Lawmaker: ‘Lean Future’ for Defense Budget

NGAUS Washington Report
April 17, 2018

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told the defense secretary last week that a budget deficit of $1 trillion jeopardizes continued increases for defense spending.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was on Capitol Hill to testify about the fiscal 2019 Pentagon budget request of $686 billion. But Smith said the two-year budget approved by Congress last month may be the last to have defense spending hikes.

“While 2018 and 2019 are great, I hope you are also planning for a lean future, because we are looking at a trillion-dollar deficit this year,” he said.

Defense News, which reported on the hearing, says the Congressional Budget Office estimates the 2019 deficit will be $981 billion and more than $1 trillion for following years.

Smith said increased spending and the tax cuts signed into law require a hard look at upcoming budgets. He pointed out that budget caps will return in 2020 and 2021 and asked Mattis if he could accept a cut of $80 billion. Mattis said it would leave too little to adequately defend the nation.

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., had similar concerns, but from the other side of the aisle. His questions prompted Mattis to admit that the Pentagon budget request was a lot of money. But, he added, defense spending was 5.7 percent of gross domestic product in 1985 and 3.1 percent of GDP in the 2019 budget request.

“We believe America can afford survival,” he said. “I recognize the competing and very tough decisions on domestic spending, on health care and on defense. I can only tell you we will spend every dollar as wisely as we can.”