A Republican member of Congress called on the Pentagon on Friday to comply with current law and release its annual report on China's military buildup, which was due out on Thursday.
Rep. J. Randy Forbes, a member of the Armed Services Committee and a Virginia Republican, stated in a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that the report is late and that repeated excuses from the Pentagon for the delay do not justify "repeated disregard for the law."
“Unfortunately, the report’s tardy delivery has become an annual occurrence,” Forbes stated.
“My office has heard myriad reasons for these delays—interagency coordination, analytical challenges, political pressures—and been assured of a more timely delivery in the future, but each year the department has fallen short.”
Forbes said that this year the delay is more of a concern because of the Pentagon’s plan to rebalance U.S. forces toward the Asia Pacific, as part of the administration’s post-Iraq and Afghanistan forces drawdown strategy.
The Pentagon also has adopted a new Air Sea Battle Concept that calls for building up U.S. forces in Asia to counter China’s “anti-access” weaponry such as submarines, anti-satellite missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and cyber warfare capabilities.
“I find it even more alarming why a report on the military capabilities of a state that the department has said is acquiring capabilities aimed at denying the United States freedom of action in the western Pacific Ocean would again be unavailable during the National Defense Authorization Act assessment process,” Forbes said.
Forbes stated in the letter that he does not want an explanation for why the report has not been delayed, but when it will be delivered "after its legal deadline."
The administration delayed the release of last year's annual report until August, in an apparent effort to avoid upsetting China's Communist government, which routinely dismisses the report as "groundless" and reminiscent of Cold War thinking.
The Pentagon claimed the delays were due to "coordination" among government agencies.
Pentagon spokeswoman Leslie HullRyde said officials are "continuing to finalize" the 2012 annual report, formally known as the Annual Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China.
"We are focused on delivering to Congress the most detailed and accurate report possible," HullRyde told the Washington Free Beacon. "As required by Congress, the development and completion of this report entails close interagency coordination. This adds time to the process, but yields a more thorough and useful report. We are working to complete the process as soon as possible, but cannot speculate on the date."
Last year's report for the first time disclosed new details on China's secret underground tunnels used to develop, produce, and store China's nuclear weapons and missiles. The report revealed that China has up to 3,000 miles of tunnels.
Non-government specialists say the tunnels are an indication that China's nuclear forces are far larger than current intelligence estimates, which put the number of China's current nuclear warheads at between 300 and 400 warheads.
The tunnel work, which has continued for decades, combined with estimates of China's fissile material and plans for multiple warhead missiles, shows that the number of warheads could be several thousand.