Key Dem slams defense bill for ‘problematic’ funding

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee called committee Republicans’ approach to defense spending “problematic” ahead of the committee’s Wednesday markup of an annual defense bill and said he was undecided on his support for the bill.

“The approach to funding that has been adopted in the chairman’s mark is incredibly problematic,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said in a written statement Tuesday. “That said, the [National Defense Authorization Act] is a very important bill that provides funding for essential defense priorities including support for military families. I want to support this bill if it is what is best for our men and women in uniform. But I am dissatisfied with its approach to funding, and I am still undecided.”

{mosads}The committee’s 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which was released in full Monday, would authorize $610 billion for defense spending.

That’s the same amount requested by the Obama administration and follows the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, which set spending levels for 2016 and 2017.

But it uses $23 million for base requirements from a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund.

The remaining $36 million in OCO would only be authorized until April 30, 2017, forcing the next president to either scale back war plans or request supplemental funding.

This approach to funding, Smith said, constitutes a “fiscal cliff.”

“That fiscal cliff could arrive during a year when sequestration is kicking back in, raising the possibility of extremely drastic cuts in a very short timeframe,” he said. “This strategy is essentially based on hope. They are hoping more money will magically appear to solve this problem — and hope is not a strategy.”

In his statement, Smith argued money could be found by cutting from areas, rather than taking from the war fund. Specifically, Smith highlighted another round of base closures, which the bill would prohibit, and troop cuts, which the bill would reverse, as ways to save money.

Smith plans to file an amendment to the bill that would allow for base closures, but closures are a politically unpopular prospect because of their potential negative economic effects on communities.

The funding plan is likely to put the Defense Department in a tight spot, he added.

“Because the Republican caucus doesn’t seem to have any appetite to lift the sequestration budget caps that originally created this problem,” he said, “this plan will paint the Defense Department into a very small corner indeed.”

Tags Adam Smith National Defense Authorization Act

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