John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, next week plans to offer an amendment on the floor to the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill raising the statutory cap on defense spending by at least $17 billion.
McCain’s approach attacks head-on the two-year bipartisan budget agreement reached last year to lift the caps on both defense and non-defense spending, reported CQ Roll Call. It almost certainly will cause a split along partisan lines as well as between defense hawks and fiscal conservatives.
“I don’t know whether or not this amendment will succeed, but the Senate must have this debate and the Senate must choose a side,” he said Thursday at the Brookings Institution. McCain later added that he may seek $18 billion, rather than $17 billion.
The extra funds would pay for weapons modernization and also halt planned cuts in Army end strength.
McCain’s plan for increasing Pentagon funding to restore shortfalls in military readiness and capacity contrasts with the approach House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) adopted in crafting his chamber’s version of the annual defense policy bill. That measure, which the House approved Wednesday, calls for allocating $18 billion in overseas contingency operations account (OCO) funds for base budget items not requested by the administration.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the White House have criticized that approach for shortchanging overseas operations. Under the House legislation, the OCO account would run out at the end of April, forcing the next administration to request supplemental spending. The White House has threatened to veto the House bill over the budget maneuver.
“My friends in the House and I share the same goal of restoring these arbitrary cuts to military capability and capacity,” McCain said. “The House has adopted one approach. The Senate has adopted a different path to reach the same objective,” he said.