That is what happened to a detailed study of the planning for postwar Iraq prepared for the Army by the RAND Corporation, a federally financed center that conducts research for the military.
After 18 months of research, RAND submitted a report in the summer of 2005 called "Rebuilding Iraq." RAND researchers provided an unclassified version of the report along with a secret one, hoping that its publication would contribute to the public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.
But the study's wide-ranging critique of the White House, the Defense Department and other government agencies was a concern for Army generals, and the Army has sought to keep the report under lock and key.
A review of the lengthy report - a draft of which was obtained by The New York Times - shows that it identified problems with nearly every organization that had a role in planning the war. That assessment parallels the verdicts of numerous former officials and independent analysts.
The study chided President Bush - and by implication Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who served as national security adviser when the war was planned - as having failed to resolve differences among rival agencies. "Throughout the planning process, tensions between the Defense Department and the State Department were never mediated by the president or his staff," it said.
The Defense Department led by Donald H. Rumsfeld was given the lead in overseeing the postwar period in Iraq despite its "lack of capacity for civilian reconstruction planning and execution."
The State Department led by Colin L. Powell produced a voluminous study on the future of Iraq that identified important issues but was of "uneven quality" and "did not constitute an actionable plan."
Gen. Tommy R. Franks, whose Central Command oversaw the military operation in Iraq, had a "fundamental misunderstanding" of what the military needed to do to secure postwar Iraq, the study said.
The regulations that govern the Army's relations with the Arroyo Center, the division of RAND that does research for the Army, stipulate that Army officials are to review reports in a timely fashion to ensure that classified information is not released. But the rules also note that the officials are not to "censor" analysis or prevent the dissemination of material critical of the Army.
The report on rebuilding Iraq was part of a seven-volume series by RAND on the lessons learned from the war. Asked why the report has not been published, Timothy Muchmore, a civilian Army official, said it had ventured too far from issues that directly involve the Army.
"After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had in some cases taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army," Mr. Muchmore said in a statement. "Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities."
Warren Robak, a RAND spokesman, declined to talk about the contents of the study but said the organization favored publication as a matter of general policy.
"RAND always endeavors to publish as much of our research as possible, in either unclassified form or in classified form for those with the proper security clearances," Mr. Robak said in a statement. "The multivolume series on lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom is no exception. We also, however, have a longstanding practice of not discussing work that has not yet been published."
When RAND researchers began their work, nobody expected it to become a bone of contention with the Army. The idea was to review the lessons learned from the war, as RAND had done with previous conflicts.
The research was formally sponsored by Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, who was then the chief operations officer for the Army and now oversees Army forces in the Middle East, and Lt. Gen. David Melcher, who had responsibility for the Army's development and works now on budget issues.
A team of RAND researchers led by Nora Bensahel interviewed more than 50 civilian and military officials. As it became clear that decisions made by civilian officials had contributed to the Army's difficulties in Iraq, researchers delved into those policies as well.
The report was submitted at a time when the Bush administration was trying to rebut building criticism of the war in Iraq by stressing the progress Mr. Bush said was being made. The approach culminated in his announcement in November 2005 of his "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."
One serious problem the study described was the Bush administration's assumption that the reconstruction requirements would be minimal. There was also little incentive to challenge that assumption, the report said.
"Building public support for any pre-emptive or preventative war is inherently challenging, since by definition, action is being taken before the threat has fully manifested itself," it said. "Any serious discussion of the costs and challenges of reconstruction might undermine efforts to build that support."
Another problem described was a general lack of coordination. "There was never an attempt to develop a single national plan that integrated humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, infrastructure development and postwar security," the study said.
One result was that "the U.S. government did not provide strategic policy guidance for postwar Iraq until shortly before major combat operations commenced." The study said that problem was compounded by General Franks, saying he took a narrow view of the military's responsibilities after Saddam Hussein was ousted and assumed that American civilian agencies would do much to rebuild the country.
General Franks's command, the study asserted, also assumed that Iraq's police and civil bureaucracy would stay on the job and had no fallback option in case that expectation proved wrong. When Baghdad fell, the study said, American forces there "were largely mechanized or armored forces, well suited to waging major battles but not to restoring civil order. That task would have been better carried out, ideally, by military police or, acceptably, by light infantry trained in urban combat."
A "shortfall" in American troops was exacerbated when General Franks and Mr. Rumsfeld decided to stop the deployment of the Army's First Cavalry Division when other American forces entered Baghdad, the study said, a move that reflected their assessment that the war had been won. Problems persisted during the occupation. In the months that followed, the report said, there were "significant tensions, most commonly between the civilian and military arms of the occupation."
The poor planning had "the inadvertent effort of strengthening the insurgency," as Iraqis experienced a lack of security and essential services and focused on "negative effects of the U.S. security presence." The American military's inability to seal Iraq's borders, a task the 2005 report warned was still not a priority, enabled foreign support for the insurgents to flow into Iraq.
In its recommendations, the study advocated an "inverted planning process" in which military planners would begin by deciding what resources were needed to maintain security after an adversary was defeated on the battlefield instead of treating the postwar phase as virtually an afterthought. More broadly, it suggested that there was a need to change the military's mind-set, which has long treated preparations to fight a major war as the top priority. The Army has recently moved to address this by drafting a new operations manual which casts the mission of stabilizing war-torn nations as equal in importance to winning a conventional war.
As the RAND study went through drafts, a chapter was written to emphasize the implications for the Army. An unclassified version was produced with numerous references to newspaper articles and books, an approach that was intended to facilitate publication.
Senior Army officials were not happy with the results, and questioned whether all of the information in the study was truly unclassified and its use of newspaper reports. RAND researchers sent a rebuttal. That failed to persuade the Army to allow publication of the unclassified report, and the classified version was not widely disseminated throughout the Pentagon.
Neither General Lovelace nor General Melcher agreed to be interviewed for this article, but General Lovelace provided a statement through a spokesman at his headquarters in Kuwait.
"The RAND study simply did not deliver a product that could have assisted the Army in paving a clear way ahead; it lacked the perspective needed for future planning by the U.S. Army," he said.
A Pentagon official who is familiar with the episode offered a different interpretation: Army officials were concerned that the report would strain relations with a powerful defense secretary and become caught up in the political debate over the war. "The Army leaders who were involved did not want to take the chance of increasing the friction with Secretary Rumsfeld," said the official, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to alienate senior military officials.
The Army has asked that the entire RAND series be resubmitted and has said it will decide on its status thereafter.
© 2008 The New York Times