- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

From climate change to allowing women in the draft, lawmakers in the House tackled a series of controversial subjects as they pulled together their version of the Pentagon’s spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

The marathon markup session Wednesday by the House Armed Services Committee is the first opportunity Congress has to make their legislative mark on President Trump’s proposed budget hike for the Defense Department. Prior to the committee markup, panel Chairman Mac Thornberry vowed to increase the department’s top line budget figures by billions above what the administration had requested.

The Texas Republican is calling for early $37 billion additional funds above the $603 billion called for in the Trump proposal. The increase would set the Pentagon’s baseline budget at $640 billion.

The proposed increases by House members mirror calls by their Senate counterparts to pump more dollars into the Pentagon’s coffers. The Senate plan calls for additional $5 billion to finance U.S. deterrence operations in eastern Europe and to counter Russian aggression in the region.

Debate over defense spending on Capitol Hill comes as conservative groups in Washington criticized Mr. Trump’s defense spending plan as not doing enough to ensure the military has what it needs to win the wars of tomorrow. But Wednesday’s hearing was not strictly about dollars and cents.

Democrats on the House defense panel used the markup to push amendments on several hot button issues. At the top of that list was a renewed push to allow women to be eligible for the military draft.

The amendment, introduced by California Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier, would require all military-aged female citizens of the U.S. to be eligible for the draft. The U.S. has not instituted a military draft since Vietnam. Ms. Speier’s push to open up the draft to women is the second time House lawmakers have tried to address the issue in the defense spending bill.

Another Democratic amendment mandates an accountability review by U.S. special operations command and the head of the Pentagon’s special operations directorate amid reports of heavy drug abuse within the SEALs and other special operations teams. Recent reports claim illicit drug use — such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy — have been on the rise among the SEAL teams.

House Democrats also muscled through legislation requiring the Defense Department to conduct review potential impacts on U.S. military facilities from climate change.

The amendment, sponsored by Rhode Island Democrat Rep. Jim Langevin, calls upon the Pentagon to provide a list of the top ten installations at risk due to climate change and what steps the department plans to take to address such issues. It also requires combat commanders to factor in climate change issues in their regional and worldwide battle plans.

“Climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States, and is impacting stability in areas of the world where the United States armed forces are operating today and where strategic implications for future conflicts exist ” Mr. Langevin wrote in his amendment.

• Carlo Muñoz can be reached at cmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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