COLUMBUS, Ohio – The vice-chair of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has said he no longer anticipates the “the days of massively increasing defense budgets,” reiterating a focus on continuing to find cost efficiencies at the Pentagon. 

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), who also serves as chair of HASC’s Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, offered his defense spending outlook during prepared remarks aired at NDIA’s Tactical Wheeled Vehicles conference here on Tuesday.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) (center) of Virginia shakes the hand of Brig. Gen. Forrest Poole (right) on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Sept. 10, 2021 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“The days of massively increasing defense budgets are not going to be what we see going forward. We’re going to do everything that we can to keep pace with inflation to make sure we’re making the proper investments, but we also have to create efficiencies within the enterprise so that we can make things happen,” Wittman said. “I think Speaker [Kevin McCarthy] (R-Calif.) said it best. He said we need to find ways to make $858 billion act like a trillion.”

Wittman’s comments on finding efficiencies echo recent remarks from Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the HASC chair, that continued military modernization will “cost a lot of money,” while noting a focus of the FY ‘24 National Defense Authorization Act markup process will look at finding savings at the Pentagon (Defense Daily, Feb. 2). 

“We need to do our job in looking at where the additional resources come from, but we also expect folks across the military enterprise, both the Pentagon and in the industry, to look at places where we can create more value, where we can save resources and make sure that we’re getting the job done,” Wittman said. “I can tell you myself and Chairman Rogers as well as others are looking at getting as much efficiency out of our efforts as we can to get the most value out of our dollar, because that’s where we’ve been strategically, as well as making sure we pursue the modernization enterprise in the most aggressive way possible.”

House Republican leaders last month 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).

Wittman said in his remarks Tuesday he believes the defense spending level will ultimately “end up in a good place.” 

“There’s a lot of discussion about the debt ceiling, budget, appropriations bills. I think, ultimately, we will end up in a good place and a place where people understand the critical nature of the resources that are needed for the military and that we will also be able to do that within the realm of managing the nation’s debt and deficit. We have to do both. I think it’s incumbent upon us to do both. We have to make sure we properly fund the military,” Wittman said.

Wittman on Tuesday also criticized the Pentagon’s “divest to invest” approach for finding savings, calling it a “flawed strategy.” 

“I think you have to be able to maintain current capability. As you look at retiring legacy vehicles, I do think that needs to be part of it. But what happens on that side…if you look at where we are with legacy platforms and you look at the slope that we’re on to retire those vehicles, that we understand has to happen. But what happens with the ‘divest to invest’ strategy is you have the divestiture…and the investing doesn’t take place until well outside of that scope,” Wittman said.

Progressive lawmakers Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) reintroduced a bill last week to cut defense spending by $100 billion and reallocate the savings to other funding priorities (Defense Daily, Feb. 22).