Aug. 30, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Armed and Ready for Battle

“The next generation of aircraft, ships, vehicles and weapons will have to compete for dollars with military operations,” said Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces.

The proposed $534 billion Pentagon budget — a 4 percent (2 percent in inflation dollars) increase from the previous year — is a drastic change from the Bush years, which opted to separate funding for the wars. The Obama administration has pledged that its current war supplemental request would be its last.

Gates, meanwhile, also announced that the Pentagon would rely on its upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review to evaluate which weapons programs it most urgently needs. Some conservative observers, however, say the committee should look to establish another panel to offer its own conclusions on defense posture.

“The Obama administration has reputedly talked about transparency in government,” said Mackenzie Eaglen of the Heritage Foundation. “A Congressionally mandated panel offers a pragmatic vehicle to ensure transparency in the defense strategy process by creating a hedge against the prevailing opinions in the Pentagon through an alternative and independent evaluation.”

Skelton has not supported the idea, but a Republican aide said some lawmakers are considering it.

After the budget, expect the committee to shift its focus back to the administration’s Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, which is most likely going to dominate news headlines this summer. Skelton also is shopping a proposal that cracks down on cyberspies, which could help protect the Pentagon from future attacks. Last month, Gates acknowledged alleged cyberspies had retrieved information from the Pentagon relevant to its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program with Lockheed Martin.

“There will be an effort to create a solid cyber command,” Skelton said recently. “This will receive a lot of attention in our committee. It is the frontier of national security in the purest form.”

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