House GOP urges increase in defense spending

House Republicans are urging the Biden administration to seek an increase in defense spending in the upcoming budget request to better compete with China and "fill ongoing readiness gaps."

US Congress House side Shutterstock photo ID: 156615524 By mdgn editorial use only
 

House Republicans are urging President Joe Biden to increase defense spending at least 3% in the upcoming budget proposal to better compete with China and fund modernization efforts in cyber and nuclear capabilities.

"We urge you to reject demands from many on the left to cut or freeze defense spending at current levels," six Republican leaders from the House Armed Services Committee wrote Biden in a letter dated March 4.

"Instead, we respectfully request you continue the progress made under the Trump administration to rebuild our military by requesting a 3 to 5 percent increase over the inflation adjusted FY21 enacted level."

HASC Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) signed the letter, joined by subcommittee counterparts Reps. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.).

Speaking in an online Brookings Institution event on Friday, committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said the focus on the percentage increase is politically hard to ignore, but that "substantively, this is about the least important question that we could talk about."

"How you spend the money is what matters," Smith said, addressing the push for annual 3% to 5% increases in defense spending. "Well, 3% to 5% on what," he asked. "How about we spend the next four or five years figuring out how to get more out of the money that we're spending so that we actually wind up with greater resource,' he said.

Defense spending is expected to remain flat with Democrats leading both congressional chambers and the White House. But the fiscal 2022 budget will be the first submitted without the constraints of the Budget Control Act, and House Republicans stressed that China's national security investments increased as the U.S. plateaued, according to the letter.

"While our defense investments shrank, our adversaries' investments grew. For instance, the Chinese Communist Party increased its defense spending by over 75% in the last decade," the members wrote. "As a result, the Chinese military has gone from an obsolete force barely able to defend its borders to a modern fighting force capable of winning regional conflicts. If we do nothing, over the next decade, China will fully modernize its military, potentially bringing it into parity with our own."

The letter comes as the Biden administration's budget is still in the works.

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