Former Defense chief meets with House Republicans

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Monday inserted himself into the ongoing debate over Pentagon spending, meeting behind closed doors with hawkish House Armed Services Committee Republicans who are on a crusade to protect the military's accounts from further budget cuts.

Rumsfeld, who had an often contentious relationship with lawmakers during his tumultuous time as Pentagon chief, warned committee members about the dangers of assigning any specific amount in cuts to the defense budget before completing a review of the department's strategy and priorities.

"The first responsibility of government is to protect the American people," Rumsfeld told National Journal after the meeting. "It's important to have priorities and a strategy and know what you would like to do and then fund against those priorities and those strategies."

Doing so, he said, would allow the military to weigh risks before being tasked to trim a certain amount from its budget. Rumsfeld did not provide any advice on where to cut, admitting at the outset of the meeting that he is out of date with the military's current spending priorities, said House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif.

Rumsfeld oversaw the Pentagon during a period of historic budget growth fueled by two wars and the desire to modernize the military's aging equipment. But the military's budget, considered off limits for cuts during the last decade, is now one of many targets for deficit reduction.

The Defense Department is in the middle of a review to determine how to trim the $350 billion officials have already been ordered to cut from the Pentagon budget over the next decade. The so-called Super Committee could opt to slash more from defense accounts as they work on a plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. If they fail, they will trigger an automatic $500 billion cut to the Pentagon budget.

Rumsfeld met Monday with an audience of like-minded Republican lawmakers, many of whom have spoken out publicly against further defense cuts. But some of his comments underscored statements made recently by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a former Democratic congressman from California who served as President Clinton's budget director and, later, as his chief of staff.

The two men's politics may differ, but they are in agreement on one thing: Mandatory spending like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is the primary cause for the country's fiscal woes.

"Pay attention to the two-thirds of the federal budget that is in large measure responsible for the size of the debt that we're dealing with," Panetta told reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon last month.

Rumsfeld echoed those remarks after his meeting on the Hill, stressing that there has been significant growth in spending on entitlement programs. The Defense Department's base budget, not including the wars, has roughly doubled over the last 10 years, but defense hawks argue that its share of the overall federal budget is decreasing.

"The thing that worries me most is that people talk about the defense budget as though that's where the deficits and the debt have incurred," Rumsfeld said. "You could wipe out the entire defense budget and not solve the debt problem."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.