House rejects Pentagon cost-cutting plans in defense policy bill

WASHINGTON Thu May 22, 2014 1:22pm EDT

The U.S. Capitol dome is pictured in the pre-dawn darkness in this general view taken in Washington, October 18, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The U.S. Capitol dome is pictured in the pre-dawn darkness in this general view taken in Washington, October 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives rejected Pentagon cost-cutting proposals on Thursday with a $601 billion election-year defense policy bill that offered bigger military pay raises and blocked a politically tough bid to eliminate planes, ships and bases.

The chamber voted 325-98 to pass the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which rejected Pentagon plans to save tens of billions of dollars over the next five years as the department tries to meet a congressional mandate to cut nearly $1 trillion in defense spending over a decade.

Debate over the bill underscored the differences between Pentagon supporters reluctant to give up aging, proven weapons systems in the face of budget pressures, and those who warn that keeping the systems will deprive the military of funds it needs to maintain a balanced, well-trained and ready force.

Representative Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, noted the panel had to make hard choices. The defense sector provides good jobs, he said, but because of the cuts "a lot of those jobs have gone away and our defense has been weakened."

But Representative Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House panel, questioned whether lawmakers had really grappled with the problem, noting in debate on Wednesday night that looking at budget issues, "we ducked every single one of them."

"We are going to have substantially less money over the next 10 years for defense than we thought," he said.

"How are we going to restructure our defense plans to deal with the fact? ... The answer in this bill is we're not going to deal with it this year. We're going to hope things get better and maybe deal with it next year," said Smith, who said he supported the measure despite its weaknesses.

The legislation, which must be reconciled with a Senate version before going to the president for his signature, bars the Pentagon from eliminating the popular A-10 Warthog close-air support plane and the high-altitude U-20 spy plane.

The measure rejects a Pentagon plan to lay up 14 Navy ships, including 11 cruisers, for maintenance due to funding shortages. It forces the department to prepare for the midlife overhaul and refueling of the nuclear carrier USS George Washington, which the Navy was considering retiring over budget constraints.

The House also authorized spending for five more Boeing EA-18G "Growler" electronic warfare planes than the Pentagon had sought.

And it offered most uniformed military personnel a bigger-than-requested 1.8 percent pay increase while rejecting other Pentagon efforts to curb the growth in compensation costs, which now make up more than half its budget.

To offset the increased spending, the House cut money from Pentagon accounts used to pay for maintenance, training and other activities to ensure troops are ready to go into combat. Those accounts were hit hard in previous years, and the Pentagon

was trying to rebuild readiness by cutting spending elsewhere.

(editing by Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (9)
morbas wrote:
The A10 is a dinosaur in an European Level Conflict. That is old news. The U2 is useful only in high altitude science, a 1963 vintage spy plane.
The other asset mix is above my pay grade, I trust the Pentagon to ignor the Republican bid to maintain local state and district federal defense money. Perhaps dear GOP you should have supported infrastructure as a means to improve the economy and jobs. Bad decision when GWBush didnot take advantage of low wages to address infrastructure in a prudent manner.
Do not Vote GOP in 2014, they have exhibited lock step unity with the Tea factions, and oligarch enslavement of the 99.9%.

May 21, 2014 10:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Bakhtin wrote:
Now we can see that all the right-wing noise about reigning in runaway spending, cutting deficits, balancing the books, OMG the debt, blah blah blah, is all lies. They talk about cutting spending, but when they are faced with actually doing it what they actually *do* is oppose it.

The same story repeats over an over. Republicans talk about the ‘threat’ from immigration, but what did they actually *do* when they had chance? Let more immigrants cross the border than any other administration in US history, and let more of them stay. Republicans talk about limiting government, but what do they *do*? At state level they intrude into education, reduce workers rights, reduce voters rights, intrude into health care, even intrude into individuals personal lives. At national level, they try to intrude into the Federal Reserve. And does anybody remember all the Republican hot-air about jobs? What did they *do* about jobs when they got control of the House? Nothing…

May 21, 2014 11:36pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
euro-yank wrote:
We see the Republicans intentions – take away from all the citizens and give to the military.

May 21, 2014 11:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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