Defense spending will be focus in budget talks

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

U.S. Rep. Nikki Tsongas, D-Mass., speaks Monday about touring Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the GE EPISCenter in Dayton. Video by Barrie Barber.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Continuing resolution won’t pass without added Defense money, Turner says.

With thousands of Defense Department employees and defense contractors in the region, this news outlet is committing to reporting on the latest news on defense spending at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Pentagon and in Congress.

Less than six weeks prior to the start of a new fiscal year, Congress will have to reach a final budget deal next month or face the prospect of a continuing resolution to avoid a partial federal government shutdown Oct. 1.

But there are not enough votes in Congress to support a continuing resolution unless it includes additional dollars above the prior fiscal year’s spending levels for the military, according to U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton.

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Turner, and fellow House Armed Services Committee member U.S. Rep. Nikki Tsongas, D-Mass., toured Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the General Electric EPISCenter in Dayton on Monday prior to the return of congressional lawmakers next month to work on passage of federal spending bills, including the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

Congress has imposed a continuing resolution as a temporary stop gap measure to avoid a government shut down while lawmakers work out details on a final budget deal. Historically, the resolution kept spending at the previous fiscal year’s level.

Speaking at a Monday press conference at the EPISCenter, Tsongas said while a continuing resolution is “not the answer,” it’s a better option than a government shut down.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James warned this month a long-term continuing resolution of six- to 12-months would be a “bad deal” for the Air Force, delaying the start of dozens of weapons modernization programs and costing the Air Force $1.3 billion.

Turner said additional military funding is needed to respond to the rise in Russian military aggressiveness, Chinese expansion in the South China Sea and ongoing concerns focused on the Islamic State, Iran and North Korea.

The congressman has called for an end to sequestration — or automatic defense budget cuts forestalled with additional funding the past two years. He also said additional funds are needed to deal with readiness shortfalls, stop the draw down in the Army and fund future technology the military relies on to have an edge over adversaries.

“This is all going to come down to what the Obama administration is going to do as it’s walking out the door,” the congressman said. “… But I can tell you this, there are not enough votes in the House to vote for a (continuing resolution) that does not reflect the increase in funding for the Department of Defense.”

A message was sent to a White House spokesman Monday afternoon for comment.

The administration has threatened to veto the defense bill over dozens of concerns, including impeding President Obama’s long-standing pledge to shut down the detention center holding suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Turner and Tsongas have partnered in recent years on bipartisan legislation Congress has enacted addressing military sexual assault reforms.

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