WASHINGTON — Oklahoma lawmakers with a role in U.S. defense policy slammed proposed Pentagon cuts Tuesday and said President Barack Obama was protecting social spending at the expense of the military.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a frequent critic of the president on national security issues, also blamed the Pentagon for wasting money that could be better spent preparing for conflict.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a series of steps on Monday to reshape the military as the war in Afghanistan ends and budget pressures continue. Those steps include shrinking the Army below what already had been planned, curtailing some shipbuilding, eliminating two aircraft, requiring modestly higher medical payments for some soldiers and retirees and slashing subsidies for commissaries.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, a former U.S. Navy pilot and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he would resist the “reckless cuts.”
“The Obama administration’s runaway spending on entitlement programs is now crowding out the federal government’s ability to perform its most important function — national defense,” bridenstine said.
The budget for the 2015 fiscal year “will downsize America’s military to its smallest Army since 1940, smallest Navy since 1917 and smallest Air Force ever,” he said.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, whose district includes Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill, said the president had not been willing to reform entitlement programs and had chosen “to reach his budgetary objectives by slashing defense spending.”
Cole was among the House Republicans who voted for the recent budget deal that set the overall level of defense spending for this fiscal year and the next. He also voted for the 2011 deal that led to the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
Hagel said Monday that the amount of money approved by Congress for defense in the next two years was below what Obama had requested.
What Hagel presented Monday were proposals for spending the money Congress and the president had allocated. Lawmakers will have to decide what weapons programs will be cut and what the troop levels should be.
Cole, who sits on the subcommittee that oversees defense spending, said, “No amount of technology or restructuring can compensate for the massive hole the president intends to make in our nation’s military.
“Expecting that the world is safe enough to justify such deep reductions shows just how little the president understands military deterrence and the strategic importance of a robust armed forces.”
At a hearing on Tuesday, Inhofe repeated his criticisms of the administration’s strategy toward fighting terrorism and his concerns about the budget cuts.
He added that waste and inefficiency at the Defense Department “is exacerbating unwise budget cuts and robbing precious resources from our warfighters.”
“Every dollar consumed by waste and inefficiency is a dollar that cannot be used to rebuild readiness and defeat our adversaries. This is particularly true in the defense acquisition process,” Inhofe said.