House Republicans today foreshadowed a debate in Congress about a fundamental assumption underlying the Pentagon's fiscal year 2010 spending proposal -- that Iraq- and Afghanistan-like missions will make up a significant chunk of future U.S. military engagements.
"Secretary Gates' statement includes significant programmatic decisions that seem to be based on assumptions about the current security environment," House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McHugh (R-NY) wrote in a statement this afternoon. "The Congress needs to ensure it understands and agrees with these assumptions about the threats we face before we can endorse decisions on the capabilities our military does and does not require."
In his press conference today, Gates described the 2008 National Defense Strategy as a key document from which the newly announced program decisions were derived. Gates crafted the document last summer, when a Republican president was still in office.
President Obama has yet to issue a formal national security strategy document.
More from McHugh:
"Republicans appreciate Secretary Gates’ effort to shape the Department of Defense so that we more effectively fight the wars our troops are engaged in today; however, we are concerned about the tradeoffs involved in re-balancing the Department. It remains the Congress’ responsibility to provide for the common defense -- continued delays in the release of the defense budget details hinders our ability to carry out our constitutional duty.
((. . .))
“Today’s announcement that the Department will shift enduring costs previously included in war time supplemental spending bills into the base budget is something we support, but not without a commensurate increase in top line spending. If implemented, this proposal will be tantamount to an $8 billion cut in defense spending.
“Additionally, cutting missile defense spending and focusing missile defense programs to a ballistic missile’s terminal phase places unnecessary risk to the homeland. Just a day after North Korea launched a long range ballistic missile the Secretary missed an opportunity to re-commit to investment in missile defense capabilities.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said today he "strongly" supports Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to restructure several major defense programs.
"It has long been necessary to shift spending away from weapon systems plagued by scheduling and cost overruns to ones that strike the correct balance between the needs of our deployed forces and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats of tomorrow,” McCain said in a statement issued by his office. “Today’s announcement is a major step in the right direction. I believe Secretary Gates’ decision is key to ensuring that the defense establishment closes the gap between the way it supports current operations and the way it prepares for future conventional threats."
McCain also said he greatly appreciates that Gates "continues to place the highest priority on supporting the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.”
-- Chris Castelli