House Budget Chairman Ryan: Defense Cuts on the Table

By Matt Cover | January 7, 2011 | 4:06pm EST

Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee.

( – House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said that Defense Department budget cuts were on the agenda for House Republicans committed to cutting federal spending over the next two years.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Thursday, Ryan said his approach would be to lower the spending caps – the maximum amount of money a federal agency can spend – and let the Defense Department and the House Appropriations Committee work out how the Department spends that money.

“Yes, the way I personally look at these things is let’s lower the caps and then have them fight underneath the caps,” said Ryan. “You can’t throw $700 billion at a government agency and not expect waste to occur.”

Ryan said he would reduce the entire amount of money available to the federal government for the coming fiscal years, letting the Appropriations Committee prioritize where it thinks the deepest cuts should occur.

Ryan made clear that defense would remain a priority, saying, “everybody wants a peace dividend budget, but we’re not at peace.”

“I would reduce the entire discretionary [spending] cap,” Ryan said. “Then we prioritize. I don’t try to do the job of the Appropriations Committee. They’re pretty guarded about their jurisdiction.”

“So, the way I look at defense spending is: number one – let me say something that’s probably counter to what you thought I was going to say – everybody wants to have a peace dividend [defense] budget, but we’re not at peace. You can’t have a peace dividend budget when we have two wars going on.

“Number two, there is waste in the Pentagon [and] we have to go after that waste,” he said. “We have to save money in the DOD [Department of Defense] budget.”

Ryan also said that his main goal with defense spending was to eliminate waste in the budget so that Congress didn’t have to continually provide supplemental funding outside of the normal budgeting process.

A ground-based interceptor missile is launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on December 5, 2008 (Photo: Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance)

That way, Ryan explained, necessary national defense items wouldn’t fall victim to the budgetary ax.

“What I would like to do is go after that waste at the Pentagon, get savings at the Pentagon, and then re-plow that back into defense spending to prevent us from having to do all these supplementals,” he said.

“I would rather see savings occur from within the Pentagon’s budget by cleaning up the books at the Pentagon and then plowing that back into the Pentagon to reduce the need to have these supplementals, which occur outside of the budget and on top,” he said.  “That to me is the better way to go.”

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