Wednesday, May 13, 2009

House Republicans Question Gates on Defense Spending

May 13, 2009 – 1:34 p.m.

House Republicans on Wednesday grilled Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on what they called a “treading water” Pentagon budget request for next year, suggesting it was not enough to ensure national security.

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee questioned the judgment behind decisions to delay, cut or cap certain programs.

The administration released its $533.8 billion request May 7, though Gates had previewed it April 6. When the $130 billion earmarked for ongoing war operations is added, the total comes to $633.8 billion. For the first time since 2001, the administration is requesting war funds along with the base defense budget.

The base request represents an inflation-adjusted 2 percent increase over the amount appropriated in fiscal 2009, which Republicans said was not enough to tackle growing defense needs.

“At best it is treading water,” said John M. McHugh of New York, ranking Republican on the panel.

Gates and President Obama want to halt or delay procurement of a number of high-profile weapons, with the deepest cuts in missile defense. McHugh complained that lawmakers were not given enough information about the reasons behind the decisions to cut or delay programs.

“While it’s undeniable that you’re taking the department in a ‘different direction,’ the problem, Mr. Secretary, is that the Congress has not had the benefit of reviewing the analysis and data to determine how your decisions will take the department in the right direction,” he said.

Gates defended his budget and suggested lawmakers were too eager to defend parochial interests and were ignoring the changed face of modern warfare.

“I know that some of you will take issue with individual decisions,” Gates told the committee. “I would, however, ask you to look beyond specific programs and instead look at the full range of what we are trying to do – at the totality of the decisions and how they will change the way we prepare for and fight wars in the future.”

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