House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon on Sunday vowed to put the panel on “a war footing,” and raised concerns about White House plans to slash the Pentagon budget by $78 billion.
During an interview on “This Week in Defense News,” the California Republican said he was surprised when he went into a Jan. 6 meeting with Pentagon leaders and learned the Obama administration would not grow the annual Defense Department budget by the 2 percent to 3 percent sought by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Instead, DoD officials informed lawmakers for the first time that the Pentagon budget would shrink by $78 billion over five years.
What’s more, that closed-door session marked the first time defense officials had told lawmakers that only $70 billion in internal savings found by the military services and DoD agencies would be plowed back into hardware programs. The remaining $28 billion will go toward other bills.
The briefing “departed quite a bit from what we’d been hearing,” McKeon said. “What [DoD has] been talking about is a 2 to 3 percent increase every year to keep up with inflation for the next five years. Now what he’s saying is that the next year they’ll have a 1 percent increase, the next year a half percent and the following three years no increase."
Asked by host Vago Muradian if those reasons are why he has called the proposed budget reduction “drastic and dangerous,” the chairman replied: “I think so.”
McKeon said with the war still raging in Afghanistan, U.S. troops still in Iraq, and because of “things that China’s doing, that North Korea is doing,” defense cuts would be unwise.
The new HASC chairman said he intends to provide the troops “everything they need to carry out their missions,” vowing to put the committee “on a war footing.”
He promised to fight any budget cuts he determines would harm troops’ effectiveness.
“If we think we can shortcut that and give them just part of what they need,” McKeon said, “I’m not going to go along with that.”
McKeon’s California congressional district is home to several military installations, and facilities and offices run by major defense contractors.