Top Dem expresses 'serious concerns' about plan to cut $25B from Pentagon agencies

Top Dem expresses 'serious concerns' about plan to cut $25B from Pentagon agencies
© Camille Fine

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said Wednesday he has “serious concerns” about the committee chairman’s plan to cut $25 billion from the Pentagon’s defense agencies budget.

“In its current form, I have serious concerns about the impact it would have on the mission of the Department of Defense [DOD],” Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Pentagon waiting for Saudi assessment on attack | Defense bill talks begin | Border fight takes centerstage | Pentagon finalizes .5B in wall contracts | US withholds Afghan aid citing corruption House Armed Services panel gets classified briefing on Saudi attacks Negotiators kick off defense bill talks amid border wall, Iran debates MORE (D-Wash.) said in a statement Wednesday. “It appears this proposal could do serious damage to DOD’s information infrastructure, testing ranges and community support, as well as the basic DOD functions in the National Capital Region by eliminating critical agencies in one stroke.”

On Tuesday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryNegotiators kick off defense bill talks amid border wall, Iran debates Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight House rejects GOP motion on replacing Pentagon funding used on border wall MORE (R-Texas) unveiled a proposal he plans to include in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which subcommittees will begin marking up next week.

The plan would impose a mandatory 25 percent spending cut on 28 defense agencies which include human resources, procurement, information and auditing agencies.

The plan would also entirely eliminate seven of the 28 agencies: the Defense Technical Information Center, Defense Test Resource Management Center, Office of Economic Adjustment, Defense Technology Security Administration, Defense Information Systems Agency, Defense Human Resources Activity and Washington Headquarters Services.

Thornberry told reporters Tuesday some combat support agencies would be exempt from the cuts, and the Defense Health Agency, which is among the group of 28 agencies, would largely be untouched.

The proposal aims to cut $25 billion by 2021. If the target isn’t reached by January 2021, it would trigger an automatic 25 percent across-the-board cut.

At the top of a hearing with outside experts on the issue, Smith said “without a doubt” there are savings to be found in the agencies.

“I think we should look and try to do that, and I think the chairman’s bill that he introduced yesterday … to attempt to do that is a good starting point,” Smith said.

But, he added, the agencies are not “irrelevant” and so savings need to be found without “doing damage.”

“I certainly applaud the chairman’s efforts to take that run. I look forward to working with him to figure out the best way to do that to make sure we cut in a sensible way that saves money and at the same time makes sure that we can continue to provide the services that our warfighters need so we can fight as efficiently as possible.”