Lines in the Sand: House Chairman Overseeing Military Spending Challenges President Obama

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“With equipment that is falling apart and a war entering its tenth year, the strain on the troops–our most precious resource–can only be described as severe.”

In his May 5 speech at The Heritage Foundation, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, made it clear that even with the recent mission success against Osama bin Laden, the need for a strong defense is as important as ever.

“If the president expands the military’s missions, he must expand their funding as well,” McKeon said. Instead, “as combat takes its toll on the force, the Obama administration has announced plans to cut troop endstrength in numbers that must be counted in brigades.”

In a strong defense of those in uniform, Chairman McKeon boldly disavowed President Obama’s plans: “To ask them to accomplish these tasks with antiquated equipment, with weapons left over from the Cold War, while separated from their families every other year, is simply disgraceful.”

There will be no rubber stamp for the White House or for the new Secretary of Defense from the current leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. “America cannot lead from behind,” McKeon said. He has vowed to fight against short-sighted defense cuts during wartime, stating, “We should never have to ask whether America fell, or was pushed.”

The world is not getting safer, even as America demands more deficit reduction from the military. “If war is unpredictable,” he said, “and unpredictability is dangerous, then we live in very dangerous times.”

In marking the 20th anniversary of the victory in the Gulf War, McKeon noted that the victory was so decisive and relatively low in cost precisely because America had been prepared to face unexpected threats. America’s victory was “no accident.”

Rep. McKeon highlighted the risks associated with the broad, sweeping and unjustified defense cuts that the Obama administration has implemented already and is proposing more for the future. These risks will only grow as the military increasingly relies upon aging equipment left over from the 1970s and 1980s.

In the chairman’s words, there are two paths for American security: 1) The nation can adopt the current plan the Administration has proposed, pushing forward with $400 billion in cuts without a serious examination of how these cuts will impact the U.S. military, and thus our safety. Or, 2) Policymakers can use a scalpel to identify savings to be reinvested in defense, making the most out of the budget to maximize the security of the American people and the effectiveness of our armed forces.