If Democrats gain control of one or both houses of Congress on Tuesday, military experts are concerned about potential budget cuts – and the resulting effects on military preparedness.
“I think we’ll find that the money Congress and the president have given the military in the past two years has been desperately needed – and that level of funding has got to continue if the country wants to rebuild the military,” retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense, told FOX Business.
The 2018 budget allocated nearly $700 billion for defense and a $716 billion defense authorization budget has been approved for fiscal 2019.
Spoehr said that after a decade of decline, those two years of increased defense spending alone are not enough to carry the armed forces through “this necessary period of rebuilding.”
More liberal-leaning Democratic congressional members belonging to the Congressional Progressive Caucus have put out a blueprint calling for a reduction in “baseline military spending.” The document criticizes the Trump administration for “bloating the military budget beyond belief.”
Rep. Adam Smith, D- Calif, who would likely become chair of the House Armed Services Committee if Democrats won the chamber, has indicated he would cut current levels of defense spending.
“I think the number’s too high, and it’s certainly not going to be there in the future,” Smith said at a conference hosted by Defense News, as reported by The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., has re-upped calls for boosting non-military defense spending in step with each defense dollar spent, which Spoehr noted would be a problem for anyone who cares about the ballooning national debt.
In addition to funding levels, a shift in priorities could be in the cards if Democrats regain control of one or both houses of Congress.
Trump’s proposed “Space Force,” which has been deemed the sixth branch of the military, could be on the chopping block.
Smith has publicly voiced opposition to the initiative, stating concerns that the proposal “would create additional costly military bureaucracy at a time when we have limited resources for defense and critical domestic priorities.”
Spoehr said regaining strength in space has to be a “really high priority,” considering Russia – and particularly China – are already making strides in space.
In the House, Republicans have 43 more seats than Democrats heading into the midterm elections, while in the Senate they have just a two-seat majority.
The military could face challenges even if one chamber flips, Spoehr noted. Gridlock in Congress often results in the passage of continuing resolutions (CRs) in lieu of budget measures. Continuing resolutions keep funding levels steady and can prevent the military from cementing contracts or starting new programs and training plans. U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said the branch has squandered $4 billion since 2011 due to the use of CRs in lieu of concrete budget appropriations.