Are DoD Briefings To Congress On Syria War Plans ‘A Waste Of Time’?

Pentagon officials on Tuesday morning again briefed lawmakers on military plans for a Syria intervention, plans the Obama administration has yet to green-light. (Getty Images)

The Pentagon keeps sending senior uniformed and civilian officials to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers about military options for a U.S.-led intervention in Syria.

But what do these closed-door, classified sessions accomplish — other than keeping important lawmakers happy? (Or, perhaps more accurately, happy enough.)

It’s hard to tell. Senate Armed Services Committee members trickled out of such a session Tuesday morning, offering few clues about just what kind of war plans — or, uh, “intervention” plans — were discussed. Most senators declined comment, but one let everyone know his thoughts about the, ahem, usefulness of such sessions.

“I’m just not going to comment on a classified briefing,” SASC member Roger Wicker, R-Miss., told Intercepts/Defense News.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, opted to avoid eye contact with reporters on his way out of the briefing.

SASC Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., said the senior Defense Department officials who briefed the panel in a secure briefing room in the bowels of the Capitol Visitors Center did answer some of his questions.

But he was tight-lipped about those questions.

And the panel’s typically chatty chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, would say only that the officials discussed “specific” military options for a U.S. mission that would be aimed at ending Syria’s bloody civil war.

But the Michigan Democrat said little else, and about an hour later he noted the Pentagon officials were not in a position to assuage concerns of some senators who have blocked the Obama administration arms-for-rebels plan over a list of concerns.

Longtime SASC member John McCain, R-Ariz., offered the day’s most candid comments about the two-hour classified briefing.

He initially told Intercepts/Defense News “it wasn’t that kind of briefing” when your correspondent — at that time the lone reporter staking out the session — asked if the officials indicated any changes in the administration’s Syria plans.

Later, McCain told a small group of reporters that the session — like all others on Syria options by Pentagon officials — “was a waste of time.”

One reporter asked McCain what was discussed behind the big steel doors. “Different military options,” he replied. “All of which I have certainly known for a long time.

“Pretty much a waste of time,” McCain said. “As usual.”

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett