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Pentagon leaders criticize House GOP budget plan

Pentagon officials on Wednesday said they opposed a House Republican budget proposal for 2016 that would keep defense spending caps in place but boost war funding.  

The House's proposal would keep spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act in place, capping the defense budget at $523 billion but would provide $90 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO) -- a total of $613 billion. 

Although the amount is one billion above the White House's proposal for defense spending, the president's budget request plans for the caps being lifted, and a defense budget of $566 billion and $51 billion in OCO funds. 

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Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the House Republicans' proposal would not work, since the $90 billion in OCO would only provide funding for 2016, and not years beyond, making it difficult to plan for multi-year projects. 

"It doesn't work because to have the defense we need and the strategy that we have laid out, we need the budget we have laid out not just in one year but the years to come," Carter told lawmakers at a House Armed Services Committee hearing. 

Instead, Carter urged lawmakers to undo the spending caps, referred to as sequestration, which were only meant to occur if Congress could not agree on tax and spending reform. The caps would essentially cut the Pentagon budget by $500 billion over a decade. 

The cuts -- which began in 2013 when Congress failed to reach a compromise -- does not constrain OCO spending. 

But Carter said, "It is the base [budget] upon which we build our future budgets, we need stability....Sequester is what robs us of that." 

"OCO is a one year [thing]. It doesn't permit us to carry out the strategy as planned," he said.  

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, who testified alongside Carter, added, "We submit a one year budget but in the context of a five year defense plan." 

However, he said, "We're at a point where this is better than nothing." 

Defense comptroller Mike McCord, who also testified, said that although the Pentagon needed money in its base budget, not OCO, "Both dollars are useful to us."