Congress' Opinions On Defense Look Pretty Good In Hindsight

Feb 8, 2016
Defense Drumbeat
Three months ago, President Barack Obama blasted lawmakers for pumping billions of dollars into weapons the Pentagon hadn't requested….Now his administration is touting some of those same weapons as crucial...

 

Politico Reports on Programs DoD Fought To Cut Last Year, Today They Tout Them as Vital

Just three months ago, President Barack Obama blasted lawmakers for pumping billions of dollars into weapons the Pentagon hadn't requested.

Now his administration is touting some of those same weapons as crucial for combating the Islamic State and for deterring a rising China and a resurgent Russia…

Among the programs Carter touted were A-10s, Super Hornets and Tomahawk missiles. This is a complete turnaround from last year, when all three programs were on the chopping block….

On his budget tour, Carter pointed to all three weapons as examples of important tools to defeat ISIL and deter China and Russia. And he praised the A-10 for "devastating ISIL from the air."            ___________________________________________________________________

By Austin Wright, Jeremy Herb and Connor O'Brien

02/05/2016 02:16 PM EDT

"NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Just three months ago, President Barack Obama blasted lawmakers for pumping billions of dollars into weapons the Pentagon hadn't requested.

Now his administration is touting some of those same weapons as crucial for combating the Islamic State and for deterring a rising China and a resurgent Russia.

The turnabout is causing a major credibility problem for the Defense Department ahead of Tuesday's release of the president's new budget proposal, key lawmakers told POLITICO. Republican defense hawks spent the last year opposing the department's efforts to retire the aging A-10 Warthog attack jet and stop buying Tomahawk missiles and F-18 Super Hornet fighters - the very weapons getting praise now from Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Rep. Mac Thornberry and Sen. John McCain, who chair the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, are already gloating over what they see as a small victory in their larger battle with Obama over military spending...

Thornberry, meanwhile, said Pentagon leaders are 'entitled to their opinions.' But, the Texas Republican noted, Congress 'also has opinions,' and some of those opinions are now looking 'pretty good in hindsight...'

Among the programs Carter touted were A-10s, Super Hornets and Tomahawk missiles. This is a complete turnaround from last year, when all three programs were on the chopping block.

In its previous budget, the Air Force urged Congress to greenlight its plan to divest its 1970s-era Warthogs - renowned for their ability to fly low and slow to provide close-air support for troops on the ground - to free up funds for more advanced jets such as the Lockheed Martin-made F-35. And the Navy sought to reduce purchases of Raytheon-made Tomahawk cruise missiles and zero out purchases of Boeing-made Super Hornets, although it placed the fighters on its list of 'unfunded priorities' - lists often used to signal to Congress items the services want but were prohibited from buying because of budget constraints.

In June, the White House specifically urged Congress not to fund the Super Hornets, saying that 'extra programs inserted in the budget come at the expense of programs that are more important and will create ripple effects across the rest of the budget.'

But Congress overruled the White House in all three cases, using the annual defense authorization and appropriations bills to require the Air Force to keep flying A-10s and to fund additional Tomahawks and Super Hornets for the Navy. Obama criticized those decisions in November, saying he was 'disappointed that the Congress failed to enact meaningful reforms to divest unneeded force structure.'

'Congress has made a decision on the A-10 for several years in a row that is different from the administration proposal, and now they're coming around and saying basically that we were right,' Thornberry said in an interview. 'The same is true for the Tomahawks - that line would have been dead if we had not kept it going at a minimally sustainable rate.'

As one Republican House aide put it, 'It strikes me that a number of the investments the department is bragging about this year would not be possible unless Congress had rejected cuts proposed in past years.'

On his budget tour, Carter pointed to all three weapons as examples of important tools to defeat ISIL and deter China and Russia. And he praised the A-10 for 'devastating ISIL from the air.'

The new budget, he said, would defer 'the A-10's final retirement until 2022, replacing it with F-35s on a squadron-by-squadron basis so we'll always have enough aircraft for today's conflicts...'

'Tomahawk, A-10, Super Hornet and the like are a bit different because the argument for cutting them was largely a question of investing in future capabilities versus maintaining current capabilities,' he explained. 'DoD can honestly say that these platforms have become more important in the last year or two, due to operational needs, and so it makes sense to keep them on board longer...'

For Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, a senior Democrat on the Armed Services panel, the situation is proof that Congress is capable of making good decisions.

'For the cynics out there who think Congress can't do anything right,' he said, 'if you're around here long enough, you actually see, you know, the opposite is true.'"

 
114th Congress