The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022 sets forth the military’s priorities and obligations for the year. It also requires the Department of Defense to prepare a wide array of reports for Congress, to enable congressional oversight of military operations and conduct. President Biden signed the NDAA into law in late December 2021. In doing so, President Biden issued a statement indicating that the Department of Defense would not provide all of the information requested by the NDAA. Declaring that certain NDAA reporting requirements would lead to the disclosure of “highly sensitive classified information,” President Biden invoked a supposed constitutional responsibility to withhold national security information from Congress.
The Brennan Center, Demand Progress, the Project On Government Oversight, and 39 other organizations oppose President Biden’s decision to withhold information from Congress. Congress has the constitutional right to request national security information, consistent with its constitutional powers to declare war and to fund, maintain, and regulate the military. Furthermore, Congress’s plenary power over appropriations allows Congress to condition the military’s use of appropriated funds on the provision of relevant reports. To the extent that President Biden’s signing statement dismisses Congress’s constitutional role in overseeing and regulating the military, it engages in executive overreach and imperils the separation of powers. President Biden should rescind his signing statement and comply fully with the reporting requirements in the NDAA.