Ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Adam Smith (D-WA) said the $716 billion that was slotted for the Defense Department in this year’s budget would “certainly not be there in the future [budgets.]”
As the Ranking member, Smith would in line to become Chairman of HASC should Democrats take back the house in November, which FiveThirtyEight gives a 77 percent chance of happening.
“The number is too high,” Smith told attendees of the Defense News Conference. “We are not in the fiscal position to have the size of the defense budget a lot of people envision when they start sending out all these nightmare scenarios that we have to be prepared for.”
Smith said it comes down to two things: the country’s $22 trillion debt and the decline in dominance since WWII.
“We need to have a realistic defense budget that doesn’t imagine that we’re going to put out every fire on the planet,” he said. “The question is how can we within a reasonable budget and looking at all the priorities … we got debt, we got a deficit, we’ve got infrastructure problems, we’ve got healthcare, education, there’s a whole lot that is necessary to make our country safe, secure, and prosperous and you have to look at it within the entire picture.”
Instead, Smith said he would look to narrow in on what we need for the most pressing threats to national security, bolster alliances and partnerships, advocate for non defense-led policies that can avoid war, cut funding for nuclear weapons (especially low-yield nuclear weapons, which President Trump has endorsed,) and focus on capability, rather than looking purely at the numbers in evaluating readiness.
When pressed on where to cut funds outside of nuclear weapons, Smith said we need to reevaluate the types of conflicts the nation is preparing for.
“Everything that we do in the military there’s a reason for it. We envision ‘Well if North Korea invades South Korea here’s what we need. If China tries to shut down the trading lanes, here’s what we need. If Russia comes rolling into Estonia, here’s what we need.’ And then you sort of pencil it out,” he said. “What we’re going to need to do is take a step back and say we’re not going to be able to prevent all of these calamities just with the military. There are other ways to stop people from doing those things I just described, other than just having a large deterrent.”
Smith also said that under his leadership HASC would step up its role in oversight on other issues: evaluating whether the Space Force should be its own department or a sub-Corps under the Air Force, the deployment of US forces abroad, and the future of LGBTQ servicemembers.
“The way we save money is recognizing that the world is so complex that we have to prioritize,” he said.