Sen. James Inhofe (Courtesy)
WASHINGTON — The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee wants the Pentagon to clear up lingering confusion about its 2015 spending blueprint. And he wants it to do so “now.”
The Pentagon’s 2015 spending request is complete, and officials have assured the House and Senate Armed Services committees that a portion of its five-year budget plan complies with spending caps included in existing law.
But, as Defense News reported Monday, confusion abounds in the halls of Congress and defense-sector boardrooms about the remaining four years of the future years defense plan. The FYDP is supposed to give lawmakers and weapon manufacturers a somewhat clear picture of the Pentagon’s priorities and spending plans: a description of where the money is going.
But the FYDP fails to provide such guidance this year. It remains unclear exactly how the Pentagon and White House came to such a fuzzy FYDP. The long-term initial spending blueprint took the Army to 420,000 active-duty troops and brought the Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet down to 10, one less than favored by most Washington power players, including ones inside the West Wing.
At some point late in the budget build, White House officials decided to push for higher Pentagon spending levels from 2016-19. To that end, they instructed the Pentagon to send Congress a FYDP that would be, if enacted, a total of $115 billion over the caps.
Asked Tuesday by Defense News when he wants Pentagon officials to send lawmakers a final 2016-19 spending plan, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., replied: “Now.”
“Everyone knows it’s a dilemma,” Inhofe said during a brief interview near the Senate floor. “They’re trying to do something to make the sequestration part of the budget less offensive.”
Even without the additional information on the final four years of the budget plan sought by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Inhofe said the Senate panel will begin crafting its version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.
“Well, I think we can,” he said. “And I think we will.” ■