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Hill Won't Pass Defense Policy Bill

The presumptive chair of the House Armed Services Committee told reporters today that for the first time in many years the Congress will not pass a defense policy bill, known technically as the defense authorization bill.

Rep. Buck McKeon acknowledged the lack of a bill would be a blot on the HASC copy book, raising fundamental questions about the committee's purpose and power. In some years, when Congress has passed an authorization bill after a spending bill, authorizing lawmakers have bemoaned their lack of influence over military program and policy. And that, after all, is their currency.

But McKeon also told reporters that some of the important defense policies -- continuing to build and fund the F-136 engine for the Joint Strike fighter, for example -- could be inserted in a Continuing Resolution. However, he also revealed that House Democrats, shattered though they may be by the recent election, have not shared any information with Republicans about the prospects for either a CR or an omnibus spending bill. "We are not even hearing any hints whether it's a CR or an omnibus bill," he said.

McKeon made other news, saying:

There would not be any troop cuts if he becomes HASC chairman; he still supports the F136; he wants to resurrect a war resolution for the global war on terror; the chairmen of the House committees should be in place by the end of November.

McKeon also restated his opposition to any defense cuts, saying reductions at a time when the country is fighting two wars "doesn't make sense." He acknowledged that, "we're going to have a battle on our hands" when some on Capitol Hill push for substantial cuts. He also said America's continuing world leadership "is at stake" should the country cut DoD spending. "A defense budget in decline portends an America in decline," Rep. McKeon said. Allies won't fill such a void, he said, pointing to Britain's substantial defense cuts. Instead, China will step into the breach. To prevent that, the U.S. must boost the number of Aegis ships it buys and boost spending on missile defense.

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