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Lawmaker urges oversight of DOD budget threats

Feb. 20, 2013 - 05:30PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 20, 2013 - 05:30PM  |  
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A pro-military U.S. House Republican wants lawmakers to examine whether Pentagon officials, while warning about dire consequences of pending spending cuts, will undermine military operations and training to protect underperforming, unnecessary programs.

"There are multiple programs and initiatives within the Department of Defense (DoD) that are ineffective, wasteful, or inconsistent with core functions of the military services," Marine Corps veteran Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to House Armed Services Committee (HASC) leaders.

"I was frustrated to learn that changes recently announced by the services would cut deep into operations funding, while programs that should be reduced or eliminated are protected."

In the letter, sent to Committee Chairman Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., Hunter singled out several programs: "the Navy's Green Fleet initiative, the Army's Distributed Common Ground System and the [Army's] http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/gannett-congressman-duncan-hunter-army-program-needs-more-oversight-021913/">Human Terrain System."

According to Hunter, "these programs are either extremely costly or have questionable relevance as funding priorities in the first place, demanding more oversight and scrutiny by Congress."

Like many other lawmakers from both political parties, Hunter states in the letter he opposes the pending sequestration cut, which would trim planned national defense spending by $500 billion over the next decade unless Congress and the White House agree on a $1 trillion deficit-paring plan by March 1. Hunter called the expected effects of those cuts "serious" in the letter.

Hunter wants lawmakers to closely examine what the military services are threatening to do should the across-the-board cuts be triggered.

Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said his boss wants the HASC's subcommittees to "return" to performing "serious oversight" of the Defense Department.

"In order to fully understand which programs are successful or need more examination, I recommend that each subcommittee within the House Armed Services Committee perform aggressive oversight of troubled programs within their jurisdiction," Hunter wrote McKeon and Smith. "Specifically, I suggest a series of hearings, beginning at the subcommittee level, focusing on programs that are currently experiencing setbacks, capability issues or cost overruns. By doing this, the Committee will have a better understanding of where taxpayers are getting the best return on their investment and our military is best focusing its attention."

The newfound call for scrutiny is because Hunter is "somewhat frustrated and somewhat incredulous" about some of the threats Pentagon officials have been making in recent weeks, Kasper said.

The spokesman questioned why defense brass say they will opt against having a second aircraft carrier strike group in the Middle East because of budget cuts, but fully fund poorly performing programs that "aren't related to the military's core function."

"http://www.navytimes.com/news/2013/02/navy-mayport-florida-sequestration-cuts-030413">The Marine Corps cannot even get the amphibs it needs, but the Navy is out there spending millions on renewable energy," Kasper said.

Hunter's concerns are more about ensuring the military is trained and equipped to perform combat missions, Kasper said. He denied his boss was questioning the spending because of concern over a potential primary challenge from a deficit-hawk tea party candidate.

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