Armed Services seeks to convince others on sequester dangers

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee kicked off an education campaign Thursday to convince other House members — including budget hawks within their own party — to reverse sequestration for the Pentagon.

The committee held a closed briefing for all House members to hear from the Pentagon about the dangers that the military faces under sequestration.

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The briefing, which committee leaders said was the first of several planned, focused on how readiness cuts would lead to a military that isn’t fit to fight.

The committee is hoping a bit of education can convince their colleagues to do away with sequestration, after the pleas from the Pentagon over the automatic budget cuts have gone unheeded in Congress for two years.

“We see it; we get these briefings and other members don’t,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeonHoward (Buck) Philip McKeonRepublican fighter pilot to challenge freshman Dem in key California race Overnight Defense: Pompeo certifies military aid for Saudi coalition in Yemen | Trump authorizes sanctions on election meddlers | Taliban set for new talks with US OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: House passes 5B defense bill MORE (R-Calif.) told reporters. “While the budget committee is trying to resolve what to come up with … we want to make sure they understand how serious this readiness issue is.”

Since the Budget Control Act passed in 2011, military leaders have warned that the automatic cuts that would take $500 billion out of project Pentagon spending over a decade would lead to a hollow military force.

But those warnings did not lead to a solution in Congress, as the disputes over taxes and entitlements have kept Congress deadlocked, and sequestration went into effect earlier this year.

McKeon said that part of the committee’s education effort had to be directed at the new Republican members who have cheered the sequester for making real discretionary spending cuts.

“I think we have members in our own conference that need this information,” McKeon said.

“When we had the 87 members who came in the last congress [in 2011], a lot of them came with the idea that everything is on the table,” he said. “I think when you talk to them one-on-one, and try to explain some of these things, it’s like the light goes off. People do not want to get rid of a strong defense.”

Rep. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanWhy block citizenship to immigrants who defend America? Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence Overnight Defense: House passes 5B defense spending bill | Pentagon moving forward on Trump military parade | Mattis vows 'ironclad' support for South Korea's defense MORE (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Readiness subcommittee, said the committee also hoped to get leadership involved in future briefings with the military.

He said 28 members attended Thursday’s briefing, which was cut short to 30 minutes due to House votes.

He hoped more would be coming to the next session.

“We don’t expect them to become experts on the military, but this is a very serious issue they have to deal with in making some very tough budgeting decisions,” Wittman said. “And they have to understand what this means.”