WASHINGTON — As the House Armed Services Committee gathers to hash out its version of the defense spending bill, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter appeared Wednesday before the Senate to lambaste HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry’s spending strategy.
Thornberry, the Texas Republican who took over the HASC leadership last year, has developed his committee’s spending plan around taking $18 billion from the special overseas contingency operations (OCO) wartime fund and investing it into buying more weapon systems.
Thornberry’s language would also end OCO come April, forcing the next president to request a new war-funding supplemental.
Carter flashed a bit of anger — unusual for the secretary — when discussing the plan, particularly the April end date for OCO, saying it amounts to “gambling” with troops' funding at a time of war and calling it “deeply troubling” and “flawed.”
“It would spend money on things that are not DoD’s highest unfunded priorities across the joint force. It buys force structure without the money to sustain it and keep it ready, effectively creating hollow force structure, and working against our efforts to restore readiness,” Carter said of Thornberry’s plan.
Carter also warned that Thornberry’s plan is a “step in the direction of unraveling the Bipartisan Budget Act,” which the secretary cited as giving the department much-needed budget stability.
“It’s another road to nowhere, with uncertain chances of ever becoming law, and a high probability of leading to more gridlock and another continuing resolution — exactly the kind of terrible distraction we’ve seen for years, that undercuts stable planning and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, dispirits troops and their families, baffles friends, and emboldens foes,” Carter said. “I cannot support such maneuvers as secretary of defense.”
The secretary also played to his hosts, the Senate Appropriations Committee, by saying: “I don’t expect this committee to consider such a proposal.”