U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon is promising to fight the Pentagon’s proposed budget cuts for 2013. (File photo / Getty Images)
In addition to trying to roll back sequestration, U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., is promising to fight the Pentagon’s proposed budget cuts for 2013, which were developed to fit within spending caps passed by Congress in August.
In a March 14 speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., McKeon, vowed to reverse “the first tranche of defense cuts we enacted as part of the Budget Control Act last summer.”
In August, lawmakers, including McKeon, passed the Budget Control Act that raised America’s borrowing limit on condition that $2.1 trillion be cut from the nation’s debt. The first half of that would come from spending caps imposed on discretionary spending over the next decade, including $487 billion from the Pentagon over the 10-year period.
McKeon said in his speech that while he voted for the law, he had hoped the provisions included in it would be revised shortly after the bill’s passage.
“I held my breath and voted for the Budget Control Act, with the hopes that we could fix the serious problems with the bill shortly after,” he said. “That’s why one of my top priorities is getting that half a trillion dollars back.”
For 2013, the law says security spending cannot exceed $686 billion. 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.
In following the law, the Pentagon is asking for $525 billion for its 2013 base budget and an additional $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations, which are not subject to the Budget Control Act’s spending caps.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the cuts that were made to meet the new spending constraints were tough but manageable.
McKeon views them differently.
“We’re past cutting the fat and past the muscle, now we’re cutting into the bone,” he told the audience in California.
He said he plans to restore funding to the areas where the Pentagon has scaled back.
In a draft letter, dated March 9, McKeon recommends to House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., where he thinks funding for DoD should be increased.
His recommendations include more money for Army tanks, Navy ships and modernizing nuclear weapons.
“Our defense bill this year will reflect appropriate resourcing for things like powerful bunker buster munitions, countermeasures for mines, and appropriate sensor and intelligence platforms,” McKeon said in his speech.
The Budget Control Act also set in place the threat of sequestration in an effort to force Congress to reach a larger deficit-reduction deal.
If no deal is reached, sequestration will begin in January, at which point discretionary spending will face steeper, across-the-board reductions, including an additional $500 billion being cut from DoD over the next decade.
In his speech, McKeon highlighted the legislation he introduced in December, which would pay for the first year of sequestration through a 10 percent reduction to the federal workforce, which would take roughly 10 years to achieve.
“It pays for the most damaging year of sequestration, next year, and moves the budget debate into calmer waters,” McKeon said.