The U.S. Defense Department immediately rejected two military spending plans put forth in the Republican-controlled House that recommend boosting the Pentagon’s 2013 budget as much as $4 billion above its spending request.
Many measures — both those approved by the House Armed Services Committee and those proposed by the House Appropriations defense subcommittee — will likely be dead on arrival when the Democrat-controlled Senate makes its military spending recommendations. Democratic leadership has pledged to cap defense spending at the lower levels mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“The Department of Defense, and I believe the [Obama] administration, are not going to support additional funds that come at the expense of other critical national security priorities,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at a May 10 news briefing at the Pentagon. “If members try to restore their favorite programs without regard to an overall strategy, the cuts will have to come from areas that could impact overall readiness.”
Members of the House Armed Services Committee earlier in the day rejected Pentagon proposals to retire aircraft and ships and added funding for projects such as building a missile interceptor site on the East Coast of the United States.
Specifically, the committee’s version of the 2013 defense authorization bill overturned an Air Force proposal to retire all of its Alenia C-27J cargo planes and Northrop Grumman Block 30 Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. The panel added $138 million to restart C-27J contracts that the Air Force has not renewed.
The committee restored three of the four cruisers that the Navy wants to retire early in 2013, prevented the Army from retiring its C-23 Sherpa cargo planes, and funded A-10 attack jets and F-16 fighters that the Air Force wants to retire.
The bill also continues “minimum sustained production” of Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Hercules recovery vehicles. It fully funds the Army Ground Combat Vehicle development program.
Panetta argued that the increases recommended by House lawmakers “reverse many of the tough decisions that we reached” through a sweeping military strategy review. Adding to the top line of the Pentagon’s proposed defense budget would “force the kind of tradeoffs that could jeopardize our national defense,” he said.
“There’s no free lunch here,” Panetta said. “Every dollar that is added will have to be offset by cuts in national security and if for some reason they do not want to comply with the Budget Control Act, then they would certainly be adding to the deficit, which only puts our national security further at risk.”
The House Armed Services Committee, by a 56-5 vote, approved a $554 billion base defense budget and an additional $88.5 billion for operations in Afghanistan. When the Pentagon’s 2013 budget request is scored by the Congressional Budget Office, the House Armed Services Committee recommendation is $4 billion higher.
In procurement, the bill funds 50 Boeing AH-64 Apache, 59 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and 44 Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters; 29 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 26 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 36 General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers.
The Pentagon requested 21 Bell Boeing V-22 aircraft.
The panel added 12 Reapers to the Pentagon’s request. The bill authorizes multiyear procurements for up to 10 Virginia-class submarines and 10 DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers.
Opponents of the East Coast missile defense site say planned European interceptors are more than sufficient and that an additional site would cost about $5 billion over five years to build.
Asked about the proposed missile defense site during the briefing, U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “I don’t see a need beyond what we submitted in the last budget” and the current “suite of ground-based and sea-based interceptors” is sufficient.
At the same time, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee chairman C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., has developed a 2013 defense spending bill that comes in $3.1 billion above the Pentagon’s request.