Mr. BLUMENAUER. Today, the House will debate the Defense Authorization Act for the next fiscal year. While nothing is more important than protecting America while keeping our men and women in uniform safe, the authorization before us today wastes too much of our Nation's precious wealth and represents yet another missed opportunity for badly-needed reform.
H.R. 4310, unfortunately, highlights Congress's inability to make hard choices on defense spending. It opts for an all-of-the-above strategy and puts the funding of an already bloated military budget ahead of any semblance of fiscal responsibilities. If passed, the authorization would represent 57 percent of our total discretionary budget.
It's clear to most people outside Congress that we can no longer separate national security from fiscal responsibility. Congress needs to get that message. Our constituents certainly understand.
Last week, a Stimson Center poll showed that, on average, Americans feel that the defense budget should be reduced by 18 percent next year. Instead, this bill will decrease spending by less than one-half of 1 percent after 13 consecutive years of increase.
While budget hawks and military experts agree we need to cut defense spending, this year's defense authorization provides $8 billion more than the cap for the defense budget set by the Budget Control Act, which both parties supported and enacted into law to solve last summer's manufactured debt ceiling crisis.
Many supporting the bill will raise a false choice between defending America or rebuilding and renewing America, its infrastructure, and our economy. We can and we must do both. Spending too much for the wrong people to do the wrong things will undermine the very security at home we seek to buy through more military spending. Crumbling bridges and roads, failing schools, and a massive national debt all pose a greater national threat to America's power abroad than right-sized defense spending.
We know how to do this. We have had a cascade of plans, ranging from the Cato Institute to the Bowles-Simpson to progressive think-tanks. All would meet our 21st century need for national defense while keeping promises to future generations here at home.
In addition to ending the war in Afghanistan more quickly, there are many ways to decrease defense spending. Increased efficiency in naval deployment can reduce the need for battleships. We don't need a growing supercarrier fleet. The United States' 11 aircraft carriers add up to more than the rest of the world combined, and many of the countries that have aircraft carriers are our allies.
The current level of investment in our nuclear arsenal with capabilities that correspond to no real military challenge makes no sense and wastes hundreds of billions of dollars.
Unfortunately, the Republican leadership either can't or doesn't want to work towards a balanced approach to reduce defense spending. This was illustrated by the response to an amendment I offered in the Budget Committee last week. Instead of making tough choices on defense spending, our Republican colleagues decided to give the Pentagon even more than they asked for and provide them this funding in part by eliminating food stamp benefits for 2 million people, reducing benefits for 44 million more, curtailing Meals on Wheels, and eliminating school lunches for 280,000 children.
The level of spending in today's defense authorization is absurd. But more shocking is what Americans are being forced to give up to continue funding the Pentagon at this level.
Congress needs to show some leadership and ability to make difficult choices. That's why I'm leading, along with Representatives LEE and FRANK, an amendment to cut defense spending for the next fiscal year by the $8 billion that would align the bill with the level already authorized and written into law last fall.
We can and should go further, but at the very least most should be able to agree that Congress ought to play by the rules we created, not sidestepping them at the expense of struggling families, disadvantaged school children, and our seniors. Unless we are able to fix this bill, I strongly urge my colleagues to vote ``no.''