Congress, Strategy, and Hard Choices

Although the recent passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act and its accompanying appropriations bill has provided some much needed fiscal certainty to military planners in the short term, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) chided his colleagues and interest groups for shying away from hard defense spending choices. “We have tamped down two years of sequester, and while it is helpful… we have the prospect of seven more years (of sequester), and no real clear picture as to how that is going to be handled,” Smith told reporters in Washington Thursday. The biggest challenge Congress must navigate is working with the Defense Department to come up with a “strategic plan,” he added. “Everyone is still of the mindset . . . we were at three years ago, in terms of projection about what DOD is going to spend…and that’s gone. We’re in a different world,” said Smith. Interest groups are just circling the wagons between the Pentagon and Capitol Hill, he added. “Too many are just saying no. No BRAC, no changes to the Guard and Reserve, no shrinkage to the size of the Navy,” he said. “We need a strategic response to Congress other than just, no don’t cut that.” Smith said he is hoping the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review will help lay out a vision “based on what the realistic budget is.”