House Budget Committee Chairman accuses generals of lying

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) defended his proposal to increase defense spending well above the Pentagon’s budget by accusing top military leaders of misleading Congress.

“We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget,” Ryan said on Thursday.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took issue with Ryan’s comments.

“There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus … calling us, collectively, liars,” Dempsey told the Wall Street Journal. ”My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget.”

Ryan later tried to backtrack from his statements, claiming that he had “misspoke.”

“I was clumsy in how I was describing the point I was trying to make,” Ryan told CNN’s Candy Crowley.

Read more: Pentagon seeks to reshape U.S. military into a leaner, stronger & more versatile force amid steep budget cuts

The Pentagon requested a budget of $525 billion and overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget of $88 billion for fiscal year 2013. Implementing the new Defense Strategic Guidance would save more than $487 billion over the next 10 years.

“This budget will maintain our military’s decisive edge and help sustain America’s global leadership. It will preserve our ability to protect our vital national interests and to execute our most important missions,” Dempsey testified in February. “We will be a military that is able to do more than one thing at a time—to win any conflict, anywhere.”

The Ryan plan would push defense spending to $554 billion for fiscal year 2013 – a $29 billion increase from the Pentagon’s requested budget – and provide up to $6.2 trillion in military spending over the next decade even after the conclusion of two large-scale wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the Ryan budget would shift all the defense sequester cuts to domestic programs. Ryan said the spending increase is needed to pay for replacing old equipments and developing new weapons, such as the Joint Strike Fighter program contracted to Lockheed Martin.


Excerpt from the National Journal Q&A with Rep. Paul Ryan on March 29, 2012: 

Kristin Roberts, Budget & Economy Managing Editor for National Journal

“Your budget actually increases money for defense and eliminates the sequester – at least discussions of delay going on. This is actually contrary to the guidance from the Pentagon. Why did you choose – why did the [budget] committee choose to go against the advice of the generals?”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Chairman of the House Budget Committee 

“We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget.

“I believe that the President’s budget, by virtue of the fact that when he released his budget number about $500 billion, was the number was announced at the same time they announced the beginning of their strategy review of the Pentagon’s budget. So what we get from the Pentagon is more of a budget-driven strategy, not a strategy-driven budget.

“We take $300 billion out of the defense base. So if we’re using apples to apples, Leon [Panetta] says he’s cutting $478 billion out of defense. We’re cutting $300 billion out of defense, out of their baseline. And so we do believe money can be taken from the Pentagon.

“Any agency that gets $700 billion a year, when you add it all up, is going to have wastes and inefficiencies – procurement and all the rest. We want to get savings there too. But let’s not forget we’re at war. Let’s not forget we’re stretching our Guards and Reserves, who have multiple call-ups very far. We have end strength issues. We have equipment issues. And we have a dangerous planet. We have a dangerous world.

“And so we don’t want to have a budget-driven strategy that hollows out defense, which we think the President’s budget does.

“So we keep defense spending level, which is about $4 billion above where the President’s budget is, and we have 0.25% real growth after that.

“So the increase is 0.25%. So it’s really sort of flat-funded. And we believe that puts enough pressures on the Pentagon to get rid of the waste and the inefficiencies while also giving the troops what they need and the equipment they need to be safe and successful.

Kristin Roberts, Budget & Economy Managing Editor for National Journal

“I want to go back to the first thing you said. You don’t believe the generals? I mean, this is not an Obama defense budget. We saw all of the combatant commanders. We saw all of the service chiefs stand up and say this is actually what we need. And this would not be the first time – this would not be odd for a defense budget to decline after conflicts.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Chairman of the House Budget Committee 

“So what I believe is that this budget does hollow out defense. I believe this budget goes beyond where we ought to go to have a strong national defense, to keep people safe.

“I think they’re using budget gimmicks as well.

“They’re pushing the Joint Strike Fighter out to another 5-year window, keeping the number of planes they want to buy but stretching it out, which means it costs more per copy. They’re plowing base spending into the supplemental. They’re putting their drawdown funds into the supplemental bill.

“So I think there’s a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon’s budget, which is not really a true, honest and accurate budget. And so when you confront military experts, retired or active, they concede these things to us.

“And so what I think we ought to do is we have an honest Pentagon budget, put the screws to the Pentagon because there’s waste. But let’s not forget that this is the first responsibility of the federal government and we have a more dangerous world.

“If we have this new Pacific strategy, that means you have to have a Navy and an Air Force that can extend its reach into these areas and this budget doesn’t do that.

“So I think the strategy doesn’t match the budget. Because I think what is going on here is this is a budget-driven strategy, not a strategy-driven budget.”

Kristin Roberts, Budget & Economy Managing Editor for National Journal

“Why do you say that the strategy doesn’t match the budget? The strategy actually came out before the budget did. The strategy was written by the Defense Department. What kind of knowledge do you have about the Defense Department’s needs to counter the future threats that the Defense Department doesn’t have?”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Chairman of the House Budget Committee 

“So they think they need a 313 ship Navy. They’re not going to come anywhere close to that with this budget. The air wings they believe they need aren’t anywhere near being funded in this. The equipment that is atrophying – that the replacements they’re pushing out another 5-years.

“So what was said before this budget was released and what is said after the budget was released are two different things.”



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