And there was some talk about the military’s handling of sexual assault cases as well. You know, to round out an already depressing meeting.
Early Thursday morning the House’s Armed Services Committee approved a $601 billion dollar defense budget. Within the proposed budget included items such as an A-10 Warthog (a $635 million close-air support craft that many were wondering if it was worth to keep around), excess military bases, a Cold War era U-2 spy plane (that definitely outlived its usefulness in the drone era of warfare), multiple Navy cruisers, and an 11th aircraft carrier. All these were unanimously approved by the committee.
This was of course the day after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pleaded with the committee to practice fiscal restraint when it came to this year’s military budget. It’s an election year, so it’s natural that earmarks and pork-barrel projects are going to be tacked on to a defense budget. However, $1.4 billion was cut from their original estimate as an all-day and all-night session came to a close.
Also during the session, the topic of the military’s handling of sexual assault cases came up. In what can be looked as a small victory for the Pentagon, the committee concluded that the authority of prosecuting sexual offences, such as rape, should be left to military commanders. The panel narrowly rejected a measure – the vote was 34-28 – of stripping commanders the ability to determine if a case constituted sexual assault and handing that ability to military lawyers.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (Democrat-Illinois) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat-Hawaii), two women representatives that have served in the military, had voiced concerns over the decision. Opponents of the measure maintained that military leaders are still working to address the issue.
The full House is expected to debate on this budget and its decisions sometime in mid-May. The Senate is still working on their own version of the bill.