So far most of the talk about the next Pentagon budget has been relatively optimistic and cautious. The Gates Pentagon clearly believes it must maintain spending at or above current levels to support forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and buy weapons for future conflicts.
But that view is clearly not shared by some Democrats. As a GOP email screamed this afternoon: "HOUSE DEMOCRAT CALLS FOR $150 BILLION CUT TO DEFENSE SPENDING."
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told a Massachusetts newspaper yesterday that "the Pentagon has to start choosing from its many weapons programs."
The paper quotes Frank saying that the U.S. doesn't "need all these fancy new weapons." And he is not alone among Democrats assuming that defense spending must drop.
Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.), chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, told Congressional Quarterly on Oct. 2 that the Pentagon will have to choose between the size of the Army and paying for weapons. Of course, Congress recently passed legislation requiring 65,000 new Army troops and 27,000 new Marines over the next five years.
The GOP quotes one of the two contenders to become ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), saying such a cut would be "reckless" and could lead the US to repeat previous mistakes when the country has made large cuts to the military. "It would be unconscionable to repeat the mistakes of the past on the back of nearly a decade of direct combat operations." McHugh does concede that "current economic conditions will likely demand tough choices—but these choices should not be at the expense of our men and women in uniform."