Thornberry Urges Congress to Approve Defense Budget

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) urged Congress to quickly pass a clean defense budget that is not weighed down by outside issues. HASC photo.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) Tuesday criticized members of Congress “on both sides of the aisle” who acknowledge the need for more defense spending, but tie it to such other issues as continuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program.

“If your sister or brother is a pilot who needs to be trained for a major military engagement on the Korean Peninsula, you are telling that person, you can’t have the training you need, you can’t have the planes fixed until we get a DACA deal,” he said.

Thornberry made the comments as Congress is facing a Jan. 19 spending deal deadline to avert a government shutdown, during a wide-ranging breakfast meeting with a group of Washington reporters.

“Personally, I would do just about anything to fix this problem, including vote for things that I might not support otherwise,” he said. “But I am increasingly disturbed that support for our military is being tied to some other issue, some other agenda,” he said, adding that he was concerned that on the DACA deal, for example, “some people may not want to resolve the issue” but instead want to “have the issue out there because they think it’s to their political advantage.”

On North Korea, Thornberry said he thinks the Trump administration is “very seriously looking at what would be involved with military options when it comes to North Korea.”

“We have to be prepared for a Korean contingency and we need to show that we’re prepared,” he said, adding that he thought such contingency preparations are underway.

In other issues, Thornberry told reporters it is “too early to say” whether changes to military space organization included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act has work, but said he is watching it carefully. A major question, he said, is whether the Air Force can “culturally handle space as a separate, but just as important, domain of warfare as it does air operations.”

“You can move boxes around, you can spend more money—and clearly we need to—but you still have to give it the priority that is required, not only for war fighting, but for our national day-to-day life,” he said.

He pointed to rising concerns by “those of us who have received the classified briefings” over the United States’ “ability to continue to depend on space for our daily life.”

“A lot of people are going to be watching very carefully to see whether, under what we have passed, space receives the priority that it should,” he said. “If not, we can go back to some other options.”