Washington: The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee today rejected the Senate’s Gang of Six budget plan, saying it cut far too much from the Pentagon’s budget.
“Based on what we’ve read the proposal would result in $886 Billion in security cuts over 10 years. Due to a firewall in the proposal between security and domestic spending, nearly half of the discretionary savings in this proposal comes from security programs. The Department of Defense spending accounts for roughly 85% of security spending,” Rep. Buck McKeon wrote in a July 20 memo to Republican members of his committee.
McKeon, who has made clear since becoming chairman that he will oppose most significant cuts to the defense budget, noted that, “defense has already shrunk $439 billion over 10 years. In its current form, I cannot support the Gang of Six proposal.”
McKeon was joined by fellow HASC member Rep. Todd Akin in rejecting the call for deep cuts to defense spending. “The fact that the proposal really doesn’t solve the deficit problem yet seeks nearly a trillion dollars in cuts does not recommend it as a proposal that I would support,” Akin said in an email to Breaking Defense. Akin, chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection subcommittee, also holds a seat on the House Budget Committee, from whence he opposed Tea Party-led attempts to make deep defense cuts in the budget resolution used to set maximum spending limits for each committee.
Interestingly, in his memo McKeon quoted a May 24 speech by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the end of his memo, in which he warned about the “hollowing-out” of the military during the 1970s and late 1990s.
“I am determined that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, where the budget targets were met mostly by taking a percentage off the top of everything, the simplest and most politically expedient approach both inside the Pentagon and outside of it. That kind of “salami-slicing” approach preserves overhead and maintains force structure on paper, but results in a hollowing-out of the force from a lack of proper training, maintenance and equipment – and manpower,” Gates said.
The current Pentagon leadership would seem to share that view. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged a few hours after taking the oath of office on July 1 that, “there will be no hollow force on my watch. That will require us all to be disciplined in how we manage taxpayer resources.”