October 31, 2014

Lawmakers Continue to Spurn Pentagon Reform Plans

  • Defense spending accounts for roughly half of the portion of the budget referred to as discretionary spending, which is determined through the annual...

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $549 billion defense bill last week that leaves out many of the savings proposed by military leaders.

The bill, for example, would preserve weapons systems the Pentagon has not requested or wants to retire, including the A-10 aircraft. The legislation would also continue production of the Tomahawk cruise missile.

The bill promises $11.7 billion in cuts to other defense programs, largely from rescinding unobligated funds and eliminating duplication. While such savings are helpful, they should not become an excuse for unnecessary spending on outdated weapons systems and the like.

The Senate committee approved a 1 percent pay increase requested by the Pentagon, less than the 1.8 percent increase approved by the House. Both House and Senate appropriators, though, rejected other Pentagon proposals to rein in compensation costs, including reasonable health care changes.

Meanwhile, some House lawmakers have criticized the administration’s $58.3 billion request for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). This account is supposed to provide funding for direct combat missions and support. It is exempt from spending caps, however, and is sometimes misused to get around them.

The administration’s request includes some questionable items that have led lawmakers and defense policy experts to accuse the administration of using the account as a “slush fund.”