News

Lawmakers clash over budget priorities in defense bill

Lawmakers clash over budget priorities in defense bill

DEFENSE SPENDING:Aerial view of the United States military headquarters, the Pentagon. Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed

By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives clashed over spending priorities in the annual defense policy bill on Tuesday, with a top Republican saying the measure prevented “false short-term savings” and a key Democrat warning about “creative accounting.”

The legislation, which the full House began debating on Tuesday night, calls for a Pentagon base budget of $496 billion for the 2015 fiscal year beginning in October, about the same as this year. The National Defense Authorization Act also approves $17.6 billion for nuclear weapons spending and $79.4 billion for the Afghanistan war.

But the House Armed Services Committee rejected the Pentagon’s long-term plans for cutting costs to meet a congressional mandate to reduce spending by nearly $1 trillion over a decade.

The Pentagon had sought reforms that hit military compensation and popular weapons systems, difficult for lawmakers to approve in an election year. The proposals included:

  • A lower-than-expected 1 percent increase in military pay for most uniformed personnel;
  • Retirement of the fleet of popular A-10 Warthog close air support aircraft;
  • Retirement of the U-2 spy plane;
  • Placement of 11 Navy cruisers in long-term, phased modernization;
  • Reduction of the subsidy for base commissaries where military personnel shop by $1 billion over three years.

    The House Armed Services Committee blocked those proposals and offered a 1.8 percent pay hike for most military personnel. The White House estimated the compensation changes alone cut $31 billion in planned savings over five years.

    “In this era of declining resources, the committee was faced with difficult choices,” said Representative Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

    “The legislation guards against achieving false short-term savings at the expense of vital long-term strategic capabilities,” he said, noting that it supported refueling an aircraft carrier the Pentagon considered decommissioning.

    But Representative Adam Smith, the panel’s top Democrat, warned that “the problem with this bill is that it rejects every one of those proposals” to reduce long-term spending.

    “And how do we make the money work on that? Primarily by creative accounting,” he said. Smith said the decisions by the House panel required about $1.8 billion in offsetting cuts to Pentagon accounts that support military readiness.

    Critics have said the House legislation upsets the Pentagon’s attempt to improve readiness by increasing spending for training and maintenance, two areas hit hard by cuts last year. Instead, they said, the panel focused on restoring spending on hardware to help their voters back home.

    Gordon Adams, an American University professor who worked on defense budgets in the Clinton administration, said the House measure “in my judgment puts pork and hardware over readiness.”

    “The administration had asked for the U-2 to be put to bed and to keep buying unmanned aerial vehicles in place of it. Committee said, ‘No way.’ The administration asked for a base closure round. Committee said, ‘No way,'” Adams told reporters. “So this is kind of the ‘no way’ committee.”

    (Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

  • Recent Headlines

    in Entertainment

    Today in entertainment history: Nov. 24

    Fresh
    FILE- This is a 1967 handout image from Parlophone of The British group, The Beatles,. From left, are: Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney; and George Harrison. The woman who as a child was the basis for the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is gravely ill. It was thought by many at the time that the psychedelic song from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band was a paean to LSD because of the initials in the title, but it was actually based on a drawing that John Lennon's young son Julian brought home from school. He told his father the drawing was of Lucy in the sky with diamonds. Lucy Vodden, now living in Surrey just outside of London _ drifted apart after schoolyard days, but they have gotten back in touch as Lennon has tried to help Vodden cope with Lupus, a life-threatening disease.

    A look back at some of Hollywood's most memorable headlines.

    in Music

    New awards, big performances set for Sunday’s AMAs

    taylorAMA

    Taylor Swift will kick off the American Music Awards on Sunday by performing her chart-topping single “Blank Space” and will…

    in Entertainment

    This weekend in entertainment history

    elvis

    A look at the Hollywood headlines that went down in history.

    in Music

    This week’s top country tracks

    blakeshelton

    LISTEN: This week's top country tracks, according to the latest Billboard chart.

    in Trending, Viral Videos

    TODAY’S MUST SEE: Kids react to a realistic Barbie doll

    19-overlay3

    The Lammily doll wants to show children that average is beautiful.