U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter accused lawmakers of “budget gimmickry” that could undermine the military’s ability to respond to critical threats.
Carter aired his criticisms during a speech Tuesday at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition, held on the outskirts of Washington, threatening he would advise the president to veto the fiscal 2017 defense spending bill if certain provisions were not removed.
“It raids war funds in a time of war, when we have men and women deployed in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria,” Carter said.
The bulk of his anger was directed at the version of the bill being offered in the House of Representatives, which he said would underfund the country’s war-fighting efforts by $18 billion. He said the legislation would instead allocate the money to “items we didn’t request.”
“It undercuts stable planning and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, dispirits troops and their families, baffles friends and emboldens foes,” Carter said.
Both the House and Senate versions of the bill call for overall military spending of $610 billion. But the version passed by the House Armed Services Committee would move $18 billion from the overseas contingency operations funds into the regular budget, to be used on equipment and manpower needs.
President Barack Obama’s proposed defense budget for next year calls for $582.7 billion in spending. It also requests another $58.8 billion in overseas contingency operations funds to help fight terror in places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.