By Kristina Wong - 05/01/14 10:46 AM EDT
The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said he expects a defense bill amendment to close excess military bases will get “crushed” by his colleagues, but he intends to propose it anyway.
“I don’t have any illusion on what the [Base Closure and Realignment Commission] amendment is going to be on the floor,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said Thursday morning at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event. “[But] it’s important to start that conversation."
This week, the panel’s subcommittees began its markups on the National Defense Authorization Act, which will largely decide how the Department of Defense spends its money.
So far, the subcommittees have rejected Pentagon decisions to retire an aircraft carrier, reduce military compensation and benefits, and close excess bases. They are also expected to reject retirement of the A-10 attack aircraft fleet.
Smith urged his fellow lawmakers to accept some of the proposed cuts, arguing that, if they aren’t made now, the department will be forced to take more drastic measures later, such as not training forces for combat.
“If we don’t take those steps that the DOD puts out, we are creating a completely untenable situation down the road,” he said.
The Pentagon was planning to cut about $500 billion over the next 10 years, but those cuts were doubled by the 2011 Budget Control Act, when Congress failed to compromise on tax and spending reform before the cuts kicked in in 2013.
Since then, Congress has been able to relieve some of the cuts, but those savings will run out in 2016, and full sequestration defense cuts of $50 billion per year will kick back in.
Smith predicts that cuts are going to get even worse than what the Pentagon is proposing.
“If sequestration kicks in, we’re going to have a devil of a time keeping more than eight [aircraft carriers],” he said.