Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called on Congress to pass a defense supplemental spending bill before the end of the year to counteract what he called “eight years of neglect of our military” under the Obama Administration. Speaking at the Defense One Summit in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Cotton acknowledged that President Obama had recently called for a similar bill, but said defense budgets have “cannibalized future readiness and modernization.” Cotton said a $26 billion spending bill he previewed on the Senate floor Wednesday could begin to address the problem. He described his bill as a “down payment for the rest of this fiscal year,” a “down payment on readiness,” and a way to “simply fund the outstanding requirements list” handed down by the service chiefs. While he did not discuss details of the proposed bill beyond its $26 billion price tag, Cotton said his goal is to “stop the hemorrhaging in the short-term” and create “breathing space for a rebuilding of our military” in the long-term.
“In national security, the threats we face have to drive the budget,” said Cotton. This principle stands in contrast to his view of domestic spending, where the available budget should drive priorities, he noted. Refusing to comment on his potential role in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, Cotton said “the world’s gotten a lot more dangerous in the last five years,” and called for an increase in military spending that would acknowledge that reality. “There’s not a lot of fat left in the DOD budget” for major systems, Cotton said, though he did call on the Air Force to “eliminate the B-52 and get enough B-21s to replace it.” He also called for the full modernization of the nuclear triad, including ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, saying that because of the nuclear deterrence mission, “there has not been great power conflict in the last 70 years.” Cotton said the US ground-based deterrent offers “a decisive advantage against Russia and against China.” While “submarines can be sunk” and “planes can be downed,” he said, the geographic dispersion of the US ground-based system makes it much more difficult to attack effectively.