By Erik Wasson
New chairman: Spread military cash out
The new head of the powerful House subcommittee in charge of defense spending says maintaining regional balance in domestic military spending will be a top priority.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) on Wednesday took over as the appropriations "cardinal" in charge of the defense subcommittee.
“I think it is important that every state and every region of the country contribute to a strong national defense,” he told The Hill. “I don’t think that everything has to be concentrated in the South.”
He noted that New Jersey contributes with “Picatinny in my backyard but also Joint Base McQuire.”
“I’m going to keep New Jersey in the picture,” he said. “I think we need people to understand the contributions of large and small businesses across the country to national defense.”
Frelinghuysen assumes the post left vacant by Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), who passed away suddenly in October. Although this year's House defense bill has already been written, it has not passed Congress, and Frelinghuysen will have a crucial role in putting together any omnibus spending package to wrap up the year.
The new chairman said he shared the frustration of full committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) with the slow pace of budget talks that must wrap up if a detailed defense bill is to pass by the time a government shutdown looms in January.
“I think they need to have some more meetings,” he said. “We need to give defense some stability …. we need to get out of the starting gate with good numbers here.”
Frelinghuysen said that sequestration, which will only deepen under current law without a budget deal, is gravely hurting military readiness.
“There are too many issues that we are confronting and we will confront. I am afraid we will not have enough ships, we will not have enough aircraft, we will not have enough army brigades to do whatever we need to do,” he said.
The Vietnam-war veteran said that although he loved his previous position overseeing the Energy and Water appropriations bill, which funds the nuclear arsenal, he has no regrets in making the move to defense.
“I’ve been on defense a long time, defense has been my primary interest,” he said.