Bill cites cli­mate change as threat

House GOP ap­proves de­fense mea­sure, re­jects base clo­sures

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - RICHARD LARDNER AND AN­DREW TAY­LOR

WASHINGTON — The Repub­li­can- led House de­ci­sively ap­proved a de­fense pol­icy bill on Fri­day that de­clares cli­mate change a na­tional se­cu­rity threat, de­mands rig­or­ous over­sight of the Pen­tagon’s cy­ber op­er­a­tions and re­jects Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bid to close mil­i­tary bases.

Mean­while, the White House said Fri­day that wors­en­ing tax rev­enue will cause the bud­get deficit to jump to $ 702 bil­lion this year, a $ 99 bil­lion in­crease from what was pre­dicted less than two months ago.

Law­mak­ers voted 344-81 on Fri­day to pass the sweep­ing leg­is­la­tion with sup­port from Arkansas’ four con­gress­men, all Repub­li­cans. The bill au­tho­rizes $696 bil­lion in de­fense spend­ing for fis­cal 2018, in­clud­ing nearly $30 bil­lion more for core Pen­tagon op­er­a­tions than Trump re­quested.

Yet de­fense hawks push­ing the hard­est for the big boost in spend­ing still face an up­hill bat­tle. For the spend­ing in­creases to ma­te­ri­al­ize, Congress first will have to agree to roll back a 2011 law that set strict lim­its on mil­i­tary spend­ing. But that won’t be easy. Lift­ing the so- called bud­get caps will face re­sis­tance from Democrats who are seek­ing to in­crease the bud­gets for other gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

If a bud­get deal can’t be reached, Congress may be forced to fund the mil­i­tary through the use of stop­gap spend­ing bills. Un­der these short-term agree­ments, the Pen­tagon’s bud­get is set at cur­rent lev­els and the mil­i­tary ser­vices are barred from start­ing new pro­grams.

“If you don’t raise the bud­get caps, this leaves us once again in the land of ab­sur­dity,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. Smith is the top rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

The bill in­cludes a sec­tion that says global warm­ing is “a direct threat to the na­tional se­cu­rity.” It’s a po­ten­tially sur­pris­ing ad­di­tion given Trump’s pub­licly stated doubts about cli­mate change and his re­cent de­ci­sion to pull the U.S. out of the land­mark ac­cord aimed at com­bat­ing global warm­ing.

The sec­tion re­quires the Pen­tagon to de­liver a re­port to Congress de­tail­ing the im­pact of cli­mate change on the armed forces. The cli­mate change re­port also is to list the 10 mil­i­tary bases most vul­ner­a­ble to ris­ing oceans, in­creased flood­ing, wild­fires and other ef­fects of cli­mate change.

Over White House ob­jec­tions, the bill added a bi­par­ti­san mea­sure crafted by Smith and Rep. Mac Thorn­berry, the chair­man of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, re­quir­ing the De­fense Depart­ment to in­form Congress within 48 hours of “any sen­si­tive mil­i­tary cy­ber op­er­a­tion.” Of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive cy­ber op­er­a­tions are cov­ered by the no­ti­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ment, although covert ac­tions are ex­empt.

The bill also man­dates that the depart­ment tell Congress, also within two days, about the re­sults of any le­gal re­view by one of the mil­i­tary ser­vices of a cy­ber ca­pa­bil­ity that is in­tended to be used as a weapon. Thorn­berry, a Texas Repub­li­can, has de­scribed the mea­sure as a way to pro­mote greater trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity for one of the most clas­si­fied el­e­ments of the Amer­i­can arse­nal.

The bill re­jected the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­quest that the Pen­tagon be given the au­thor­ity to start a new round of mil­i­tary base clos­ings in 2021. De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis told the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee last month that clos­ing ex­cess in­stal­la­tions would save $10 bil­lion over a five-year pe­riod. He said the sav­ings could be used to ac­quire four nu­clear sub­marines or dozens of jet fight­ers.

But mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions are prized pos­ses­sions in con­gres­sional dis­tricts, and law­mak­ers re­fused to go along with Trump just as they de­nied for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s bid to shut­ter fa­cil­i­ties.

In the White House’s bud­get re­port, the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get says the deficit for the 2018 bud­get year that starts on Oct. 1 will in­crease by $149 bil­lion to $589 bil­lion. But law­mak­ers are al­ready work­ing on spend­ing bills that prom­ise to boost that num­ber even higher by adding to Trump’s Pen­tagon pro­posal and ig­nor­ing many of Trump’s cuts to do­mes­tic pro­grams.

Last year’s deficit reg­is­tered $585 bil­lion.

The White House kept the re­port to a bare-bones min­i­mum and cast blame on “the failed poli­cies of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

“The ris­ing near- term deficits un­der­score the crit­i­cal need to re­store fis­cal dis­ci­pline to the na­tion’s fi­nances,” said White House bud­get di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney. “Our na­tion must make sub­stan­tial changes to the poli­cies and spend­ing pri­or­i­ties of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion if our cit­i­zens are to be safe and pros­per­ous in the fu­ture.”

In late May, Trump re­leased a bud­get plan propos­ing cuts to do­mes­tic pro­grams and promis­ing to bal­ance the bud­get within a decade. But it re­lied on rosy pre­dic­tions of eco­nomic growth to prom­ise a slight sur­plus in 2027. Trump’s bud­get, how­ever, left alone So­cial Se­cu­rity re­tire­ment ben­e­fits and Medi­care, though House Repub­li­cans are poised next week to again pro­pose cut­ting Medi­care as they un­veil their non­bind­ing bud­get out­line.

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