Last week, Representative Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R–CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), took issue with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s criticism of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that recently passed the committee by a vote of 56–5. The combination of the President’s FY 2013 budget request and the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) would reduce the military’s personnel levels and force structure to the point that it could no longer protect U.S. vital interests and keep U.S. security commitments around the world. The HASC’s bill seeks to undo this damage.
One of Secretary Panetta’s criticisms is that HASC’s FY2013 NDAA exceeds caps prescribed by the BCA. Chairman McKeon responds that “in proposing a defense budget that exceeds the BCA caps, the President himself acknowledges the BCA caps are too low to meet the core needs of the new defense strategy, much less address any of the vulnerabilities inherent in that strategy” and that the NDAA is designed to prevent these vulnerabilities.
Secretary Panetta “asserted that every dollar added to the defense authorization will come at the expense of another critical national security program.” The chairman’s response proves the Secretary wrong: “In crafting the budget, House Republicans were careful to identify other non-defense budget sources to accommodate the needed increase in national security accounts while complying with the overall BCA budget targets.”
McKeon said the bill does not contain earmarks or “pet projects” in “larger accounts that would force you [Secretary Panetta] to make the tradeoffs to which you referred. Wherever we [the HASC members] have restored programs, platforms, or activities, we have also restored the manpower and operation and maintenance funding needed to sustain them.”
In addition, the HASC version of the bill authorizes $100 million for an environmental study regarding placing ballistic missile defense interceptors on the East Coast. These interceptors would be capable of defending U.S. territory more effectively against ballistic missile attacks, including short-range missiles carrying electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warheads that could be launched from ships. This is a step in the right direction, as the Obama Administration has not only underfunded the missile defense program but also demonstrated a will to cave in to Russian demands. Recently, President Obama told Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would be more “flexible” after the election regarding the missile defense program—while the Russians are objecting to even modest U.S. plans for fielding missile defenses.