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Republicans blast Pentagon energy programs

Republicans took aim at the Pentagon’s energy initiatives Wednesday, but were not able to get two amendments into a defense bill that sought to reduce the programs the department carries out.

“We ought to do what makes sense and don’t do what doesn’t make sense,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who supported the amendments. “There are certainly times where research and a variety of things makes sense, but we should not spend precious dollars on things that don’t make sense.”

One amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, offered by Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingTrump wants Congress to delay Census deadlines amid pandemic Meadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress The Hill's Morning Report - Iran strikes US bases in Iraq; Trump to speak today MORE (R-La.) and rejected by the committee 29-30, would have blocked the Pentagon from using funds to comply with two executive orders on climate change.

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The other, offered by Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) and rejected 29-32, would have prohibited the Pentagon from spending money on alternative energy facilities unless the Defense secretary justifies why the money is being used there.

Republicans argued the amendments wouldn’t have prevented the Pentagon from using and investing in alternative energy. Instead, they said, the amendments would have made sure the money isn’t being used at the expense of readiness.

“I am not opposed to increased usage of wind, solar or other renewables,” said Rep. Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineThe Biden administration endorses NASA's Artemis, the Space Force Will Biden continue NASA's Artemis program to return to the moon? NASA demonstrates why rocket science is still hard with the SLS test MORE (R-Okla.). “I don’t think anybody on this committee is opposed to that. I am not opposed to more energy efficient buildings. Neither is anybody on this committee. Congress and this administration should empower the military to do those things, but only where it is cost effective and contributes to readiness.”

Democrats said the amendments would have constricted the Pentagon. Using alternative energy helps on the battlefield by decreasing reliance on fossil fuels, Democrats said, an argument the Pentagon also has employed.

“I dispute the idea that it’s the bureaucrats that are driving this policy,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.). “One of the most dangerous things we do is transport large amounts of petroleum across the desert. When those convoys are attacked, we lose soldiers, and we lose Marines.”

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Further, Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Tim Kaine moves to claw back war powers authority | Study on sexual harassment and assault in the military Commissioners tasked with scrubbing Confederate base names sworn-in at first meeting Biden seeks to walk fine line with Syria strike MORE (D-Wash.), ranking member of the committee, said climate change is a national security threat and the Pentagon has an interest in combating that.

“This will have an effect on the Department of Defense,” he said. “If in fact oil and coal and natural gas and fossil fuels become untenable, as the largest consumer of fuel, alternatives will be desperately necessary for our national security and the Department of Defense.”