Carter Warns of ‘Double Whammy’ for Defense Budget

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Calling low spending caps and congressional resistance to cost-saving reforms a “double whammy,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned last week that the military cannot carry out its strategic objectives without changes.

Carter told the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee that “if confronted with sequestration-level budgets and continued obstacles to reform, I do not believe that we can simply keep making incremental cuts.”

He complained that lawmakers were not allowing the military to take “painful but necessary” steps such as closing bases, retiring older weapons systems, and raising fees and co-pays for participants in TRICARE, the military’s health care system.

The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that the House Armed Services Committee recently approved would bar the Pentagon from enacting these reforms. The authorization bill approves national security programs and sets defense policy.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said his version of the bill would likely include a prohibition on base closures, although changes to buying practices and compensation could be considered.

Carter also criticized the recently passed Fiscal 2016 budget resolution for circumventing the Budget Control Act’s cap on defense spending by raising Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding to $96 billion, which is $38 billion higher than President Obama requested.

He said such heavy reliance on OCO funding next year would hamper the military’s ability to plan further ahead.

External links:
Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Hearing: FY16 Budget Request for the Department of Defense
Defense Secretary Carter’s Testimony
Base Closures Could Help Stretch Defense Dollars (Concord)
Panel Urges Overhaul of Future Military Benefits (Concord)
House National Defense Authorization Act Cost Estimate (CBO)

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