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Lawmaker: Budget Testimony Altered by Chain of Command?

Capitol in fog.

The House Armed Services Committee is out to learn if official testimony on the proposed 2017 defense budget submitted by Pentagon officials is being changed by higher-ups, and whether military officers are being told to deliberately conceal information from Congress.

The lawmakers' determination to find out whether delivered testimony accurately reflects the views of senior military officials is "based on some information we were given at a retreat the [committee] had last week," Rep. Randy Forbes, R- Virginia, told two Air Force generals during testimony Tuesday.

"This is not something directed toward you two," Forbes told Lt. Gens. Mike Holmes and Arnold W. Bunch Jr. "This is something we're going to start for the committee as a whole."

Forbes, who chairs the committee's Subcommittee on Seapower and Projections Forces, did not detail the information provided to the committee during its retreat, though his line of questioning suggested that members were told Pentagon officials' remarks were being altered and some officers told not to talk about certain things.

After reminding Holmes, Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, and Bunch, Air Force military deputy with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, that their written remarks would be "entered into the record," he asked if they had to submit the documents to "anyone for approval prior to coming here today?"

The generals said the remarks are given to the Office of Management and Budget for a review.

"Were any changes made between the original statement that you submitted and the statement that was ultimately submitted to the record?" Forbes asked each man, both of whom responded that they were unaware of any alterations.

"Were you given any instructions as to what you could not say to this committee?" Forbes asked.

Again, both generals said no.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.

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