Dem: Defense bill leaves ‘crushing’ constraints on Pentagon

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The House’s 2015 spending plan for the Pentagon fails to relieve the “crushing financial constraints” facing the military, a top Democrat charged on Monday.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, attacked the 2015 defense bill released by Republicans on Monday as avoiding “difficult choices.”

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“This year, we had two options: we could have stepped up and made the difficult choices in regard to retiring aging weapons systems and platforms, authorized a [base closure round], or made changes to military compensation and benefits or ended sequestration. We decided to do neither,” Smith said in a statement.

The House legislation rejects money-saving proposals pushed by Pentagon, including retiring an aircraft carrier, reducing military compensation and benefits and closing excess military bases. The plan does permit the Air Force to retire the A-10 fleet, but only if the planes are stored in a way that would allow for their quick return if the budget situation improves.

Smith said if Congress continues to delay making tough decisions and the cuts from sequestration aren’t reversed, money would eventually have to be slashed from military readiness.

“In today’s world, that is unacceptable and it is wholly avoidable, which is why I support ending sequestration immediately,” he said.

The House committee will amend the bill on Wednesday, with work beginning in the morning and likely stretching into Thursday as lawmakers debate the more controversial aspects of the bill, including whether to allow the National Guard’s attack helicopters to go to active duty.

Smith said lawmakers need to stand up to “parochial” interests in their states.

“As we mark up the bill this week, I urge all members of the Armed Services Committee to present and evaluate proposals based on their national security merits, not their parochial pull," he said.