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Lawmaker to Hagel: Bring Back 'Unfunded Priorities' Lists

Feb. 6, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
US Rep. Duncan Hunter wants to bring back 'unfunded priorities' lists, which went away during Robert Gates' time as Pentagon chief.
US Rep. Duncan Hunter wants to bring back 'unfunded priorities' lists, which went away during Robert Gates' time as Pentagon chief. (File)
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WASHINGTON — A hawkish GOP lawmaker wants the Pentagon to resuscitate annual wish lists of weapon systems and other items it cannot afford, a practice stifled by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

For years, the Defense Department irked fiscal conservatives, anti-war liberals and government watchdogs by sending to Capitol Hill “unfunded priorities” lists. The sometimes-lengthy documents featured pages and pages of items like new models of pricey weapon systems, platform upgrades and maintenance, and other things.

The wish lists often contained brief explanations of why each armed service valued the program — even though they didn’t value them enough to provide funds in their annual spending plans.

As the Obama administration slowed the growth of the Pentagon’s yearly budget, the no-nonsense Gates killed the “unfunded” lists. Essentially, Gates found them extravagant, unnecessary, and rather silly.

Fast forward two defense secretaries. With Gates long gone, House Armed Services Committee member and Marine Corps veteran Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wants to bring back the controversial lists.

“Until recently, Congress has had the benefit of being provided with an ‘unfunded priorities list’ from each of the service components to assist with our constitutional responsibility to authorize and appropriate funds for the defense of our nation,” Hunter wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Gates’ stifling of the lists ended “a transparent tool that assists in fulfilling the service’s procurement needs,” states the letter, obtained by Defense News.

Hunter told Hagel, who should be familiar with the lists from his days as a member of Senate Armed Services Committee, they provided lawmakers “essential and important information about current and emerging programmatic requirements.”

What’s more, Hunter contends the lists “served to identify some of the lesser-known requirements from our combatant commanders.”

“The information derived from the list offers important details about which programs can be accelerated or receive reprogrammed funding in order to provide added value to commanders in the field,” Hunter told Hagel. “Guidance from … each of the services regarding specific capabilities and programs will be helpful in ensuring that the funds will translate into needed capabilities.”■

Email: jbennett@defensenews.com.

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