisdom and usefulness of such rating indexes was questioned by many officials with whom it spoke, the potential to develop such indexes does exist. GAO also noted that some DOD biographical files contain voting records and special interest group ratings.

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