Carter: GOP budget will force decisions ‘none of us want’

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is greeted by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee budget hearing on Capitol Hill, May 6, 2015.



WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that the current GOP defense budget for 2016 is a “road to nowhere” that will leave the military in the lurch this fall.

The secretary again warned lawmakers, this time in the Senate, about plans to use an emergency war fund to cover daily defense expenses, saying it will result in a White House veto and force drastic and hasty decisions by Pentagon planners.

The Pentagon began pushing back in March against an agreement by the Republican majority in Congress to stick to a $523 billion defense spending cap — at least on paper — while at the same time pumping $94 billion to the military through the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, which is not subject to the cap.

“We will yet again have to make very hasty and drastic decisions to adjust to the failure to have an adequate DOD budget – decisions that none of us want to be made,” Carter said in testimony before the Appropriations Committee.

The secretary’s testimony called to mind furloughs, cutbacks and government shutdown scares that resulted when Congress failed to pass a budget in the past.

It comes as the Senate crafts its version of the authorization and appropriations bills that make up the defense budget.

Carter has repeatedly told lawmakers that President Barack Obama will veto any budget bill that maintains the mandatory caps, often called sequestration, in the base budget.

Many lawmakers have said the OCO plan is not ideal. The pot of money was designed to fund emergency needs during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tapping it has been criticized from both sides of the political aisle.

But no other political deal has emerged on Capitol Hill to head off the cap, which is set to begin in October and would allow only a small increase in military spending.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., ranking member of the appropriations committee, criticized the OCO increase as a “gimmick” and would keep the Defense Department lurching from one crisis to the next in an increasingly dangerous world.

“I believe this effort is not the right way to address this problem,” Durbin said.

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter listens to opening statements during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee budget hearing on Capitol Hill, May 6, 2015.

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