WASHINGTON - The nation's military leaders on Tuesday welcomed a sweeping House Republican spending measure to keep the government operating through September, saying it would ease some of the pain of automatic, across-the-board budget cuts hitting the Pentagon.
The GOP bill unveiled Monday would still impose some $43 billion in defense cuts over the next seven months, but it would boost money for military readiness, a top priority for the Pentagon.
"It would mitigate at least one-third of our problem," said Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, who earlier has described the impact of the automatic cuts, from a delay in upgrading barracks at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., to slowing expansion of Arlington National Cemetery.
The head of the Navy, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, said the difference for the service would be like night and day, with operations allowed to move ahead such as moving carriers and amphibian ships.
The military has complained about the combination of across-the-board cuts and the government operating at last year's spending levels. The bill the House is expected to vote on Thursday would avert a government shutdown later this month.
The legislation combines updated 2013 budgets for the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, providing much-needed increases for military operations, while the rest of the government operates basically on autopilot.
However, the bill would leave the automatic cuts in place - a 5 percent reduction in domestic agencies and 7.8 percent for the Defense Department.
The members of the Joint Chiefs detailed the impact of the cuts, from military construction projects on hold to furloughs.
Marine Corps Gen. James Amos said he was heartened by the legislation.