NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The military’s habit of labeling too much information as classified hinders cooperation with allies, Marine generals said Monday.
Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger, speaking at a panel at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space in National Harbor, Maryland, stressed the importance of collaborating with other countries.
“Sometimes we get in our own way, by over-classifying, over-compartmentalizing,” he said. “And yet we say our strategy is underpinned by allies and partners. You can’t have it both ways.”
Partnerships are less formal relationships than alliances and don’t involve a treaty, according to a Defense Department definition.
Berger said that top leaders within the DoD have worked to adjust classification policies to make it easier for services to train alongside other nations.
At a separate panel Monday at the Sea-Air-Space conference, the one-star general in charge of strategy and plans for the service’s plans, policies and operations department raised a similar point about classification.
“We want to have the greatest combination of naval power that the world has ever seen,” Brig. Gen. Simon Doran said. “And the way we need to do that is we need to work to the greatest extent possible to reduce the classification of as much information so that we can share more with our allies and partners.”
The over-classification problem isn’t new, nor is it unique to the Marine Corps.
The Project On Government Oversight found in 2019 that the Pentagon — long inclined toward secrecy — increased its withholding of documents from journalists during the Trump Administration. The Project on Government Oversight, an independent watchdog, termed that tendency a “war on transparency.”
The Marine leaders’ comments echo what the deputy chief of U.S. Space Command said in January.
Lt. Gen. John Shaw said over-classification had recently prevented the command from sharing information with U.S. partners, as C4ISRNET reported
In 2020, nine four-star regional commanders wrote an internal memo asking intelligence agencies to declassify more information about “pernicious conduct” by China and Russia so the United States could sway support of American allies against them, Politico reported.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.