WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta slammed a House panel on Thursday for adding billions of dollars to President Barack Obama’s defense budget, including money for a new East Coast missile defense site that the military says is unnecessary.
Just hours after the House Armed Services Committee approved its $642 billion spending blueprint, Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the panel’s additions ignored the careful strategic review that was the basis for the 2013 budget proposal. They warned that if the Pentagon is prevented from retiring aging ships and aircraft or reducing the size of the force, it might have to cut training or equipment.
“If members try to restore their favorite programs without regard to an overall strategy, the cuts will have to come from areas that could impact overall readiness.” Panetta told reporters. “There is no free lunch here.”
The bill’s total is $8 billion more than what Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to last summer in a deficit-cutting agreement. The spending blueprint outlines a base defense budget of $554 billion, including nuclear weapons spending, plus $88 billion for the war in Afghanistan and counterterrorism efforts. The panel voted 56-5 for the measure early Thursday morning after more than 15 hours of bitter, partisan debate.