WASHINGTON — House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry wants the House GOP budget resolution to propose a $566 billion national defense account and a separate $50.9 billion war fund.
In a Friday letter the Texas Republican sent House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., Thornberry pushes for raising defense spending caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
"In light of the threats facing the nation, as well as the resource shortfall facing the military discussed in greater detail below, the [HASC] recommends a restoration to the pre-sequestration BCA caps of $566.0 billion for national defense and $50.9 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations account."
Thornberry, a Capitol Hill veteran, has told CongressWatch securing relief for the military from sequestration will be an uphill battle. To that end, he floats a Plan B.
"If this is not feasible in the first year, the committee recommends, at a minimum, last year's House-passed budget resolution level of $566.0 billion for national defense in the base budget for FY16 with restoration to pre-sequestration level funding in FY17 and out," Thornberry writes.
Since taking over as chairs of the House and Senate Budget committees, Price and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., have focused mostly on keeping the BCA's defense and domestic caps in place. Reducing federal spending levels is clearly their shared priority.
"We share the concern that unrestrained spending jeopardizes our nation's future and agree that a balanced budget is needed," Thornberry tells Price.
"We believe that providing for the nation's defense is the first job of the federal government," the HASC chairman wrote.
"The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to 'raise and support armies' and 'provide and maintain a Navy' among other national security duties," Thornberry writes. "While other [domestic] programs are important for the welfare of the country, they must not be allowed to jeopardize the basic obligation to protect the safety and security of the American people and our vital interests around the world.
The Obama administration's 2016 budget request seeks $561 billion for defense, which is $38 billion over the caps. Thornberry wants even more than that.
Thornberry pointed to a range of potential US threats to make his case, writing HASC members believe "meeting the security needs of the country is more difficult now than at any time since World War II — and perhaps ever."
He also took some swipes at the Obama administration, saying higher defense spending is needed because of its national security and foreign policy actions.
"We confront a wide array of serious, complex threats which are growing more dangerous because of doubts about the United States security posture," Thornberry told Price. "Some of those doubts are the result of the decisions of the current administration."
He also claims potential US foes are emboldened by Pentagon cuts already on the books.
"But some of them are also tied to the lack of adequate funding for our military," he writes. "Sophisticated competitors, such as Russia and China, have dramatically increased their defense spending in recent years, leading to belligerent behavior in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the South China Sea and East China Sea."
Iran, North Korea and "extremist jihadists" also are reasons why Thornberry believes Price should put forth a budget resolution with $617 billion in base national defense and war funding.
"Threats from Iran, including its nuclear and missile programs and its support for terrorism through its Quds Force and proxies, continue to create instability and insecurity among our partners in the region," he writes. "Similarly, North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs continue to threaten the region and the U.S. homeland.
"The dangers posed by extremist jihadists are growing in strength and geographic reach while they shock the world with their brutality," Thornberry said, adding cyber threats to the list.
Enzi has said he and Price have until early April to complete work on a 2016 budget resolution.