The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee said Wednesday discussions around capping fiscal year 2024 discretionary spending at FY ‘22 enacted levels is “a fool’s errand,” calling it a “completely unrealistic policy.”

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), who is set to be the panel’s ranking member this Congress, said the policy floated by the House’s new GOP leadership would impact new Navy start programs if it results in a significant defense spending cut.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Launch/Recovery (Equipment) 1st Class Jeremy Stoecklein, assigned to the Pre-commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), explains the layout and functionality of Ford’s flight deck to Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, right, during a scheduled visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick Grieco/Released)

“Rolling back the topline to a number that just does not fit the moment is something we’re just going to have to come to grips with, because that does affect what the [National Defense Authorization Act] looks like,” Courtney said during a discussion at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium. “That is such an arbitrary, unrealistic sort of metric to use for formulating the FY ‘24 budget.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Tuesday downplayed the potential for billions of dollars in defense spending cuts as part of a reported plan detailed during a closed-door GOP Conference meeting to limit discretionary spending in FY ‘24 at FY ‘22 enacted levels (Defense Daily, Jan. 10). 

“People are already talking about trying to backfill to protect defense. But the fact is, we went through this drill with sequestration. That is, at the end of the day, a fool’s errand, in my opinion. We really have got to come to grips with a realistic framework for what a budget’s going to look like for fiscal year ‘24,” Courtney said. “Obviously, it’s very early. And I’m hopeful that the past experience of sequestration is going to push us to realize that we’ve got to come up with a better way to set the budget and authorization process.”

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the top Republican on HASC Seapower in the last Congress, joined Courtney during the discussion and said he believes the debate on spending reductions will be focused on non-defense discretionary items rather than cuts to defense funds. 

“There are a lot of other elements of spending that we’re going to have to have a debate about. But the discretionary lines, especially the defense discretionary line, I think is one of those places where people are pretty much in unison saying that’s not where we need to go to accumulate any savings. So we’ll have a lot of debate about non-defense discretionary [spending] and on the mandatory spending programs, which is where the attention needs to be,” Wittman said.

Courtney noted that Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) is poised to be the new chair of the HASC Seapower Subcommittee in this Congress, with Wittman term-limited for the chair position and is likely to take the gavel for another subcommittee. 

House Republicans on Tuesday officially selected Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) as the new HASC chair, after he served as the panel’s ranking member for the last two years (Defense Daily, Jan. 10).