House of Representatives Rejects Cost Savings Supported by Pentagon

Monday, May 26, 2014
A-10 Thunderbolt II (photo: Greg L. Davis, U.S. Air Force)

The federal government must spend less money. The federal budget needs to be trimmed. That’s what Republicans, and even some Democrats, have demanded year after year, insisting it is time to spend fewer tax dollars.


So what happens when the Department of Defense—which has been raking in half of trillion dollars a year—offers up multiple ways to cut its budget? Congress votes to put the money back.


Demonstrating they value costly weapons programs—and the jobs they provide back home in their districts—more than making tough economic choices, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly agreed to adopt a new Pentagon spending plan that rejected multimillion-dollar savings provided by defense officials.


Representative Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, was critical of the bill, which passed 325-98.


“During general debate yesterday, a couple people commented they liked the bill for a variety of different reasons and said it made some tough choices, and I asked a couple times to name one,” Smith said. “I don’t believe we did make a tough choice. When you look at the issues that we face in terms of the budget, we ducked every single one of them.” Smith voted for the bill despite his objections.


As a result, the House decided to give the Defense Department $601 billion for next year, while preserving warplanes, ships and military bases offered up for sacrifice by the Obama administration.


Here are some of the pricy weapons the Pentagon was willing to axe, but that lawmakers couldn’t bear to kill:


  • The A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, long a valuable combat plane providing close air-support for ground troops. Savings lost: $635 million.
  • The USS George Washington aircraft carrier, which has been in service since 1990, targeted for decommissioning. Instead, Congress ordered expensive refueling for the nuclear-powered warship to keep it in the fleet.
  • The U-2 spy plane, a Cold War relic that’s been flying since the 1950s, headed for its last hurrah. Nope, it will keep flying, if the House gets its way.
  • Eleven Navy cruisers, all slated for retirement. Again, lawmakers couldn’t bear to see them go.


Following the vote, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Capitol Hill that his department must adhere to overall spending limits approved by Congress last year. Without the cuts that were planned, the Pentagon would have to resort to other reductions that might impact force readiness and maintenance of equipment, he said.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

House Defies White House, Passes Defense Bill (by Austin Wright and Jeremy Herb, Politico)

House Rebuffs Pentagon on Defense Spending (by Donna Cossata, Associated Press)

House Rejects Pentagon Cost-Cutting Plans in Defense Policy Bill (by David Alexander, Reuters)

A-10 Thunderbolt II (Northrop Grumman)

U.S. Spends $1 Trillion a Year on Defense and Security (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Contractors Account for 22% of Defense Dept. Workforce, but 50% of Workforce Cost (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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