The chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee told a Navy audience Wednesday that despite the concerns over the budget deficit, the nation was not spending enough on defense.
They could start cutting in other areas of government spending that he said were not necessary, and maybe not even constitutional, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., said. He advocated returning to "first principles" and fund those things the federal government was intended to do, including "providing for the common defense."
The idea of cutting the total budget by taking a certain percentage from everything was "stupid," Akin told the Surface Navy Association conference in Arlington, Va.
Akin said he was confident the large contingent of new conservative Republicans in the House would understand their constitutional responsibility was to properly fund the national defense.
While acknowledging the recent notice of China's major improvements in military technology, including possible operational capability of an anti-ship ballistic missile and first flight of an F-22-like stealthy fighter, Akin said a greater threat to the Navy was internal, in the way the government spends taxpayer money.
Part of the problem with the way the government spends is that Congress is "an old institution" and its organization is "all messed up," the congressman said. He singled out the fact that the authorizing committees, such as Armed Services, had no real power over funding, which is controlled by the Appropriations Committee. He called for unifying the authorization and appropriations process, while acknowledging that veteran lawmakers would resist.
Earlier at the SNA conference, the Navy's No. 2 officer said the service's leaders are "going to have to be more aggressive" in reaching out to the lawmakers and aides who will shape their authorization and funding.
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the vice chief of naval operations, also said it was "incredibly hard" for the services to operate under the continuing resolution approved by the lame-duck Congress in December to fund the government, instead of the normal full-year appropriations. The CR extends the fiscal 2010 funding levels, with some minor adjustments, and covers only ongoing programs.
"The major problem of a continuing resolution is, we're just continuing," the admiral said. "Everything that's a new start, we can't get started," he said.
The "antiquated rules" of a CR impose other restrictions on how the services can spend their funds, making it difficult to manage the money, Greenert added.
He said the Pentagon would send a report to Congress this month explaining the "impact" of continuing with the CR beyond the current March end point. Then Congress will have to decide how to continue for the rest of the fiscal year, he said.