The Pentagon is on the verge of a budget crisis and the blame lies with the Congress, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters during an interview Wednesday.
The U.S. defense budget is being funded through a continuing resolution that authorizes spending at 2010 levels, or about $526 billion. That's $23 billion less than the $549 billion the Obama administration asked for in its budget proposal 11 months ago.
The Washington Post, which took part in the interview, has this to say about the congressional failure to pass the 2011 defense-spending bill:
Congress often drags its feet in budgetary matters, but its deliberations were furtherdelayed by the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives in November. Republicans traditionally have been proponents of robust defense spending. But with the U.S. government facing record deficits, some party leaders have said the Pentagon - which accounts for nearly a fifth of the federal budget - shouldn't escape scrutiny.
For nearly a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Pentagon has benefited from huge spending increases authorized by Congress. With the war in Iraq winding down and federal debts piling up, however, Gates has increasingly had to fight to shield the military from budget cutters.
Gates is apparently worried that a 2011 budget may not get passed at all and that Congress will fund the Pentagon for the entire year at 2010 levels.
The Tea Party influence in Congress seems to be driving an unexpected debate on the Republican side of the aisle over the future of U.S. military spending. The New York Times looks at this apparent split and finds that it's sowing confusion on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon and among military contractors.
To hear the Republican leadership tell it, the once-sacred Pentagon budget, protected by the party for generations, is suddenly on the table. But a closer look shows that even as SpeakerJohn A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, insist on the need for military cuts, divisions have opened among Republicans about whether, and how much, to chop Pentagon spending that comes to more than a half trillion dollars a year.