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Armed Services chairman knocks White House for 'dragging their feet' on budget request

Armed Services chairman knocks White House for 'dragging their feet' on budget request
© Greg Nash

The Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee tore into the White House on Tuesday for a delay in sending Congress its full 2022 budget request.

“I am deeply concerned about the Biden administration dragging their feet on getting us the damn budget,” Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithBiden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill F-35 cockpit upgrade has 4 million cost overrun Democrats reintroduce bill to block US from using nuclear weapons first MORE (D-Wash.) said at an event hosted by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

“Shout it from the rafters. I can’t get the White House to take my calls on this one. Just send it to us. We need it in order to pass the budget and move forward,” Smith added. “I cannot strongly enough urge the Biden administration and [White House chief of staff] Ron KlainRon KlainHouse Republicans urge opposition to vaccine patent waiver Pressure builds for Biden to back vaccine patent waivers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Biden sales pitch heads to Virginia and Louisiana MORE and everyone driving the ship over there. Get us the numbers before May 10.”

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Last week, the White House released an outline of its fiscal 2022 budget request that provided top-line dollar amounts for federal government agencies. But the outline provided no specifics on what the money would buy, with a more detailed budget request expected later this spring.

New administrations typically do not meet the usual March time frame to deliver Congress a budget request.

But the Biden administration has blamed obfuscation by the Trump team during the presidential transition for delaying its budget even more than normal for a new administration.

On Tuesday, Smith also said the White House is prioritizing other work over the budget.

“I understand they have other priorities. That's the answer that we get back,” Smith said. “I know that the pandemic is more important. The vaccine is more important. The COVID relief package is important. The infrastructure package is important. But within all of that, if you could just find the time to fill out the budget.”

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Smith also said the delay is not being caused by the Office of Management and Budget but that “the White House itself is not doing the job they should be doing right now.”

“I am really worried,” Smith said. “We get into mid-to-late May, and we don't have the specific budget numbers, then you're guaranteed a continuing resolution.”

Stopgap spending measures known as continuing resolutions have become the norm in recent years but are seen as disruptive by the Pentagon because they generally prohibit starting new programs or adjusting existing ones.

The budget outline the White House released last week called for $753 billion for defense, including $715 billion for the Pentagon, modest increases over this year.

The proposal has drawn fire from both progressives who want to see a 10 percent cut in the defense budget and Republicans who argue there needs to be 3 to 5 percent annual growth over inflation in order to properly fund the National Defense Strategy.

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The strategy, released by the Trump administration in 2018, calls for reorienting the military toward so-called great power competition against China and Russia after decades of focusing on counterterrorism while still tending to threats from terrorists, Iran and North Korea.

In his address, Smith also called for rethinking the National Defense Strategy, calling the current one “basically unachievable” and “too big, too ambitious and too unrealistic.”

“We are building towards the notion that the only way to deter China is to have a military that is so big and so strong that we can ... not just win a war with them but dominate so that they don't even think about taking us on,” Smith said.

“Do we really need to do that?” he added. “What we need to do is we need to make sure that China doesn't think that they can take Taiwan without consequences that are unacceptable to them. We need to make sure that they don't think that they can shut off the shipping lanes in the South China Sea without consequences, that they can't grab territory from others. I believe if we build alliances and have enough of a credible threat to bloody their nose, as it were, past the point that they want to do it, that's acceptable.”