GOP senator moves to restart Pentagon report on NATO allies' spending

GOP senator moves to restart Pentagon report on NATO allies' spending
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GOP Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) on Thursday introduced a new bill that would restart an extensive Pentagon report on the defense contributions of NATO member countries and other allies.

The Allied Burden Sharing Report Act of 2018 would require the Defense Department “to resume compiling and submitting an extensive report that includes the common defense contributions of NATO countries and other allies,” including Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, according to a statement from Lee’s office.

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“Due to threats that are ever-changing, Congress must be informed with respect to allied contributions to the common defense to properly assess the readiness of the United States and allied nations for threats,” according to the bill’s text.

“The President should seek from each allied nation acceptance of international security responsibilities and agreements to make contributions to the common defense commensurate with the economic resources and security environment of such allied nation.”

NATO already compiles the defense expenditures of its countries, released annually in the secretary-general’s report.

The Pentagon in the late 1990s had compiled a similar report but has not produced another one in years.

The move comes after President Trump roiled this week’s NATO summit by upping his demands that allies spend more on defense.

Long critical of NATO members for failing to meet their defense spending commitments, Trump demanded allies increase defense dollars and on Thursday said those calls were met.

“Tremendous progress has been made. Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment. They’re going to up it at levels that they’ve never thought of before,” the president said.

NATO members in 2014 agreed to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense by 2024. Four of the alliance’s 29 countries have already met that target, with 15 on pace to reach the goal, according to NATO.

Trump has incorrectly suggested that this spending is meant to be on NATO as a whole, not on the countries’ individual defense. On Wednesday he told leaders behind closed doors that he wants them to spend 4 percent of GDP on defense, but not even the United States meets that target.

He also pressed allies to hit the 2 percent goal “immediately.”

It remains unclear if any commitments were made to speed up spending. 

Congress pushed back at Trump's rhetoric this week, with the House passing a resolution supporting NATO and the Senate using a procedural vote to signal its support.

The nonbinding motion expresses the Senate’s support for NATO and calls on negotiators to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to it.

Lee and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) were the only lawmakers to vote against the measure in the upper chamber.

“NATO and other mutual defense agreements have a purpose, but until we no longer bear the greatest brunt of the financial burden, we cannot and should not consider expanding these commitments,” Lee said in the statement.

“The information included in this report would be instrumental in informing Congress’ oversight of our own military and defense spending and would help educate lawmakers on the return on investment we receive in exchange for our involvement in global alliances.”

Under Lee’s legislation, the Pentagon report would be due to lawmakers by March 1 each year and include the annual defense spending by each allied nation, including data on how much of its GDP goes toward such expenditures.

It would also include “the activities of each such allied nation to contribute to military or stability operations in which the Armed Forces of the United States are a participant; any limitations placed by any such allied nation on the use of such contributions; and any actions undertaken by the United States or by other countries to minimize such limitations.”