Secretary of Defense and House Armed Services Chairman Square Off
Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and a happy Mother's Day! Another busy week here at NGAUS as the House takes up the defense authorization bill as soon as Wednesday and will need a couple days to finish it. The full House Appropriations Committee is slated to mark up the Military Construction measure on Wednesday. Military Construction appropriations will see subcommittee and full-committee markups this week in the Senate as well. As for the Defense spending bill, it'll come before the full House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, we're told, but probably won't see action in the Senate Appropriations Committee until next month.
Also, as you may have heard on Friday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., fired off a scathing letter responding to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta's criticism that day of House Republicans for authorizing defense programs the Pentagon hasn't sought. McKeon's missive justified particular decisions in his committee's defense authorization bill for fiscal 2013 (HR 4310) — on end strength, Global Hawks, Navy cruisers, Air Guard assets, Tricare and missile defense.
Of particular note is what Chairman McKeon says about the Air National Guard. He writes:
"Air Guard Assets: The debate over reductions to the Air Guard is well known. Your own staff seemed so unsure of their decision-making process that they took the unprecedented step of allowing the Council of Governors to propose an alternative approach after the budget had been submitted to Congress.
Moreover, we received your communication requesting a change in the President's budget request on the Air Guard assets, underscoring the Department's uncertainty about this proposal. Balancing the needs of the states against the requirements of the federal government is one of Congress's responsibilities. In this case, the committee believes that while some of these assets may be redundant to the Department of Defense, they remain vital to governors who have important roles as first responders in a time of crisis. The committee is also acutely aware that the services have relied heavily on their respective Reserve Components over the past 10 years of conflict and have embraced the operational reserve as a practice versus a concept. The Guard and Reserves can play a pivotal role in the "reversibility" principle upon which the President's defense strategy depends. As with all the programs in the bill, the committee did not simply restore funding for aircraft, but also for personnel and operational costs, leaving no need for you to make tradeoffs."
Right on, Mr. Chairman!