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With 'Ryan Budget,' GOP Wants To Show It's Strong on Defense

Apr. 1, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
US-POLITICS-FY2015-BUDGET-SEBELIUS
Rep. Paul Ryan, center, speaks with Rep. Devin Nunes during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing. Ryan has unveiled a plan to boost Pentagon spending above the president's proposal. (AFP/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — House Budget Committee Chairman and possible presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled a GOP spending plan Tuesday that would inflate President Barack Obama’s proposed Pentagon spending level by over $30 billion.

The much-anticipated 2015 “Ryan budget” almost certainly will be approved by the Republican-controlled House. But the Wisconsin Republican’s spending plan isn’t going anywhere beyond the lower chamber — Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., says she will not craft a 2015 budget resolution.

That’s because December’s bipartisan budget resolution, negotiated by Ryan and Murray, covered 2014 and 2015. It’s also because she and other Senate Democratic leaders loathe cuts to decades-old domestic programs and Obamacare that Ryan proposes.

Still, Ryan’s numbers and proposals offer a glimpse into congressional Republicans’ strategy for this year’s midterm elections — and possibly into Ryan’s 2016 presidential campaign platform.

In a statement, Murray said she is “disappointed that instead of working with us to build on that bipartisan budget deal, House Republicans are doubling down on failed tea party policies that would hurt seniors and families, hollow out investments in long-term economic growth, and protect the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying their fair share.”

Murray urged House leaders to avoid taking any action on Ryan’s 2015 plan.

“Since our bipartisan budget deal already set spending levels for fiscal year 2015,” she said, “I am hopeful that this partisan proposal will be set aside and we can work together once again to create jobs and economic growth built from the middle-out, not the top down.”

The Obama administration proposed just over $496 billion in base Pentagon budget authority for 2015; Ryan’s new plan calls for $528.9 billion in defense spending.

Ryan’s budget would be $8 billion over defense spending caps set in that two-year budget plan he inked in December with Murray, according to a summary of that law compiled by Ryan’s House Budget Committee.

“Over the last five years, the Department of Defense has repeatedly revised downward its estimates of the budgetary resources necessary to meet the nation’s security needs,” states the Ryan budget. “These repeated reductions in the requested defense budget are taking place in the context of an international environment that remains exceptionally challenging.”

Echoing House GOP hawks who late last year and early this year scored a number of big wins over conservative fiscal hawks in their own party, the Ryan spending plan argues more military spending is needed because “there is no foreseeable ‘peace dividend’ on our horizon [because] the security environment is increasingly competitive and dangerous.’’

In a sign congressional Republican leaders want to re-elevate defense and national security issues — once a strong point for Washington’s GOP — on their national platform, the Ryan budget lists this second on a list of budget priorities: “Provide our troops the training, equipment, and compensation they need.”

The Ryan-crafted plan would boost Pentagon spending above Obama-proposed levels while cutting elsewhere within the federal budget. Cutting spending and reducing the trillion-dollar deficit is a huge priority for conservative voters, who congressional Republican candidates will need to vote in big numbers in November. Those voters are also the ones Ryan would need in 2015 and 2016 to capture the GOP presidential nomination.

“The House Republican budget cuts spending by $5.1 trillion over the next ten years. It targets wasteful Washington spending and reforms the drivers of the debt,” states the GOP budget. “This budget stops spending money we don’t have. A balanced budget will foster a healthier economy and help create jobs. This will ensure the next generation inherits a stronger, more prosperous America.”

Ryan’s budget contends Obama’s Pentagon spending plans have left its accounts for troops and hardware “under-resourced.”

“Today in US defense policy, there are two big mismatches: first, between the threats we face and the resources we’ve committed to meeting them, and second, between our stated policy and the budget that the president has requested,” states the GOP budget. “This budget seeks to resolve these contradictions by restoring defense budgets to the levels dictated by the national-security interests of the nation.”

Ryan suggests he would use some of his proposed additional DoD funds to reverse some of Obama’s proposed ground-forces reductions.

“While the ground component should not continue to be sized for prolonged counterinsurgency operations, the level of reductions contemplated by the president’s request entails significant risk in an environment that, as has been noted, is extremely challenging and uncertain,” states the Ryan budget. “This budget contemplates funding in excess of the president’s request, which could be used, in part, to forestall this risky drawdown.”

In one proposal that would create savings within the Pentagon budget, Ryan states that “any reductions in military end strength should be accompanied by reductions in the civilian and contractor workforce, which has ballooned in recent years and is now approximately the same size as the active-duty military, a ratio that is out of balance.”

Ryan’s plan uses the same word — “contemplates” — to suggest he favors maintaining 11 aircraft carriers.

“This budget contemplates funding in excess of the president’s request, which could be used, in part, to maintain the 11 carrier strike groups called for under longstanding defense plans,” it states.

The Ryan budget also points to the armed services’ major acquisition programs such as new Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter jets, new Navy surface ships and submarines, and new Air Force bombers. It also notes while the Army has canceled its Ground Combat Vehicle program, “budgets within the next [10] years will have to accommodate that need.”

Email: jbennett@defensenews.com.

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