The Free Press, Mankato, MN


June 4, 2014

Our View: As the Pentagon cuts, Congress adds

Why it matters: Congress added spending the Pentagon said it didn't need.

Once again Congress has opted to increase defense spending over and above what the Pentagon says it needs. And we wonder why we have a spending and debt problem no matter what party is in charge.

On May 22, the House voted overwhelmingly to approve a $601 billion Pentagon budget that critics say favors parochial yet outdated weapons programs and cuts the training and preparedness budget needed to support a modern-day military.

The Pentagon had proposed cutting the World War II era U-2 spy plane and the A-10 Warthog support aircraft, arguing they were outdated weapons systems no longer needed. The Pentagon also suggested closing some military bases no longer necessary.

But members of Congress whose districts get defense contracts from those systems and whose districts host bases decided they were needed, especially in an election year.

House Democrats and Republicans voted overwhelmingly to approve the budget on a 325-98 vote, according to a report in The Associated Press.

All of Minnesota’s House members voted in favor of the budget with the exception of Minnesota Democrats Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison.

As the war in Afghanistan winds down, Pentagon budget officials figured they could do with a little less, but apparently Congress didn’t see it that way.

While several leaders in Congress defended the action and scoffed at the idea the budget was designed to keep the pork barrel projects coming to Republican and Democratic districts alike, some saw the failure.

“It is not our job to accept the department’s budget as is, but if we are to reject the Pentagon’s cost-saving measures we need to offer alternatives. We didn’t. We ducked every difficult decision,” Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee told the AP. “We played accounting games and cut readiness as we stand by and wait for a miracle. We owe our troops more.”

These kinds of spending decisions where special interests are put above national defense interests seem almost commonplace now.

It’s difficult enough to get agencies to agree to cut their budgets in the first place.

It’s all the more disheartening when Congress decides an agency is not doing enough spending.

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