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HASC chairman Smith: ‘I see a big fight coming’ over defense budget

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (New America/Flickr)
October 21, 2020

House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chair Rep. Adam Smith says he predicts a fight will erupt over the U.S. defense budget.

In a call with reporters on Wednesday, Smith said there’s a divide on views toward cutting the defense budget, with Republicans wanting to spend more and Democrats wanting to cut, and neither having sound strategies in place to justify either position. “I see a big fight coming,” he said.

Smith said he disagrees with a 10 to 20 percent cut to the defense budget that his Democrat colleagues have pushed for. In fact, he had voted against Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan’s amendment to cut the defense budget by 10 percent in July.

“Would I commit to a 10 or 20 percent cut? No, I would not,” he said on Wednesday. “I’m unconvinced that our national security policy would be what it needs to be if we cut the budget 10 or 20 percent.”

The HASC is in charge of the defense budget and determines where the funding is allocated. While Smith has been critical of wasteful defense spending, he’s equally critical of irrational defense cuts.

Smith also took aim at his colleagues who are pushing for defense cuts without a strategic plan in place.

“There has to be national security policy behind the cuts,” he said. “It can’t just be ‘I want to spend money elsewhere because I don’t like the Defense Department.’”

Smith said there is “an aggressive push” by some who claim the U.S. military a global threat and a destabilizing force. “I don’t agree with that,” Smith said.

Smith also criticized Republican’s approach to the defense budget, which he said is “spend more money, buy more stuff, and therefore we’ll be better.”

“I’m not impressed by throwing numbers out there to make people feel tough and strong,” Smith said, adding that deterring adversaries is not just about military strength alone, but also depends on partnerships and allies. “An excessive reliable on military deterrence is a mistake,” he added.

Instead, Smith said he favors a flatline cut of approximately $10 billion to $20 billion lower. “Somewhere in 720 to 740 [billion] range going forward,” he explained.

Earlier this month, Smith said that a 20 percent defense cut was not “rational policy,” adding that there were “extremists” on both sides of the political aisle.

Despite the “fight” expected with the defense budget, Smith doesn’t anticipate anything getting in the way of the budget passing in December.