Guns or Butter?

/ February 12, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Given the state of the economy, voting for the economic stimulus package will essentially be equivalent to voting to reduce defense spending, Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) said today.

After listening to defense experts explain what needs to be done in Afghanistan, House lawmakers questioned whether or not there would be sufficient resources to meet the military's operational objectives.

Can victory still be achieved in Afghanistan and Iraq with dramatic cuts to defense spending, Forbes asked at today's House Armed Services Committee hearing.

As it stands, Congress plans to vote on the economic stimulus package of about $789 billion tomorrow so that it can reach President Obama's desk by Monday.

The hearing panel included CSIS' Anthony Cordesman, Council on Foreign Relation's Stephen Biddle, retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, and Janet St. Laurent from the Government Accountability Office.

Keane said that when troops' lives are on the line, the resources they need will be met; however the Defense Department has to make budget choices based on the money made available to them.

"I don't believe operations and maintenance dollars will be cut," said Keane.

Where Defense Secretary Robert Gates does have discretion is in his investment and capital accounts, Keane told lawmakers.

"That's where he'll go to make cuts to live within the budget given to him," said Keane.

-- Kate Brannen