News

House blocks Pentagon bid to curb pay raises, retire weapons

House blocks Pentagon bid to curb pay raises, retire weapons

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) (C), flanked by Republican members of his committee, holds a news conference on how sequestration will affect defense funding. Photo: Reuters

By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House Armed Services Committee approved a policy bill on Thursday that authorized a $496 billion Pentagon base budget for next year but rejected many of the department’s attempts to cut spending, including on arms programs and military pay increases.

Lawmakers on the Republican-dominated panel voted unanimously to send the measure to the full House of Representatives, where it must be passed and reconciled with a Senate version before going to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Representative Buck McKeon, the committee chairman, said the annual legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2015 fiscal year, was expected to be considered by the full House in two weeks.

The measure approved by the panel authorizes a $496 billion Pentagon base budget, plus $17.9 billion for defense-related nuclear programs in the Department of Energy. It authorized $79 billion for war funding, but lawmakers said that was a place-holder because the Pentagon had not yet submitted a request.

The NDAA sets defense policy and authorizes spending but does not actually appropriate money. That is done later by the appropriations committees in the two houses.

The measure approved by the panel included funding to refuel an aircraft carrier the Pentagon feared it would not be able to afford. It also added money for a new amphibious assault ship and sought to preserve the A-10 Warthog close air support plane, rather than retiring the fleet as the Pentagon proposed.

The Armed Services panel approved a 1.8 percent pay increase for most military personnel, rejecting a Pentagon plan to reduce the annual increase to 1 percent because of spiraling compensation costs, which now make up about half of the department’s budget. The pay of senior officers would be frozen.

In all, the panel cut more than $5 billion from Defense Department spending plans and shifted the funds around to pay for equipment and projects the Pentagon sought to trim or eliminate as it tries to cut $1 trillion projected spending over a decade as ordered by Congress.

McKeon said part of his aim with the legislation was to prevent the Defense Department from shrinking the size of the force as much as possible in hopes Congress would reverse some of the spending cuts.

“My underlying goal … is to hold onto as much of the stuff and as much of the training as we can,” he said, in the hope that “some miracle happens and we get money … next year that we don’t have now.”

But Representative Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the panel, voiced concern the committee was exacerbating the Pentagon’s problems by not approving its plan to shrink the force to a more financially sustainable size.

“We can have a larger force, or we can have a ready force,” Smith said. “It’s my contention that basically what this committee is doing is, being presented with that choice, we’re closing our eyes and plugging our ears and saying: ‘No, no, no. We’re not going to make that choice.'”

Smith said in trying to prevent program cuts, the committee had taken $1.4 billion from Pentagon accounts that would have been used to ensure troops were fully trained and their equipment was well-maintained and ready for action.

“I think we do continue to put ourselves in a position where we are jeopardizing readiness,” he said.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

Recent Headlines

6 hours ago in Entertainment

REVIEW: ‘How To Be Single’ feels the same while trying too hard to be different

22-overlay-9

"How to Be Single" makes a valiant attempt to send up rom-com clichés but it borrows so much from other, better movies that you start to wonder if the film’s title should be "How to Commit Larceny."

7 hours ago in Music

Springsteen promises to show his mind in autobiography

springsteen

Springsteen, 66, has been working on the autobiography, called "Born to Run," for seven years.

8 hours ago in Entertainment

‘Star Wars’ producers face charges in Harrison Ford’s on-set accident

18-overlay-7

The "Indiana Jones" star broke his leg when the door of the Millennium Falcon fell on him during filming in 2014.

10 hours ago in Music

Ace Frehley to release covers album, records with Paul Stanley

acefrehley

Frehley will release a covers album, entitled "Origins Vol. 1" in April, and on it he teams up with his former bandmate for "Fire and Water," a track originally recorded in 1970 by the English rock group Free.

12 hours ago in Entertainment

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ headed for Broadway debut

mockingbird

Harper Lee's classic novel is coming to Broadway for the first time in a new stage version written by "West Wing" writer Aaron Sorkin.