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HASC Dems Offer Pentagon, White House Cover on 2015 Budget Plan

Mar. 6, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, says Obama's defense budget moves have failed to properly deter Russia, which recently invaded neighboring Ukraine.
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, says Obama's defense budget moves have failed to properly deter Russia, which recently invaded neighboring Ukraine. ()
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WASHINGTON — US House Democrats on Thursday offered the Pentagon and White House cover on a 2015 Pentagon budget that Republicans — and some Democrats — have spent two weeks sharply panning.

Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee came to a hearing on what members and analysts of all political stripes say is one of the most confusing five-year defense spending plans in recent memory with a message: Don’t blame the Pentagon or the Obama administration — Congress passed the laws that spawned the plan.

HASC Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., wondered aloud how any lawmaker could criticize the 2015 portion of the Obama administration’s Pentagon budget for adhering to spending caps set in a 2011 law and extended via a recent budget resolution that passed both chambers.

“Just two short months ago, Congress voted to pass the Ryan-Murray Bipartisan Budget Act to set the budget authorization levels for Fiscal Year 2014 and for the coming year,” Smith said. “This has not stopped any number of members, on both sides of the aisle, from condemning the recently released president’s budget request that meets the caps required by that law. The president apparently felt that he should comply with the law he just signed.”

Well, kind of.

The administration’s defense budget request complies with spending caps for 2015, but it exceeds spending caps for 2016-19 by $115 billion, and it asks for $26 billion next year that is not included in the formal base budget request.

GOP panel members made veiled references to Obama being responsible for past and coming defense budget cuts.

Smith pushed back, saying if that message continues, “we will have no chance” of rolling back the remaining eight years of defense sequester cuts. Smith reiterated his desire to do so, since the federal deficit has shrunk by $3 trillion under some independent estimates.

Later, another HASC Democrat, Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, said Pentagon and administration officials simply did “the best job they could” in crafting the 2015 military budget plan because they must abide by Congress-set spending caps.

But Republicans kept up their attacks.

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said Obama’s defense budget moves have failed to properly deter Russia, which recently invaded neighboring Ukraine. Turner called on his colleagues to use their version of the 2015 national defense authorization bill to turn up the heat on deterring Moscow.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said Obama’s actions on national security issues simply confuse him. He questioned whether ballistic missile defense is a priority for Obama. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel replied, it “is a priority.”

After Hagel offered a detailed explanation, Franks shot back: “I don’t think the budget reflects that.”

Email: jbennett@defensenews.com.

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