Armed Services chairmen: Trump plan to cut defense spending 'would be dangerous'

The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees are urging President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE to reconsider cutting next year’s defense budget.

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“A last-minute directive to cut $33 billion from defense would be dangerous,” Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryRepublican lawmakers ask Trump not to delay Pentagon cloud-computing contract House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill House approves defense bill after adding liberal sweeteners MORE (R-Texas) and Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase MORE (R-Okla.) wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Thursday night and emailed out by their press offices Friday.

“President Trump can prevent this $33 billion cut and the resulting damage by ordering the Pentagon to move forward with the $733 billion budget he originally proposed for 2020,” they added in the op-ed titled “Don’t Cut Military Spending, Mr. President.”

Trump said in October he would order his Cabinet heads to cut their fiscal 2020 budget proposals by 5 percent because of rising deficits.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later confirmed the Pentagon received and was carrying out an order to plan a $700 billion budget — $16 billion less than fiscal 2019 and $33 billion less than originally planned for fiscal 2020.

The Pentagon already finished writing the $733 billion budget when it received the order to cut and so is planning to present Trump with both proposals so he can see the “trade-offs,” Shanahan has said. The lower budget will prioritize cyber, space, Army modernization and hypersonics, he added.

In their op-ed, Thornberry and Inhofe highlighted the recent National Defense Strategy Commission report that warned the United States “might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.”

The pair also took a swipe at Democrats “seeking tax dollars to spend on their own priorities” and embracing the defense cuts.

“But our top priority is the troops,” they wrote. “Any cut in the defense budget would be a senseless step backward.”

Thornberry will relinquish the House Armed Services gavel in January when Democrats take control of the House. His likely successor, Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort Overnight Defense: Esper officially nominated for Defense secretary | Pentagon silent on Turkey getting Russian missile system | House, Senate headed for clash over defense bill House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill MORE (D-Wash.), has said trimming the Defense budget will be one of his priorities.

But Inhofe, who will retain his gavel next year, has previously said $733 billion should be considered a floor for next year’s budget.

The order to cut $33 billion forces the Pentagon to find areas where money can be saved quickly, such as troops, new equipment, training and maintenance, Thornberry and Inhofe wrote.

The pair said they share Trump’s concern about the deficit, but that cutting defense spending will not solve the problem.

“The deficit would keep growing even if we eliminated the entire Pentagon budget,” they wrote. “The president and Congress should not be duped into a false choice: rebuild our military or accept deep and growing deficits. This was a foolish argument when President Obama made it, and it hasn’t improved with age.”

Further, they said, “capricious last-minute cuts” are not the way to save money at the Pentagon. Instead, there needs to be “deliberate reform,” they added.

“We cannot and should not balance our budget on the backs of America’s troops,” they concluded. “Too much is at stake. This is a time to follow through on the progress of the past two years and give our troops the sustained, sufficient, predictable funding they deserve.”