ARLINGTON, Va. — Expect Congress to consider reversing the nearly five-year policy of limiting Department of Defense spending, and either amend or repeal the 2011 Budget Control Act soon, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee said on Wednesday.
The BCA’s goal to reign in government spending driving up the nation’s budget deficit “has fundamentally failed,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said during the Defense News Conference.
He said the so-called sequestration spending limits placed on the Department of Defense in January 2013, after Congress failed to pass a spending plan, have only hindered the military’s ability to perform its missions. Service members are being asked to do too much with too few resources and the consequences have become readily apparent after a spate of deadly incidents this year involving military aircraft and ships.
“It is morally wrong to send men and women out on missions, even routine patrols, without the best equipment, the best training, the best support that our country can provide,” Thornberry said. “If we’re not going to provide them that, then we need to not send them out on those missions.”
Instead, of the nation’s budget, 15 percent of spending is on Department of Defense, yet Thornberry said half of the nation’s spending cuts have come from military spending.
With deadlines quickly approaching to pass a new spending plan and to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, Thornberry said the Department of Defense spending will be part of the budget discussions.
“My big concern is people in congress who want to use defense spending as a hostage for their other political agendas,” Thornberry said. “We’ve got to stop that and just evaluate defense on its own, let it stand on its own.”
During a lunchtime chat, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) chairwoman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, echoed Thornberry’s view defense spending caps would be lifted this fall.
“We can’t rebuild our military and keep those caps for the military. It doesn’t work,” Granger said. “We didn’t rebuild we didn’t modernize we didn’t repair. now we’re in a very tough situation.“
Granger said there’s a recognition on Capitol Hill how destructive the past several years have been to keeping the military’s ability to fulfill its missions. She places part of the blame on members of various committees, includes hers, for not sharing information with members who have other spending priorities.
“The conservatives don’t want to spend more but they want a strong military,” Granger said. “When you share information about how far behind we are, you get a change in attitude.”
Interestingly, the recovery efforts associated with recent Hurricane Harvey and the approaching Hurricane Irma have the potential to ease budget and borrowing limit discussions. Both Thornberry and Granger mentioned the immediate need for disaster relief has created a mood change in the Capitol, creating a desire to approve spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year.
With the prevalence of smart phones, Thornberry said claims are filed quicker, and “FEMA is spending money at a much faster rate than with previous disasters.”
The need for approving increased spending is immediate and he doesn’t think many members of Congress will oppose disaster relief. But this doesn’t mean the process will be easy.
“This is not a negotiation,” Thornberry said. “This is about lives and that has become all too clear this year.”