- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2019

Members of the House Armed Services Committee are demanding a new, independent review of all Pentagon policies and procedures tied to the department’s reporting of civilian casualties from U.S.-led operations.

Defense committee members are calling upon acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan to contract “a federally funded research and development center for conduct of an independent assessment” on how the Defense Department identifies, catalogs and processes claims of civilian deaths. The requirement is part of the House panel’s version of the Pentagon’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020.

Committee members released details of the draft budget bill Sunday night.

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The House version sets aside $724 billion for Pentagon coffers in the coming fiscal year, setting a baseline budget of $655.9 billion for the Defense Department, along with an additional $69 billion to finance ongoing combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere as part of the “Overseas Contingency Operations” or wartime funding accounts.

The House proposal, submitted Washington Democrat and House committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, is $6 billion more than the White House’s total $718 billion budget request for defense and national security in the coming fiscal year, sent to Capitol Hill in February.

The committee language concerning civilian casualty reporting comes months after the Trump White House canceled federal mandates requiring disclosures of the number of civilians killed during American-led airstrikes against suspected terrorist targets.

Under the Obama-era mandates regarding civilian casualties, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence had been required to provide civilian casualty assessments to Congress on an annual basis. With the changes approved by President Trump, the intelligence community will no longer have to provide those details to lawmakers.

It remains unclear whether civilian casualties tied to airstrikes carried out by U.S. intelligence agencies — as part of ongoing military combat operations — will be exempt from the Trump White House’s changes.

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