Armed Services chairman pans Pentagon's budget proposal

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday knocked Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s budget proposal.

“The president's response to a security environment that is quickly degrading is to further cannibalize our military capability,” Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble Cheney slated to introduce bill to place sanctions on Turkey MORE (R-Texas) said in a written statement.

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Earlier Tuesday, Carter previewed a $582.7 billion Pentagon budget for fiscal year 2017. The Pentagon proposal will be part of an overall budget request President Obama is set to release next week.

Among the new priorities Carter outlined, the Pentagon plans to more than quadruple its spending in Europe to reassure allies and deter Russian aggression. That means spending there will jump from $789 million to $3.4 billion.

The Pentagon also is planning to boost its spending on the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by 50 percent from last year, to $7.5 billion.

Those priorities are necessary, Thornberry said, but not addressed in the bipartisan budget agreement last year.

“The secretary should not be allowed to mislead anyone,” Thornberry said. “The increase in counter-ISIS investments and deterrence of Russia are welcome and needed moves. But the president’s budget request, for example, does not add funds to accommodate the $7.5 billion in additional funding to counter ISIS or the $3.4 billion to deter Russia.

“Most importantly, the budget he previewed today is not consistent with the Bipartisan Budget Act that Congress and the White House reached last year.”

Under the budget agreement, there would be $573 billion in base defense funding for fiscal year 2017 and no less than $59 billion for a war fund known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

In a background briefing with reporters, House Armed Services Committee staffers said their office hasn’t yet seen the full budget proposal with the breakdown of what’s in the base budget and what’s in the OCO account.

But from Carter’s speech, they added, it appears the new priorities will be in the base budget, not OCO. That cuts into other necessities such as modernization and goes against the budget agreement, they argued, by treating the $59 billion as a maximum, not a minimum.

“The administration is now choosing to ignore the deal,” Thornberry said. “The agreement provided a minimum investment in national security — the ‘lower ragged edge’ of what it takes to defend the country, plus an agreement that the rest of the OCO funding would reflect current operations and the current security environment.”