Congress Prepares For A Dogfight With Pentagon Over Military Personnel Cuts

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry told reporters on Thursday that any attempts from the Obama administration to “nickel and [dime] our people to death” in the defense budget won’t fly without a fight.

“That’s not fair to [personnel],” Thornberry said, according to Military Times. “It’s also not a good way to have a coherent pay-and-benefits system.”

Lawmakers already had to fight hard late last year for a personnel pay raise in the National Defense Authorization Act. The result was a compromise. Personnel received a 1 percent pay increase, instead of the originally slated 1.8 percent. (RELATED: Military To Only Receive 1 Percent Increase In Pay, Troops Demoralized)

But a decreased pay raise and a cut in cost-of-living allowances haven’t stopped the Obama administration from considering deeper cuts to personnel pay. The defense budget for fiscal year 2016 is due shortly, and just before the budget heads to Congress, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission will conclude its 18-month long study of pay and benefits.

The report will balance out some of the Obama administration’s gamesmanship, since the White House apparently includes items in the budget that it knows Congress will never pass, according to Thornberry.

President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday didn’t make matters any clearer as to how the inevitable clash between Congress and the Pentagon will unfold. Obama neglected to discuss the caps on spending as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011, resulting in a strong rebuke from Sen. John McCain.

“President Obama’s own military commanders have repeatedly warned of the strategic folly of cutting $1 trillion from our national defense at a time when threats to our security continue to multiply,” McCain said in a statement. “However, the President failed tonight even to mention sequestration, the damage it has already done to our military capabilities and readiness, and the dangerous vulnerabilities it will create if it is not rolled back.”

On Thursday morning, McCain stated that incoming Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will defend the upcoming budget, rather than Secretary Chuck Hagel.

“It’s going to be Carter, so we’re going to delay it some,” McCain said. Carter’s nomination hearing is scheduled for Feb. 4, after which point he will return about a month later to defend the 2016 budget plan.

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