Pentagon officials are asking Congressional auditors to revise some of the negative findings on a report about Iraq, a military spokesman said Thursday.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said policy officials "made some factual corrections" and "offered some suggestions on a few of the actual grades" in a Government Accountability Office report that has not yet been made public.
The GAO report concludes that at least 13 of the 18 benchmarks set to judge the Iraqi government's performance in the political and security arenas have not been met, according to The Associated Press.
"We have provided the GAO with information which we believe will lead them to conclude that a few of the benchmark grades should be upgraded from `not met' to `met,"' Morrell said. He would not say which of the grades the Pentagon disputed.
White House officials said the GAO report, which was required by legislation President Bush signed last spring, was unrealistic because it assigned "pass or fail" grades to each benchmark. They contend auditors should simply have assessed whether the Iraqis have made progress toward reaching the goals.
White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said the report does not take into consideration some positive steps, such as the Sunni tribes' cooperation in the fight against al-Qaida. However, the administration agreed that Iraq has not reached some objectives.
GAO officials are scheduled to give lawmakers a classified briefing of their findings on Thursday.
It is not yet clear when the unclassified report will be released, but it is due Saturday along with a series of assessments. The assessments were called for in the January legislation that authorized President Bush's plan to send 30,000 more troops to Iraq.
President Bush will get reports from the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus; the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker; and others.
President Bush is supposed to give a detailed accounting of the situation in Iraq to Congress by Sept. 15.
The GAO, Congress' investigative arm, is expected to find that the Iraqis have met only modest security goals for Baghdad and none of the major political aims — for example, passage of an oil law.
The White House declined to comment on the specific findings of the GAO report, which one official said would put the Iraqi government's success rate at about 20 percent.
"While we've seen progress in some areas, it would not surprise me that the GAO would make this assessment given the difficult congressionally mandated measurement they had to follow," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council.
An internal White House memorandum, prepared to respond to the GAO findings, says the report will claim the Iraqis have failed on at least 13 benchmarks. It also says the criteria lawmakers set for the report allow no room to report progress, only absolute success or failure.
The memo argues that the GAO will not present a "true picture" of the situation in Iraq because the standards were "designed to lock in failure," according to portions of the document read to the AP by an official who has seen it.
By contrast, the memo says, a July interim report on the surge called for the administration to report on "progress" made toward reaching the wide-ranging benchmarks.
The July report said the Bush administration believed the Iraqis had made satisfactory progress on eight of the 13 benchmarks. It graded six as unsatisfactory and said two were mixed. It said it was too early to judge the remaining two.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press