Pentagon, Congress clash on wartime funding account

Pentagon, Congress clash on wartime funding account

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Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry questions Secretary of Defense Ash Carter during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee on The Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense in Washington D.C., March 22, 2016.(Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

"It's gambling with warfighting money at a time of war -- proposing to cut off our troops' funding in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria in the middle of the year," Defense Secretary Carter said.

Washington (Talk Media News) – Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Wednesday that he is deeply troubled by House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry’s (R-Texas) proposed 2017 defense spending strategy that would move $18 billion from the Pentagon’s war spending account to its base budget to pay for weapons and troops the Pentagon didn’t request.

Testifying before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, Carter said Thornberry’s plan for the 2017 the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) risks pulling money critical for U.S. troops to actively combat Islamic State militants and other extremist groups.

“While I don’t expect this committee to consider such a proposal, I have to say that this approach is deeply troubling, and flawed for several reasons,” Carter said. “It’s gambling with war fighting money at a time of war — proposing to cut off our troops’ funding in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria in the middle of the year.”

Thornberry’s plan would pay for additional ships, fighter jets and helicopters. It also would boost the minimum active-duty soldiers levels in the Army up to 480,000 and add 3,000 Marines and 4,000 Airmen.

“It would spend money on things that are not DoD’s highest unfunded priorities across the joint force. It buys force structure without the money to sustain it and keep it ready, effectively creating hollow force structure, and working against our efforts to restore readiness,” Carter said of the spending proposal.

Carter also warned that Thornberry’s budget could undo the bipartisan budget deal reached in November 2015 that set spending levels for 2016 and 2017 at $610 billion.

“It’s another road to nowhere, with uncertain chances of ever becoming law, and a high probability of leading to more gridlock and another continuing resolution — exactly the kind of terrible distraction we’ve seen for years, that undercuts stable planning and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, dispirits troops and their families, baffles friends and emboldens foes,” Carter said. “I cannot support such maneuvers as Secretary of Defense.”

The budget would also make it so the war spending account would only be authorized until April 2017, forcing the next president request supplemental funding.

Thornberry defended the budget during a House Armed Services Committee markup session of the NDAA Wednesday, saying that the next president will have to review the spending anyway. He likened it to the end of President George W. Bush’s tenure, when Democrats controlled Congress.

“Congress, under a Democratic majority, passed a supplemental bridge fund in 2008 that paid for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for part of the year in 2009 until the new administration had a chance to review the situation, which it did, and then it submitted a supplemental request to carry out operations for the rest of the fiscal year,” he said.

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