Congress has come to a virtual standstill on making decisions about defense spending, Politico reported.
"It used to be in the past when you do this, it was fairly easy," GOP Rep. Rob Wittman, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, told the political news website. "You just move the top line and then you fit everything in."
He added, "What we're doing is saying, 'The top line is fixed,' and there's going to be some very spirited discussion about how do we make those priority discussions. And I don't expect everybody's going to leave satisfied."
The disputes, caused by lawmakers acting in their own states' interests, ultimately result in an inability to move forward with new defense equipment and fulfill some of the longer term priorities of the Pentagon.
For example, New Jersey and California members want Congress to require the Air Force to buy a minimum of 22 new KC-46A Pegasus tankers before it can begin divesting its existing KC-10 Extenders, Politico says. But North Carolina members would say the Air Force cannot deactivate the 440th Airlift Wing, based at Fort Bragg, while Arizona and Georgia members argue their Air Force must keep the fleet of A-10 Warthog attack jets.
There is a long list of similar disputes, Politico reported.
"This is not the way that intelligent, responsible people should be acting. I guess it's no surprise, but it is a disappointment," Virginia Democratic Rep. Jim Moran, a longtime defense appropriator, told Politico.
"We criticize CEOs for making decisions that are based solely upon improving their performance for the next quarter at the expense of long-term economic viability… Here we do the same damn thing."
Republicans argue that the solution is to spend more on defense, but Democrats say Congress should raise taxes, make some cuts, eliminate sequestration, and turn over more control to the Pentagon to determine these types of decisions.
Part of the problem, said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, is that decisions about the budget are inherently short-sighted. Defense spending is done on an a year-to-year, basis, making it difficult to make longer term decisions and priorities.
"I wish I could say that we'd ever be able to convince the Congress to do a two-year budget cycle. But that's been talked about for years, so I really don't see that on our horizon," James told Politico.
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