The United States has been "underfunding" but "overusing" the military for at least a decade, so President Donald Trump's call for more funding is a good one, but at the same time, his call for cuts to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are "short-sighted," Rep. Tom Cole said Friday.
"Our pilots aren't getting enough air time," the Oklahoma GOP lawmaker told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "Our equipment is old. We have been at war for 15 years. You need some of these modernizations. These are actually wise investments."
Further, said Cole, the United States is well below where former Defense Secretary Bob Gates had thought it should be on military spending.
"Before he left office, he laid out a long-term budget that, again, would have frankly more money than President Trump is proposing at this point in time," said Cole.
However, Cole said he does not favor cutting the NIH or CDC budgets, as "you're much more likely to die in a pandemic than a terrorist attack," and the agencies are also a part of the national defense.
Trump's budget calls for a "major reorganization" in the NIH, including a cut of $5.8 billion, or about 20 percent of its $30 billion budget, NPR reports. He also calls to "reform" CDC funding, while mentioning a $500 million block grant to states.
"The CDC is what protects you from things like Ebola and Zika," said Cole. "The NIH, we have 1.6 million Americans a year that contract cancer. About 600,000 die. That is more people than died in the Civil War, the bloodiest war in the American history."
In addition, tens of billions of dollars are spent caring for Alzheimer's patients, which is the "right thing to do," Cole said, but in addition, the government should also spend enough money to either find a cure for the disease or at least slow down its progression.
"These, in my view are cuts that are very short-sighted," said Cole. "These are investments the country ought to be making. They are every bit as important as what we do with another Ohio class submarine or with a new F-35. I'm not saying those things aren't important, but these things are important as well."
Cole noted he's from a heavily military district, so Trump's call for increased defense spending would be popular and necessary.
"What the president is trying to do is broadly right and increase defense spending and in ways that don't add to the deficit," said Cole. "What I would suggest he expand and look at the entire budget. That is the real challenge here. You could pay for these things with tweaks and entitlement programs, quite frankly."
In 2014, President Barack Obama proposed means testing for Medicare and other measures to slow down its growth, both of which would yield "tens of billions of dollars over the course of a decade," said Cole, and he hopes Congress considers similar ideas.
"The president is right to send up his priorities," said Cole. "We ought to take them pretty seriously. The emphasis on defense in a fiscally responsible way is correct. We need to work in a $4 trillion budget to find ways to do that."
Meanwhile, Cole said the impact of cuts to the EPA could depend on what parts Trump wants to cut.
"The EPA has already been pared back a lot and I think probably folks don't realize," Cole said. "The budget is about 20 percent smaller than it was in 2010 so it not as if Congress has not been pretty strict with the dollar here. I would have to, to be fair, look at it in more detail.
"Almost half of the EPA's budget is for clean water and tribal grants. I think those are popular and pretty well-served. The regulatory function, no question, they put things in there that are not particularly popular and I don't think particularly helpful.
"We can look at it. I think the EPA will get a haircut but I doubt it will be quite as deep as this budgetsuggests," Cole added.
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