The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is calling on lawmakers to “take risks” to fund modernization efforts within the military as the House and Senate brace for negotiations for the annual defense policy bill.
In an op-ed for Defense News released Monday, Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, wrote that lawmakers “must recognize that we have to take risks if we are to move at the ‘speed of relevance,’” citing a popular quote from former Defense Secretary James Mattis.
His comments come as lawmakers race to complete a massive $738 billion defense budget by the end of this month. The top-line figure was passed in conjunction with a $2.7 trillion, two-year budget deal.
The House and Senate versions contain major differences on numerous policy provisions for the Department of Defense touching on Russia, Iran, nuclear weapons, border wall funding and President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.
Mr. Inhofe in his article called on Defense Secretary Mark Esper to find savings across the department to fund additional modernization projects.
“Finding savings department-wide and across the combatant commands may prove to be more of a challenge … but it’s no less necessary,” he wrote.
The Pentagon has been subject to scrutiny in recent years over various reports that highlighted vague weapons contracts worth millions and questionable expenditures such as self-heating coffee mugs.
Mr. Inhofe called on Pentagon leadership to “create accountability to move new projects and technologies effectively and rapidly from research and development into the field.”
Pentagon officials have warned that the U.S. is falling behind Russia and China in its military modernization efforts, particularly in cyber and space.
“To catch up with China and Russia — and to stay competitive in the future — the Pentagon must reform, even as it rebuilds, by setting clear priorities and modernizing the way it does business,” Mr. Inhofe wrote. “The Department of Defense has a lot of work to do — and quickly.”