WASHINGTON — Representative Barney Frank said today that President Obama made “a terrible decision” when he exempted the Pentagon from a discretionary spending freeze, as the Massachusetts Democrat led a bipartisan quartet of congressmen who are calling for cuts to military spending to help reduce the deficit.
Frank said that only national security spending should be exempted from the freeze, not the entire Pentagon budget, and his group is appointing a task force to identify where at least $100 billion a year of wasteful defense spending can be cut.
“I think that was a terrible decision by the president,” Frank said of the Pentagon exemption at a press conference today. “I think he has made a very grave error.”
Frank, along with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Representatives Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina, have assembled a range of experts to study how military spending can be trimmed. The congressmen are also calling for the president's deficit commission to examine defense spending cuts.
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the Pentagon would have to “take a hard, unsparing look” at its operations in order to cut its budget.
While making clear that he wasn't referring to Iraq or Afghanistan, Frank said the idea that the US is the world's superpower is unsustainable, and it was flawed to argue that the US gets pulled into global conflicts. “We don't get pulled into them — we jump,” Frank said.
Frank does not intend to target one military spending program that provides jobs in Massachusetts, however, which the Pentagon has said it does not want. Massachusetts congressmen have fought to save a $3 billion project for a backup F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine, where thousands of jobs are at stake in the Lynn General Electric plant.
Frank said that while he would support having fewer F-35 planes, he will continue to vote with the Massachusetts delegation on the engine program. “They have my vote,” Frank said of the delegation, “not my head.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.