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Pentagon 'Stonewall' on Osprey

UPDATED: With Marine statement that they supplied all relevant information requested by the House committee and OSD had not released it. It was the shortest hearing I've ever attended. The House Government Oversight and Reform Committee was due to hold a hearing about the V-22 this morning, starting at 10 a.m. It started about 10:10 and was all over by 10:15, following a sharply worded condemnation of the Pentagon by the committee's chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY).

"We had hoped to conduct today a thorough examination of the Defense Department’s V-22 Osprey, an aircraft with a controversial past, a troubled present, and an uncertain future. However, the Defense Department has evidently decided to stonewall our investigation. On May 5, 2009, I wrote to Secretary of Defense Gates to request information on the Osprey, including copies of two reports on the performance of the Osprey in Iraq, called “Lessons and Observations.” I also requested a list of all V-22 Ospreys acquired by the Defense Department, including their current locations and flight status," Towns said. "However, to this date, the Defense Department has failed to provide this information, despite repeated reminders from the Committee. This is simply unacceptable."

He trained his eyes on Marine Lt. Gen. George Trautman, deputy commandant for aviation, and Towns gave him a message "to carry back to the Pentagon: We will pursue this investigation even harder than we have so far. We will not be slow-rolled. We will not be ignored. I intend to conduct a full investigation of the Osprey, not just an investigation of the information that you want me to see. We hope you will provide it voluntarily, but if you do not, we will compel your compliance."

The room was very quiet. Towns then gave the Pentagon two weeks to come up with the information and gaveled the hearing adjourned. For those who might attribute this to partisan sniping, the committee's top Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, seconded Town's comments. He also exonerated the Marines. "I want to be clear that the immediate reason for this postponement was not the Marine Corps, which gathered requested information, but rather a bureaucratic failure of the Office of the Secretary of Defense which has not authorized the release of these documents,” Issa added in his statement.

I asked Trautman for an explanation. He was courteous, declined to comment and left the room. It was difficult to tell whether the Marines knew beforehand just how ticked off the committee was.

Several hours after the hearing, we got a fuller explanation of what was going on and it sounds as if OSD either made a mistake or is holding its cards very close to the vest.

"While we understand Chairman Towns' postponement of the V-22 hearing, we are disappointed that we did not get the opportunity to discuss with members of Congress the remarkable success of the Osprey over the past 19 months in Iraq. We remain committed to openness and transparency, much as we have demonstrated over the past year while working hand-in-hand with the Government Accountability Office as they also examine the V-22 program," said Marine aviation spokesman Maj. Eric Dent. "We provided four giant binders (approximately 500 pages) with all of the information the committee requested, e.g. maintenance data, classified after-action reports, and other information; and OSD has a process for vetting that info before it is released."

There have been persistent rumors that the Ospreys have had some difficulties with their supply chain and with maintenance. Looks like we'll see how accurate those rumors are in two weeks, or less if Buzz readers let us know what's happening. As always, if you have good information you can supply it without any fingerprints.

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