Smith: Realistic Strategy Needed to Ensure Proper National Security Funding
By OTTO KREISHER, Seapower Correspondent
WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee says the reason Congress has problems in funding national defense is because the nation cannot afford to spend as much as the national security strategy requires.
While conceding that “we are way underfunding national defense, given what we have set up as a national security strategy,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said Nov. 30, “what is lacking is any sort of realistic strategy.”
The strategy needs to change because “we do not have the money to do what it requires,” Smith told a Defense Writers Group breakfast.
But that gap between stated needs and resources extends to the overall federal budget, he said, because “the appetite for programs outmatches the willingness to fund” the government.
“There is no solution. Every single option on the table is politically impossible.”
Because of that, Smith said he fears that Congress will not be able to pass a full-year funding bill before the current continuing resolution (CR) runs out Dec. 8, so there could be a government shutdown of at least 24 hours, and then another short-term CR.
And, “a CR is the worst thing we can do for national defense,” he said.
Smith said Congress would have to change the spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act to come anywhere close to the $630 billion in basic defense spending called for in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature.
He said Democrats have gotten past the demand that any increase in the caps for defense has to be matched “dollar for dollar” by increases in domestic issues. But there still is a wide gap between what Republicans and Democrats think should be the balance between defense and non-defense, he said.
Asked what military functions or operations he would give up to bring the defense strategy more in line with what the nation can afford, Smith said “I don’t think we should cease being a global power.” But, he added, “that doesn’t mean we have to do everything” and be involved in all the conflicts in which U.S. forces currently are engaged.
If the national strategy was revised to match the available resources, the military could be trained and equipped for those necessary contingencies, which would help solve the current readiness problems, he said.
Of all the current threats cited by the Defense Department — including Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and violent extremists — Smith said he considered the extremists the biggest threat because “they wake up every morning thinking about how they can kill Americans.”
One area that he would cut is the nuclear deterrent force, which is slated for a massive modernization program covering all legs of the Triad of land- and sea-based ballistic missiles and the strategic bomber force.
Smith said he did not want to change the Triad, but “I think we get by with a lot fewer warheads.”
With the growing threat of a ballistic missile attack from North Korea, Smith did not object to the $400 billion boost for missile defense included in the NDAA. But he said a lot of money could be saved by not funding missile defense systems before they have been proven to work. He included the silo-based national missile defense system among those that were fielded without testing that showed it was reliable and effective.