Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, was one of 29 Republicans who signed the petition. Above, McKeon in February while visiting service members in Afghanistan. (Sgt Nathan O. Sotelo / Marine Corps)
Bucking the tide that is pushing for spending reductions, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are asking for a $7 billion increase in the $553 billion base defense budget for 2012 requested by the Obama administration.
While acknowledging that cutting federal spending is a top priority in the Republican-controlled House, the committee says defense spending is a special area of the federal budget.
"We should not jeopardize the security of the nation by accepting across-the-board cuts to national defense without regard to the inherent strategic risks," states a letter signed by 29 Republican committee members and sent to the House Budget Committee, which is trying to draft an overall federal spending plan for 2012.
"Republicans must be ever mindful that the strength of our national defense is directly related to the strength of the American economy. But we must also remember we are the party of Reagan," the letter says.
Part of the motivation for seeking an increase is a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that says the $553 billion base defense budget requested by the Obama administration ends up representing an almost 1 percentage point decline in current spending after calculating the cost of current programs.
The Obama administration calculated the 2012 budget to provide a $22 billion increase over the 2010 budget and a modest $1 billion increase over the 2011 request that is still pending before Congress.
The 2012 Obama plan includes $553 billion for the Defense Department, $18.1 billion for the Energy Department's defense-related programs and $7 billion in other defense-related activities. Additionally, the budget requests $117.8 billion for contingency operations.
An increase is no sure thing. So-called Blue Dog Democrats, a group of fiscal conservatives whose votes may be crucial in passing a 2012 budget, unveiled the federal budget guidelines they plan to follow that include the possibility of cutting defense spending.
Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., a co-chairman of the Blue Dog Caucus, said the goal "is to put everything on the table — tax reform, spending cuts, new accountability measures — and to start a real conversation with folks on both sides of the aisle about how to get our country back on a fiscally sustainable path."