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Gates blames Congress for defense budget 'crisis'

by Staff Writers
Ottawa (AFP) Jan 27, 2011
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday said lawmakers unloaded a "crisis on my doorstep" by failing to approve a military budget for the current fiscal year, forcing potential emergency cutbacks.

Gates suggested members of Congress were hypocritical for complaining about planned cuts to programs in coming years while forcing the military to operate under last year's spending levels in the 2011 fiscal year that started October 1.

If Congress fails to approve the Pentagon's requested budget, the Defense Department would have to look at emergency cuts that could undermine important training and maintenance for the military, Gates told reporters before arriving in Ottawa.

"It's one thing to talk about FY '12 (fiscal year 2012) and then to express concerns about something that may or may not happen in four or five years, but I have a crisis on my doorstep," he told reporters en route to Canada.

"And I want them to deal with the crisis on my doorstep before we start arguing about the levels in FY '12," said Gates, according to a transcript of his remarks on his plane.

The defense secretary said it looked increasingly likely that the 2011 budget request would not win approval, which would force the US military to make do with 23 billion dollars less than President Barack Obama had requested.

The possible emergency cuts could affect maintenance related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said.

"And frankly, that's how you hollow out a military even in wartime," he said.

Some lawmakers this week criticized Gates' proposed defense budget for 2012 that includes plans for $78 billion in cuts over the next five years, with some warning the military could be "hollowed out" as a result.

"So in short, talk about not cutting defense in FY '12, as far as I'm concerned, is simply rhetoric without action on the FY '11 defense budget that's already in front of the Congress," Gates said.

Congress last year never passed a defense funding bill or a comprehensive federal budget for 2011, amid Republican opposition to spending proposals.

Instead, the government is operating under a short-term "continuing resolution," which freezes spending at fiscal 2010 levels for all federal agencies including defense.

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