Board Stiff

On Feb. 28, 2005, the Army took the unusual step of announcing in the Federal Register that the Army Science Board, a group of advisers to service leaders on technology and other issues, planned to hold an open meeting at the Institute for Defense Analyses in northern Virginia.250px-Mad_scientist.svg.pngThis step is required under Defense Department and Army regulations. So why was it unusual? Two reasons: First, the ASB rarely holds open meetings, even though such Federal Advisory Committees are by law supposed to do everything possible to ensure public access to their deliberations.And second: The notice of this particular open meeting was published three days after the meeting ended.At least they announced that one. According to the Federal Register, the Army hasnt announced a single ASB meeting in 2006, even though the boards Web site which otherwise is pretty much a wasteland says it has met three times this year.What gives? ASB officials told me more than a year ago that they were working on getting more staff and better compliance with the rules. But things havent changed much; in fact, they might be worse. Take a look at the ASB reports page, which, once upon a time, contained links to all of the boards reports once they were cleared for public release a long process, to be sure, but one with the right ending.Now, if youre lucky, you get a number for the report once its finished. Then its off to DTIC the Defense Technical Information Center to search for the report. But as the reports page shows, there are quite a few reports that havent yet seen the light of day (I had to file Freedom of Information Act Requests to get two, which were more than two years old by the time I got them).This isnt the way its supposed to work, and other Pentagon advisory groups the Defense Science Board, especially do a far better job at getting at least their reports out to the public, although they too keep almost everything tightly under wraps until the final report is done.And the DSB is considered highly influential: In recent years, its recommendations on crucial issues like special operations forces and strategic communications have become Pentagon policy.What about the Army Science Board? When I covered the Army closely back in the 1990s it seemed a similarly influential group; now, though, its tough to tell if anyone cares what they do.There are lots of Army folks out there: What do you think? Does the Army Science Board have any clout? Does it do good work? Do you ever see anything from them?-- Dan Dupont

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