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More Money is Needed for Defense, McKeon Says

Mar. 12, 2012 - 07:45PM   |  
By KATE BRANNEN   |   Comments
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The House and Senate Armed Services Committees do not agree on the Pentagon’s $614 billion budget request for 2013.

In a draft letter, dated March 9, California Republican Rep. Buck McKeon, who serves as chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, argues the Defense Department’s budget needs to be increased for the military to meet its strategic goals.

Meanwhile, Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., say they support the Pentagon’s requested funding levels, partly because they fit within the Budget Control Act’s cap on security spending.

That Budget Control Act passed in August sets security spending at $686 billion for 2013. That pot of money has to cover funding for the Defense Department as well as the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Pentagon is asking for $525 billion for its base budget and an additional $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations, which are not subject to the Budget Control Act’s spending caps.

McKeon, in his letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says that at the president’s proposed levels, the Pentagon would be underfunded and indentifies specific shortfalls that he believes are unacceptable.

“The Department seeks to retain the lessons learned from counterinsurgency operations, but not the force structure necessary to conduct such operations,” McKeon writes.

McKeon does not offer alternative areas to cut that would offset his proposed spending increases. Nor does his letter explain how Congress could increase spending within the defense budget while staying within the security spending cap mandated by the Budget Control Act.

Instead, McKeon offers some details on where he thinks spending needs to be increased, including more money needed for the Army to keep open its M1 Abrams tank production facility in Lima, Ohio.

McKeon writes that the Army should be funded an additional $400 million in 2013 to give the service time to “fully understand the ramifications of a complete shutdown and possible [foreign military sales] mitigation strategies.”

In addition, McKeon says, “Increasing funds by approximately $1.5 billion over the next few fiscal years will continue the operation of the industrial base for M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley as we await the arrival of the next generation of ground combat vehicles.”

The Army’s industrial base is just one of several areas where McKeon thinks increased spending could help.

He disagrees with the resources proposed for everything from National Guard equipment to missile defense to the modernization of nuclear weapons.

McKeon says he is concerned with the overall number of ships the Navy plans to fund over the next five years and proposes an increase of approximately $4 billion over the next 10 years to keep Navy ships from retiring early.

He also outlines where he sees Navy and Air Force Strike Fighter shortfalls, which are mostly due to delays in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, but he does not recommend specific funding increases to address these concerns.

With missile defense and nuclear weapons, McKeon’s objections go deeper than specific funding lines and instead call for a reevaluation of the Obama Administration’s policies.

The draft letter does not include the signature of Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who serves as ranking member on the committee.

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee offers bipartisan support of the Pentagon’s 2013 budget request in a March 8 letter to the Senate Budget Committee.

McCain and Levin say they approve the Pentagon’s budget request and recommend the Senate Budget Committee support it as well.

“At this time we believe that the funding levels we are recommending allow us to meet our current national security requirements,” they write.

Their letter acknowledges that the spending caps now in place are due to congressional efforts to reduce the country’s deficit.

Both letters say the Pentagon’s base budget request for 2013 is $45 billion less than was projected in February 2011.

“Despite these cuts the nation continues to face a budget crisis,” McCain and Levin write, urging the Senate Budget Committee to develop a deficit-reduction plan to avoid further defense cuts.

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