understood and, I think, most people understand,” Thornberry told
reporters at a breakfast in April.
To further make his case, he added
that it is “absolutely wrong” to
ask the military to go on missions
without funding to adequately prepare and support it.
Both Congress and the administration long have tapped OCO
funds to pay for some base-budget items, using it as a bit of
an overflow valve when money got
tight. But there was typically some
attempt to tie the funding to the
wars, such as replacing older fighters lost in Iraq and Afghanistan
This year, however, both the
scope and the boldness are very
different. Thornberry’s panel made
no bones about its maneuver,
delineating in the funding tables
accompanying the bill specifically
which base-budget items were paid
for out of the war funds. There was
no effort to even try to tangentially
tie these funds to the wars, other
than to say that the military needs
to maintain its stateside readiness
to prepare for future contingencies.
Most Democrats on the panel
support the bill, despite concerns
about the budgetary maneuver.
“At some point, we are going
to have to live within our means,
a means we decided to provide,”
Armed Services ranking member
Adam Smith, D-Wash., said during
the committee’s consideration of
Smith went on to vote for the
bill, which the committee approved
It is unclear how the final authorization measure, which must be
negotiated later this year with the
Senate Armed Services Committee,
will handle the war accounts. But
if House hawks prevail, the must-pass defense bill could run headlong into the president’s veto pen.
That would make it the second
veto in as many years for a bill that
has been enacted annually for more
than half a century. Obama vetoed
the 2016 bill last fall because it
increased the war spending total
to squeeze in base-budget items.
Lawmakers revised the bill before
sending it back through both
chambers and to the White House,
where it was approved.
This time, however, the veto
would occur at the very end of
the administration with a president counting down his days and a
lame-duck Congress that likely will
be eager to gavel out the year.
Thornberry, however, does not
appear concerned about his bill’s
fate, stressing that this administration has threatened to kill the
defense bill every year for a multitude of reasons.
“If it’s not that, it’s something
else,” he said.
House Armed Services
Amendment Would Open
The Draft to Women
In a surprise move, the House Armed
Services Committee approved an
amendment to the defense bill that
would require both men and women
to sign up for the Selective Service.
California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, a retired Marine, offered
the amendment and voted against
it, presumably to spur debate
over Defense Secretary Ashton B.
Carter’s lifting in December of the
combat exclusion for women.
“Right now, the draft is sexist,”
Hunter said in introducing his
language. But he later seeming-
ly argued against the language,
saying that a draft would involve
a “real war” in which those con-
scripted would replace infantry, be
placed directly on the front lines,
with a mission to “rip the enemies’
But the majority of Democrats
on the panel and a few Republicans,
including Personnel Subcommittee
Chairman Joe Heck, R-Nev., backed
“While you may be offering this
as a gotcha amendment, I would
suggest there is great merit,” said
Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier
of California, adding that she
was “delighted” to vote for the
Military leaders, including
Marine Corps Commandant Gen.
Robert B. Neller, have endorsed
extending the draft to women,
which many consider the next logical step in lifting the combat ban.
“It’s my personal view that, based
on this lifting of restrictions for
assignment to a unit MOS [military
occupational specialty], that every
American who’s physically qualified
should register for the draft,” Neller
told the Senate Armed Services
Committee in February.
A Key Concern
The Pentagon’s top acquisition official said his main concern is the
closing gap between the technological advantage of the United States
over that of peer competitors such
as China and Russia.
“I stay awake at night much
more worried about technological superiority than worrying
about acquisition reform or the
mechanics about how we do business,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition,
Technology and Logistics, said May
10 to an audience at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies,
a Washington think tank. “I have
been looking at the intel reports for
six years and nothing in that intervening period of time has made me
less concerned about this. Quite
“There is a significant difference
in the rate of modernization — the
scale and scope, breadth and depth
of modernization — between us
and our most challenging adversaries — because we’re not spending
as much on a new product pipeline.