A top Republican Congressman just came out and said what many of his colleagues tried to tell Pentagon leaders in this latest round of budget hearings: We are not buying what you’re selling.
“We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. “What we get from the Pentagon is a budget-driven strategy not a strategy-driven budget.”
Everyone is falling over in shock that a Republican would dare question the generals, especially after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and U.S. Sen. John McCain has accused President Obama of not listening to his generals advice on Afghanistan.
Ryan, the chair of the House Budget Committee, went further saying the retired and active generals will fully admit offline that their budgets don’t fall in line with what they want.
“I think there is a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon budget which is not really a true, honest and accurate budget,” he said. “When you confront military experts – retired or active – they concede these things to us.”
The Pentagon responded with a milquetoast statement from spokesman George Little.
“The Secretary of Defense has been very clear with the military leadership in this department that they should provide independent military advice and be as straightforward as possible with members of Congress,” Little said. “That is a solemn obligation. We value Congress’s oversight role and the secretary expects honest, straightforward input from our military leadership and he believes that’s precisely what they do on a military basis time and time and time again.”
The question remains, though, if Ryan’s accusation is anything more than verbalizing the utter disregard some Congressmen have had with the Pentagon’s recommendations — most notably coming from the Air Force.
Congress has lined up to take shots at the Air Force’s decision to cut the Guard’s budget more so than active duty. Whenever Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz explains that their analysis found this to be the best way forward, Congress has essentially asked to check their homework, or redo the analysis.
Same goes for the recommendation to reopen the Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Congress is up in arms over how the Pentagon came to the conclusion that they could save money by closing bases after they still haven’t started saving money on the last round of BRAC.
It’s Congress’ role to question the military. This is how the founding fathers wanted it after all. The military answers to Congress, although you’d think it’s the opposite anytime a lawmaker dares to question “his generals’ advice.”
Of course, it’s a whole other can of worms when you start questioning the integrity of these generals. For this, Ryan stands to lose some political points. And don’t be surprised if Obama’s team replays that line throughout his re-election campaign.
What’s really surprising, though, is the chorus of questions coming from the GOP or the Democrats regarding the Pentagon’s budget-driven strategy. I mean these are the same lawmakers that penned and signed the Budget Control Act that dictates what could amount to over a trillion dollars in cuts to the Defense Department.
America’s generals had no choice but to write this year’s budget based on the country’s fiscal realities, and not based solely on how many soldiers they really want or how many gadgets they could install on the next generation long range bomber.
And maybe that’s not completely awful as the rest of the country tightens their waist belts to avoid the impending debt doom.