No Room for Big Bucks

Don’t expect huge increases in defense spending, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday. “There are two numbers,” Smith said. The $603 billion figure is the President’s recommended spending level, and the $640 billion figure the chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) have suggested. Smith said he expects a figure “a little bit” higher than the $603 figure, because he doesn’t think Republicans will be able, or willing, to find the money for more. They will be unable to convince Democrats to massively cut non-defense discretionary accounts. “That’s not as easy as the President thinks,” noted Smith, who said even though they have had a majority, the GOP usually can’t unite in that approach. “If you feel that strongly about numbers of ships … [or] how much you pay pilots, … raise the frickin’ taxes to pay for it. But they will not do it,” he asserted. “Cutting taxes does not raise revenue. If you’re going to bring in more money, you gotta bring in more money,” he asserted. Smith said the way to address unmet needs is to accept a smaller, well-equipped force that is “upgradable and adaptable,” rather than a larger force that is “held together with duct tape.” He also said the military has to be more “honest” about likely and unlikely missions and prepare for the former. “Scrub the missions,” he suggested, but he holds little hope that that will happen, having “sat through 30 years of [hearings where defense officials said] … if we don’t have this and that … we’re all going to die.” He said the US must choose a strategy “that fits our capabilities” because money is limited. He also said that an impasse over defense spending, either by party lines or within one party, is “a distinct possibility,” and that nothing but continuing resolutions may well be the new normal.